Okay, anybody who’s paid attention to my previous posts on the subject knows that I’m on something of a Quest. A Quest to find the Best Chicken Fried Steak in Existence. Alright, alright, I’ll admit that this isn’t a full-time thing. Nothing like the Knights Templar and their Quest for the Holy Grail or anything. Nope, this is a spare time gig, but to me it is just as serious of an undertaking.
Recently I found out about a new restaurant just a few miles down the road from my house, called the The Hollister Grill. It is located where an Italian Restaurant had been a local institution for decades. Sadly, the original owners retired and sold it to some non-Italians, and the quality slipped. It closed a few years later. But after finding out about this new place, I did a bit of research and discovered that their menu was mostly American comfort food, especially for lunch. Things get quite a bit fancier — and more expensive — for dinner, but still even for dinner the American theme presides. One of my discoveries on their lunch menu was Chicken Fried Steak. Well, that settled it; I had to go and give the place a try.
The Hollister Grill is tucked away in the rear of a small strip mall on Long Point Rd. in the heart of the Old Spring Branch district of Houston. If it weren’t for their rather prominent sign out at the curb, you would scarcely know they were there. Parking is limited. We arrived during the peak of the lunch hour today, a Monday, which the owner says is a slow day for them. Yet the parking lot was full and the restaurant was almost full. We ended up parking on the street next to the restaurant. No big deal. Fortunately I had called earlier requesting a table for two, and it was waiting for us when we arrived.
The Hollister Grill is a family run business, and it shows. As soon as you walk in the door, they welcome you as if you are part of the family, and they are warm and friendly, offering prompt and thorough service. It is a smallish, rather cozy sort of place. The interior is simple: booths along a few of the walls, with tables elsewhere. Avant garde paintings on the walls. When you visit their website, you’ll also see that they recommend you BYOB.
But enough of all that. Let’s get to the reason for this post: the CFS.
Don’t let the above photo fool you. The food was placed on a platter, not a plate, really. Such a large platter may make you think that the servings are just sort of medium sized. But they are not. The Chicken Fried Steak was a good nine to ten inches long by seven to eight inches wide, what looks like a dollop of mashed potatoes was actually a rather large heap, and the ample helping of mixed vegetables has been hidden from view, buried behind the CFS. You know how many restaurants will offer smaller portions of their dishes for reduced prices on their lunch menus? Not this place. This big platter of food sets you back only $9.95. And with food that is this good, well, that’s a deal any way you want to slice it.
Unlike many other places, the Hollister Grill’s Chicken Fried Steak is dipped in a rather thin batter that ends up being very light and crispy, and it adheres very well to the well-tenderized steak underneath. The batter does the job that it is intended for: protecting the meat from direct exposure to the hot oil. Despite being deep fried, however, the steak was well drained and not greasy at all. The cream gravy is unique — or at least I’ve not run across anything similar to it yet. Most CFS’s have a flour-based gravy that’s been flavored typically from stock or pan drippings. The Hollister Grill’s is a genuine cream gravy, though: cream-based, which imparts a totally different flavor to the gravy than what I was anticipating. Once I got used to the slightly sweet, rich flavor, I found I enjoyed it quite a lot. The mashed potatoes are interesting themselves. The skins are left on the potatoes when they are mashed so there is potato skin mixed up with the mashed potatoes. I like this — perhaps because I was taught from an early age not to waste potato skins. “That’s where all the vitamins are,” my mom used to say. So like a good lad, I ate the skins too. The potatoes are also topped with the same cream gravy, giving them a very rich flavor as well. As for the mixed vegetables, well they weren’t bad. They were mixed vegetables. And I ate them all because I knew they were good for me too.
Okay, it’s true that all I’ve mentioned is the CFS at the Hollister Grill. That’s mostly because both my partner and me both had it. But just so’s you know, they had several other very interesting offerings on their lunch menu as well. So more than likely the next time I go there for lunch, I’ll give one of the other items a go. We asked to see the dinner menu after we had finished. Yes, definitely more upscale. The crabcakes — not offered for lunch — are apparently a big hit. And the shrimp and scallops risotto looks outstanding. What about CFS for dinner? Heh, they’ve even kicked that up a notch or two. The dinner CFS is a battered ribeye, served with jalapeño cream gravy. Yum. Can’t wait.
1741 Hollister Street, Houston, Texas
Prices: Lunch $ Dinner $$-$$$
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