Clark returns to roots in steakhouse
When Patricia Clark walks into the kitchen of Big E’s Steakhouse, she’s able to keep the memory of her father, Clarence Eyrich Jr., alive and cooking.
But in order to bring the past to life, Clark had to say goodbye to memories of her own.
Clark and her family owned and operated the Cock of the Walk on the Natchez bluff for 22 years. That restaurant is gone now, but a new beginning has Clark digging even deeper into her family’s history.
Eyrich and his family operated and eventually owned the Eola Hotel downtown until 1978.
“He was chief cook, bottle washer and everything in between at the hotel,” Clark said. “It was all a family business, so my mother ran the office and us girls ran the dining room cash register.”
Soon after Eyrich died in 2007, Clark and her sisters went to take one last look around the family house before it was demolished.
“We found this big book with all his recipes from over the years, and the best part is that the majority of them are written on the old Eola Hotel stationary,” Clark said. “Now, I’m able to pull out those recipes and use them for specials of the day or even menu items.
“I couldn’t do that before, so it’s been nice to incorporate his recipes in the restaurant.”
Clark opened Big E’s Steakhouse on D’Evereux Drive in November with her son, Eyrich Clark, and his wife, Jessica, after closing the Cock of the Walk.
The Cock of the Walk — along with The Old South Trading Post, which shared its building — were forced to relocate from the city-owned depot on Broadway Street in October so the city could renovate the building.
It was the first time in more than two decades that a member of the Eyrich or Clark family wasn’t serving customers at the Cock of the Walk.
Patricia’s family spent many years helping build the restaurant to be one of many popular restaurants in Natchez when it was Under-the-Hill and resumed those duties when it moved to the bluff.
She continued serving up the famous fried catfish and other staple meals for which the restaurant was known.
Eyrich Clark joined the Cock of the Walk team in 1987, but started cooking long before that.
“I’ve been cooking since I was 9 with my dad and my grandfather,” he said. “It’s definitely a family thing.”
So when Patricia first got word from the city that she must move from the bluff, she didn’t take the news lightly.
“I fought leaving tooth and nail, because I don’t do change well at all,” she said. “But the minute I finally accepted it was going to happen, I moved forward and haven’t looked back since.”
Patricia found the location on D’Evereux Drive, which previously housed La Fiesta Too, after a few other leads in the downtown area fell through.
“We tried to stay downtown and do some different things, but everything fell through,” she said. “This came through right at the end.
“It was frustrating at the time, but I think it was meant to be.”
Patricia and her son have only made minor changes to the restaurant so far, adding a fresh coat of paint to some walls.
“It’s been eventful change, but it’s all been change for the good,” Eyrich Clark said. “I’m glad to be where we are and be at this point.”
All the chairs and tables remain from the previous restaurant and will likely stay for the time being.
“That’s what was great about this place, it was already setup to be a restaurant,” Patricia said. “We weren’t looking for somewhere that had to be converted into a restaurant.”
The ease of transition from one restaurant to the other allowed the owners to welcome a group of 20 to 30 French tourists, who were regulars at Cock of the Walk, just days after moving into the location.
“Everyone told me there was absolutely no way I could make it work,” Patricia said. “I told them to hide and watch because we were going to serve that group, and we got it done.”
The new restaurant offered more changes for the family than just the name outside.
Patricia said the decision was made to not renew the Cock of the Walk franchise and branch out with different types of kitchen creations.
“We did one really good steak at Cock of the Walk, but we decided we wanted to get more into steaks and really just expand a lot of what we could offer,” she said. “People are looking for a lot of variety nowadays, so that’s what we wanted to do.”
Apart from the various steak options, the restaurant offers a variety of classic items, such as hamburgers, soups, sandwiches and entrees.
And the five salads on the menu allow Patricia to feel as if she’s offering something for everyone.
“This menu has evolved so many times since we first started working on it,” she said. “We wanted to have a variety of foods to where you could eat heavy if you wanted to, but also grab something lighter and healthier.”
But it’s the recipes Clarence Eyrich left behind that have Patricia excited about being able to cook up a new and different dish whenever she wants to remember her father.
“Here, I’m able to pull out the recipe book and just say, ‘Hey, I’m going to cook this today,’” she said. “I just can’t help but think of him when I see the recipes.”
The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch Monday through Sunday; from 5 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday for dinner.