Although I certainly enjoy a good piece of chicken fried steak for dinner -- preferably served with homemade macaroni and cheese and fried okra -- there's something to be said for beginning your day with a plate full of it whether you're bleary-eyed or bushy-tailed, especially when served with fried eggs and a strong cup of coffee.
You can't exactly wolf down a plate full of chicken fried steak; it's the kind of breakfast that begs you to slow down, pay attention and enjoy your morning. And unless you're a competitive eater, most plates of CFS are so large that they merit sharing, bringing you closer together with your dining companion. A well-executed chicken fried steak and bowl full of cream gravy will even go along way towards compensating for getting up on the wrong side of bed.
Below are our favorite places in town to set up with some CFS and eggs for breakfast. If your favorite was missed, please sound off in the comments section (so that I can go and try it this weekend, posthaste).
5. Sabine River Cafe (CLOSED) 10001 Westheimer, Suite 2520, 713-334-2353
This underlooked Westchase-area restaurant consistently turns out some of the best CFS in town, with a just-spicy-enough jalapeno gravy that befits the "Tex-La" (owner Robert Krauthamer's take on Texas Creole) menu. And at $8.99 for the chicken fried steak, two eggs, biscuits and skillet potatoes, it's a pretty good deal, too. Shame it's only offered on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
4. Frank's Grill 4702 Telephone Road, 713-649-3296
If there's one thing the south side of town does well, it's CFS for breakfast (see Kelley's Country Cooking below). Whether or not that comfort food crown is a result of the area's blue collar roots or not is a topic for debate, but the great chicken fried steak at Frank's -- an old-school diner along the lines of Tel-Wink or Triple A -- is not. And if you needed further proof of Frank's awesomeness, it uses Velveeta in its omelets. Kill shot.
3. Kelley's Country Cooking 7011 Spencer Highway, Pasadena, 281-479-3700
As Robb Walsh discovered back in 2006, even someone who eats for a living is no match for the enormous plate of chicken-fried steak that Kelley's dishes up in the mornings, especially when served with three expertly cooked eggs, sunny side up. Bonus: There are five other Kelley's scattered around town (albeit mostly toward the south side), so you can get your fix at the location most convenient to you.
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2. Yale Street Grille 2100 Yale, 713-861-3113
It's all about the gravy at Yale, which is the same muddy white color as my grandmother and mother make in their cast-iron skillets using bacon grease and drippings from pan sausage as its base. But more than the gravy is responsible for this No. 2 position: The chicken-fried steak is the ideal size for a not-too-heavy morning bite (it's about the size of a chicken breast). Plus, it's served with so much extra gravy that you can use it to make an individual portion of biscuits and gravy with the fluffy biscuit that comes with your meal. Not bad for $7.95.
1. Triple A 2526 Airline, 713-861-3422
The chicken-fried steak here is served with a bowl of gravy on the side, which is truly a must-have when you're talking about old-school, classic CFS (and it's served by waitresses who are almost as historic as the restaurant itself, another must-have). And while it's large enough to split, the crispy, perfectly seasoned batter and thick cream gravy will pretty much turn you into a selfish beast defending your breakfast from any interloping forks.