To me, the one true Hickory Hollow will always be the location at 8038 Fallbrook in northwest Houston. There are a few reasons for this.
The first is that the Heights location didn’t impress me with the food the first time I went. The second is that the Fallbrook location offers a ridiculous amount of rustic charm. The third is that the Fallbrook location is the one that my mom and I went to when she was still alive.
Some dishes are etched in memory because they are fantastic — the best examples of their kind. Some are etched in emotion and nostalgia.
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When I was a teenager in the late 1980s, my eyes probably grew as wide and round as the aluminum platters the chicken-fried steaks are served on when I saw how huge they were. Mom and I shared a great love for chicken-fried steak, and she would even try to make it at home. Her renditions always came out more rustic (even maybe a little burned, truth be told), but there is, of course, nothing I wouldn’t give to have a taste of my mother’s home cooking again.
Since that’s not possible, at least I can occasionally haunt a few of the places at which we used to dine together. Yes, a few are still around. One is Shanghai Inn on Fairbanks North Houston and 290, and the other is the Hickory Hollow on Fallbrook.
As far as the chicken-fried steak goes, it narrowly escaped being included on the 100 Favorite Dishes list of 2015, mainly because
I do believe the gravy is made from a mix. (Hickory Hollow says the gravy is in fact housemade. The unusual color stems from it being a chicken-based gravy and they call it.) That said, the chicken-fried steak itself is excellent. The batter is crispy and parts easily without simply falling off the tenderized round steak. It comes in small, medium and large sizes. The one in the photo is “medium.” The large hangs off both sides of the platter.
Places like Hickory Hollow may not serve gourmand fare, but they serve another purpose. They are time capsules — windows into Houston’s food history. Such things should be preserved.