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Today is January 16, 2021

Beef, It’s what’s for dinner

The best steak and burger in Mississippi

By Steven Ward

Beef, It’s what’s for dinner

Randall Swaney of R House • 2421 US 98 West • Columbia • 601-674-2021

and Marshall Steakhouse • 2379 Highway 178 West • Holly Springs • 662-252-2424

Imagine two 61-year-old Mississippi men with no restaurant background who decide to open restaurants in their hometowns anyway.

Although the premise doesn’t sound like a recipe for success, Randall Swaney and Keith Riley have proved backgrounds don’t necessarily dictate achievement.

Swaney is the owner and operator of Marshall Steakhouse in Holly Springs and Riley owns and runs R House near Columbia. The Mississippi Beef Council named the steaks at Marshall Steakhouse ‘Best Steak’ and the burgers at R House ‘Best Burger’ in Mississippi this year.

Andy Berry, executive director of the Mississippi Beef Council, said the contest has been ongoing for more than 10 years. “We do this as a method to promote beef and the restaurants that do a good job of preparing and serving the products our cattlemen and women produce,” Berry said.

The council solicits votes through their social media platforms and targeted advertising, which both link back to an online survey page. They run the online voting portion for roughly two months. Once they gather the online votes, they name the top five finalists for each category and then send a panel of judges to each restaurant to anonymously judge the steak or burger.

Once the judges return their scorecards, the council contacts both winners to inform them and arranges for them and companions to attend the annual Dixie National Rodeo in Jackson where the winners are announced during Saturday night and Sunday afternoon performances.

Swaney’s steakhouse, which opened in 2017, has won the award two years in a row. The steakhouse’s origin story is a tale of twists, turns and do-overs. A former billboard business owner, Swaney decided he wanted to build a barn and buy a sawmill to cut his own wood. But he needed a building to house the sawmill and the building he bought was too big just to house one piece of equipment.

Swaney said he always wanted to open a feed store or a gun store. Plans eventually went forward to open a gun store but he thought it might be a nice idea to also have a spot to grill hamburgers for lunch. “That had me thinking there were no steakhouses in the area,” he said. “I love to eat a good steak. I didn’t know anything about the restaurant business but I think God had a plan for me.” So, the gun store turned into the steakhouse.

Swaney hired a chef to handle the kitchen. “What I do is walk around the restaurant and make sure the customers have everything they need,” Swaney said. He also takes their photos and posts them on the restaurant’s popular Facebook site, which has more than 17,000 followers. So, what’s the secret at Marshall Steakhouse? “We use prime beef and cook it on a charcoal grill,” Swaney said. “That’s it. That’s the only secret. We put kosher salt, pepper and garlic on it.” Either way, the secret is out beyond Mississippi. Recently, The Food Network named Marshall Steakhouse in Mississippi the best in the state during the network’s roundup, “50 States of Steakhouses.”

While the best steak in Mississippi, according to the Mississippi Beef Council, is up north, the simplicity of a juicy burger will be found in the southern part of the state.

Is there a secret ingredient in the burgers at R House? “It’s made with love,” Riley said.

Riley’s R House sits just four miles east of Columbia. The “old country store,” as Riley described it, sells fresh produce and meat. Plate lunches are available Mondays through Saturdays and feature all the Southern plate lunch staples: think fried chicken and hamburger steak.

Riley, a former cattle farmer and portable toilet business owner, cooks his burgers on a solid metal flat grill. “It’s an old-fashioned burger,” Riley said. “The meat is always fresh. Never frozen.”

Riley said he should be retired these days. “I call it (R House) my midlife crisis,” Riley said laughing.

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