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Ghost Town CFS: Carriage House Cafe

Step back in time — to a spooky old carriage barn with a monster chicken-fried steak

As you make your way inside, you come to a counter made of antique wooden panels with a cash register. That's where you order your food and take a number. And then you enter a high-ceilinged central dining room with a second-story gallery above.

The low lights and dusty shelves full of junk give the place a haunted-house vibe. In three visits, three different dining companions have compared the look of the place to: a Wild West saloon, a Wild West whorehouse and a hotel in a horror movie. In fact, the building was formerly an antiques store; it is still full of antiques, and they are still for sale. In 2005, owner Alvie Fritsche decided to combine his antiques business with a food-service operation.

It's no accident that his chicken-fried steak is so damn good. Fritsche is also the founder of Hickory Hollow, the restaurant that won the award for "Best Chicken Fried Steak" in the Houston Press's 2005 Best of Houston® issue. The Carriage House Cafe is located near Sam Houston Race Park, a little ways down Fallbrook from the original Hickory Hollow restaurant, which first opened 30 years ago.

The tasty one-pound CFS is a great deal.
Troy Fields
The tasty one-pound CFS is a great deal.

Location Info

Map

Carriage House Cafe

7955 Fallbrook Drive
Houston, TX 77064

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Jersey Village

Details

Hours:

11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Chicken-fried steak: $7.95

Large chicken-fried:

steak: $10.95

Brisket plate: $6.95

Chopped brisket

sandwich: $4.75

Jalapeño burger: $6.95

7955 Fallbrook Dr., 281-469-2002.

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Like Hickory Hollow, Carriage House Cafe also serves undistinguished ­barbecue.
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One evening, I tried a mixed plate with sliced brisket and sausage, and I was disappointed. The brisket was exceedingly lean and didn't appear to be freshly sliced. The slices were masked with sweet barbecue sauce. The sausage, which is made on the premises, was dry as dust.

When one of Fritsche's daughters asked me how I liked the barbecue, I offered to pay extra for some meat freshly cut from the fatty deckle end of the brisket.

She smiled knowingly and said, "That's where all the flavor is."

"Yeah, I know," I told her. "But if that's where the flavor is, then why don't you serve it when people order brisket?" I asked her.

She said they usually chopped up the meat from the fatty end and served it in the chopped brisket sandwiches. The plate of fatty end meat she brought me had a couple of hunks of gristle in it, but it was moist, juicy and much more flavorful than the lean, dried-out slices.

I came back on another occasion to sample the chopped brisket sandwich. It was my favorite barbecue item at Carriage House Cafe. The beef was moist and juicy, but unfortunately it was drenched in cloyingly sweet barbecue sauce. There are better places to go for barbecue.

But I can't wait to bring some European tourists to Carriage House Cafe. It's the perfect place to fulfill their dreams of visiting the Wild West. And I'll take them to the horse races after dinner.

You can have a barrel of fun gawking at the Old Western weirdness at Carriage House Cafe and a decent meal, too, if you're careful what you order. Skip the hopelessly dry hamburgers and homemade sausage. If you want barbecued brisket, get the chopped sandwich or ask for the meat to be freshly cut from the fatty end. As everybody knows, "that's where all the flavor is."

The half-pound CFS is sublime. But for a real deal, ignore all the silly warnings and split the one-pound OBBBB CFS with somebody — it's the perfect chicken-fried steak for two.

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