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I Love CFS: 25 Lovable Chicken-Fried Steaks

Who invented the CFS? There are a lot of competing theories. Whose do you love? Better try them all to be sure.

SOUTHERN-STYLE CFS

"Chicken-fried steak is considered a Southern staple," according to the Tulsa World. Food historians who argue that the CFS is a Southern invention point to the fried-chicken connection and the fact that recipes for steaks dipped in batter can be found in Southern cookbooks going back to the early 1800s.

Aficionados of this style wax poetic about the crunchy crust. It should look just like the coating on a piece of Southern fried chicken. Here's some of the best examples across the state.

CFS with a baked potato on the side at Barbecue Inn.
Daniel Kramer
CFS with a baked potato on the side at Barbecue Inn.
At the Country Inn in Somerville, size does matter.
Robb Walsh
At the Country Inn in Somerville, size does matter.

AllGood Café

2934 Main St.

Dallas

214-742-5362

Looking at the concert posters and other memorabilia on the walls, you'd swear you were in Austin. The CFS is a thin piece of top-quality tenderloin covered with a sheer, flaky crust. You can cut it with a fork. The mashed potatoes and other sides are artfully prepared. It's upscale restaurant food slumming in a Deep Ellum diner.

Babe's Chicken Dinner House

104 North Oak

Roanoke

817-491-2900

There are only two things on Babe's menu — some of the best fried chicken in the state and a terrific chicken-fried steak. And no matter which one you pick, the crust looks exactly the same. There are several D-FW locations, but the original is located in an old warehouse in the small town of Roanoke, half an hour north of Fort Worth. "Babe" is the owner's nickname.

Buffalo Grille

3116 Bissonnet St.

Houston

713-661-3663

A Western-themed restaurant in the wilds of West U — the interior features a mounted buffalo head. The tenderized steak in the CFS is covered in a wavy crust fried golden blond with a perfectly crispy texture. The cream gravy is average, but the mashed potatoes have that perfect balance of creaminess and lumpiness you get when you whip them fresh.

Goodson's Cafe

27931 Tomball Pkwy.

Tomball

281-351-1749

The inside of this enormous super-diner is dark and cool. The menu advertises the "Best CFS in Texas." If you like them when they look like chicken, you'll love this one. The crust on the steak is so thick and crunchy, big flakes of it fall off when you cut it. Tasty brownish gravy is served on the side. The large order overlaps the plate in all directions.

Humble City Café

200 E. Main

Humble

281-319-0200

A historic high-ceilinged stone building in downtown Humble brought back to life as a small-town cafe. The CFS is a tenderized steak beautifully battered and fried, but a tad gristly. Hand-cut French fries and country-style green beans are the top sides.

Lankford Grocery and Market

88 Dennis St.

Houston

713-522-9555

A funky country cafe in an inner-city neighborhood, Lankford Grocery is a Houston civic treasure. The CFS is served as a Thursday lunch special only. The patties of tenderized eye-of-round are small but thick and come to the table in a well-seasoned and thickly battered crust. A baked potato garnished with sour cream, cheddar and green onions is served on the side.

Barbecue Inn

116 W. Crosstimbers St.

Houston

713-695-8112

"Barbecue Inn has one of the best chicken-fried steaks I have ever eaten," says John T. Edge, the head of the Southern Foodways Alliance. The meat is extremely tender, and the crust is exceptional — just what you'd expect at a place famous for its fried chicken. The bright-white cream gravy is a little sweet; it tastes like it was made with evaporated milk. Skip the greasy fries and load up a baked potato with sour cream, cheddar, chives and bacon bits from the old-fashioned rotating stainless-steel carousel.

Ozona Grill & Bar

4615 Greenville Ave.

Dallas

214-265-9105 and

520 Harvey Rd.

College Station

979-694-4618

The patio at the Ozona location on Greenville is one of Dallas's most charming happy hour spots, when the weather cooperates. The CFS is huge and pocked with deep chicken-fried craters. Unfortunately, the crust sometimes slips off the meat completely. The creamy garlic mashed potatoes make up for other defects.

Ranchman's Café

(The Ponder Steakhouse)

110 W. Bailey

Ponder

940-479-2221

Opened in 1948, this legendary Texas steak house is from the old school. The walls are covered with signed photographs of NASCAR stars. They tenderize their own round steak on the premises and dip it in egg batter for an extra-crunchy crust. The large is only slightly smaller than a manhole cover. This stellar CFS comes on a sizzling metal platter with crispy hand-cut French fries on the side.

R.O.'s Outpost

W. Hwy 71 at Hazy Hills Dr.

Spicewood

512-264-1169

At this eccentric Hill Country cafe, you have your choice of a claustrophobic dining room or an expansive porch that lacks heat or air-conditioning. The CFS comes with a gorgeous crispy crust, but the meat could use a little more tenderizing. Garnishes include pickles, onions and a canned peach. The gravy is great, the sides average.

GERMAN-STYLE CFS

After eating one of these "chicken-fried schnitzels," it's easy to see why Gourmet columnists Jane and Michael Stern speculated in Eat Your Way Across the U.S.A. that "the chicken-fried steak was a Depression-era invention of Hill Country German-Texans."

A 1994 Dallas Morning News article called "Plate Teutonics" took the same view. "German immigrants brought the breaded and fried cutlet to the Texas frontier, where it was quickly copied — with less finesse — by chuck-wagon cooks and farm wives..." The author goes on to say that even "the gravy ladled on top has Teutonic roots: Rahmschnitzel is garnished with cream sauce."

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