Okay, so “desperately craving” is a little bit of a misnomer, because we actually just ate chicken-fried steak for lunch and it is resting merrily in our stomach, getting psyched for its digestive journey.
But the extraordinary excitement that we felt when we popped by our usual lunch spot and saw “Special: Billy’s Famous Chicken Fried Steak” written up there on the chalkboard? That was the kind of excitement that doesn’t crop up very often. The last time we had this iconic southern dish — cube steak that’s been pounded flat, then breaded and fried, and served with cream gravy — we were in an actual roadhouse in the vast emptiness of eastern Texas. That was some serious chicken-fried steak. While today’s wasn’t quite as good (no city-folk seasoning can measure up to looking out at rows of gun racks mounted on rows of pickups in the parking lot), it reminded us of how wonderful this dish is.
Where can you get it? Unsurprisingly, Heaven on Seven does a solid version, aggressively seasoned and without the stringy chew that this inexpensive cut of meat often possesses. A similar Nawlins-style take comes out of Hyde Park’s Dixie Kitchen & Bait Shop, where the pan-fried piece of happiness comes with three sides, and we suggest you set aside any beverage-snobbishness (who, you?) and accompany your meal with a glass of orange soda.
For an approximation of the east-Texas grit, your best bet is Hollywood Grill — the venerable 24-hour joint serves up theirs (which they call “country-fried steak”) in both sandwich form (on hot bread with cream gravy) or with two eggs, hangover-breakfast style. Alternately, check out the offering from Stanley’s, where we once had the sacrilegious (but delicious!) experience of swapping out the mashed potatoes for sweet potato fries, a spectacular foil for the salty gravy.
Only on the weekends (but entirely worth the trip) is the chicken-fried steak at Flying Saucer, which gets brunchified with the accompaniment of cheese grits, two eggs, and a biscuit, and which a friend tells us, in reverential tones usually reserved for describing Scarlett Johansson, is “pretty amazing.”
[Photo via Craig C.’s Flickr]