Chicken Fried Steak — The Quest

Chicken Fried Steak with chipotle cream gravy as served by the Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill in Austin, Texas

It is not “country-fried steak.”  Those who feel compelled to modify the language to suit their own prejudices just need to get over it.  It’s chicken-fried because it’s fried like chicken. Simple as that.

For years I’ve been on something of a quest.  If I visit a restaurant that has chicken fried steak on their menu, usually I’ll order it.  Even if they’ve succumbed to the newspeak nazis and call it “country fried” steak.  Back when I lived in Southern California, there was a small restaurant in Fullerton my wife and I liked going to called The Hungry Bear.  Their nomenclature was weird and typically revisionist SoCal.  If you ordered a “chicken fried steak,” as I recall, you got chicken. !!!  If  you ordered a “country fried steak,” you got a proper chicken fried steak.  And despite their cognitive dissonance, it was quite good.  The serving was generous, but not overly large the way many places serve it.  Flavor was excellent, however.

The other SoCal restaurant that was a standout — well, it’s actually a chain throughout the West now — was Claim Jumper.  They also insist on calling it “country fried,” but I tended to forgive them because their CFS has to be seen to be believed.  It is huge! Flavor-wise, it was good.  Not excellent, just good.

When I go on road trips, if the place has it, I’ll order it.  I don’t recall any standouts from these times, though, so there are none I can really pass along as recommendations.

I live in Houston now, and there are a number of places around town that come highly recommended.  I’ve tried a few of them.  Here they are in the order of preference:

Hickory Hollow — I’ve visited the location on Heights Blvd.  Mostly a barbecue joint, its CFS is still killer.  They have it in different sizes.  I believe the one I ordered was actually the “medium,” which I ordered with fries.  It was served on a medium-sized pizza pan with the fries, and was probably the biggest CFS I’ve ever had.  And that was the medium size!  But fortunately its size comes in second to its flavor.  Hickory Hollow’s CFS is also the best I’ve had so far.  Excellent flavor.

Jax Grill — (for some reason, WordPress won’t let me do another link in this post so here’s the URL: — Jax Grill has a great menu of American classics and a nice special menu as well.  But their CFS is consistently good and the serving size is generous.  I’d rate it as just a notch below Hickory Hollow’s in flavor, but just.  It is very good.

Pappy’s Cafe — — I like Pappy’s, and I like their menu.  They bill it as “Texas Comfort Food,” and I’d say that’s just about right.  And their CFS fits the bill nicely.  I’d say that Pappy’s is in a dead heat with Jax as far as quality and value.  Very good.

As I mentioned before, there are quite a few other places here in Houston that come highly recommended.  But I haven’t made it to any of them yet.  As I get to them, I’ll review them.  So, check back periodically.  And if you have any CFS favorites, be sure to leave a comment, okay?

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