Thursday, March 30, 2023

England Dan's Offers Mouth-Watering Food, Cherished Memories

It is 5:30 a.m. Oxford is barely stirring. The sun tickled the horizon with a faint white line. There is a smell of cooking meat in a parking lot in spite of a bye weekend but it isn’t tailgating. It’s a barely month old restaurant, England Dan’s, with breakfast at dawn break for Oxford’s earliest workers.
Housed in Suite 30 at 2580 W. Jackson Ave. which previously belonged to Bistro Burger, the restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with a carnivore’s dream menu of meats — from steaks to fish to crustaceans to chicken — with as much as three vegetable sides and a bread to sop up the plate with. The restaurant has a brown bag permit, meaning people can bring in their favorite alcohol, be it beer, wine or liquor, to pour in a ready-made mason jar with ice. There is a 32-ounce mason jarful of fruits ready to mix with vodka for a menu feature: “Comfortably Numb.”
Visitors, and Oxonians, only have to go up to the counter and grab a menu before seating themselves. If they take an upwards glance to their left they’ll face the restaurant’s namesake: England-Dan Salts.
“England-Dan passed away two years ago,” Michael “Mike” Salts, co-owner and chef, said softly. He tugged the brim of his light brown cap that read, ‘Sleeps with Dogs.’ “He had a diving accident while camping with his friends.” England-Dan Salts would have been 24 this day, but his dream lives on through his family.
Pat-Rue Salts, co-owner and a junior at Pine Grove High in Ripley, said in the same quiet voice as his father, “My brother had a restaurant, England Dan’s, in Starkville. He wanted to open a steak restaurant in Oxford for a while. We have dishes on the menu from what he served at his restaurant then. It’s real good food, a good experience. I hope we can go nationwide.”

Pat-Rue (right) and Mike (left) are making England-Dan Salt's dream come true.
Pat-Rue (right) and Mike (left) are making England-Dan Salt’s dream come true.

They are proud owners.
They are proud owners.

A promotional poster from England Dan Salts' restaurant in Starkville.
A promotional poster from England Dan Salts’ restaurant in Starkville.

There are also dishes on the menu from Mike Salt’s previous restaurant in Tupelo, Fred Red Steaks. One stands out: Jack the Black, invented at Fred Red Steaks in 2000. A steak is marinated with the England Dan sauce — a sauce in which the ingredients are a family secret — seared with Jack Daniels Black Label. A quick look at the stove-top just behind the counter confirms there is indeed a 5th of Jack Daniels sitting pretty.
The chef may usually cook behind the doors but Mike Salt cooks just behind the ordering counter, letting the restaurant bask in the mouth-watering smell of a chargrilled ribeye sandwich. He demonstrated the making of the restaurant’s signature dish. The meat is organic and cut right off the loin, then garnished with lettuce, tomatoes and mayo and mustard with a pickle wedge. Homemade fries, a baked potato or onion rings can be served with this sandwich.

Mike shook onion powder, garlic powder and some meat tenderizer and a bit of white vinegar on the meat before and during cooking, but it was the England Dan’s marinade that made the sandwich a melt-in-your-mouth delight. The meat was piled high so it took some heavy patting to get the bread on top, but the meat is so finger-licking good that a customer may be tempted to eat the tender meat as finger food.
The menu is heavy with other dishes such as the immense breakfast plate named “Touchdown Ole Miss,” with three eggs, three biscuits, two pancakes, two pieces of bacon, two pieces of sausage, a piece of ham and tenderloin served with a bowl of gravy. All of that is $9.95. The restaurant offers geographical-based methods of cooking up steak from “Creole Es Planade” to “Austin City Limits” to “Key Largo” with shrimps placed all around the steak. Mike joked Key Largo is the dish Bogie and Becall would order if they dropped by on ‘Here’s Looking At You Kid.’
There is also a blue-plate-special served at every lunch that features a meat and three vegetable sides with a bread. To know what it is, you’ll have to call the restaurant at 662-234-4992 before noon or just come on by as Mike Salts said.
The desserts are worth ordering: funnel cake, hot fudge brownies, strawberry shortcake, southern pecan pie and a key lime pie. A feature on the desserts list is the Moonpie Explosion, a double decker moon pie with two scoops of ice cream with chocolate syrup.
The restaurant fell quiet at 3 p.m. The only sounds were the stove top and the football games on television. Mike Salts walked to a table by the sunlit windows, but not before pointing up to a television airing the Bama, Florida game. He said, “I know Ole Miss is going to beat Bama.”
The restaurant is a dream come true for departed England-Dan Salts as his picture looks over his family running the restaurant from breakfast to dinner. Mike wrote on the menu’s front: “Please remember that you being here has a far, far deeper meaning to me than just your meal. Please come back.”
At the bottom reads: England-Dan Salts, 1990 – 2012.
England Dan
Callie Daniels is a staff writer. You can contact Callie about this story at