Billboards all over Waller and north Harris County proclaim Goodson's Cafe as the "Best Chicken Fried Steak in Texas." It is certainly not the only place that makes such a claim, but here it comes close to being true.
Goodson's Cafe was a neat and eclectic little place. It was true to the “café” name: a big menu with a range of standards (including appetizers, lunch, dinner and desserts). Tables were covered with that plastic tablecloths and there were baskets of toys around for recreation (for the tots, I suppose). The meal started with some warm biscuits with a nice gravy in a side dish.
The CFS: I was warned. She warned me. When I ordered the CFS, our waitress asked "Are you sure?" Teased and interested, I indicated I was sure (even though I wasn't sure). The CFS was amazing. Just amazing. True southern style, thick and juicy (surolin). It was a MAJOR piece of meat -- as big as I've seen. …or I thought it was a single: after eating a few bites, I discovered it was actually two pieces! Regardless, it was too much for me. Grilled onions were also offered to top the CFS (alas, but declined), something I hadn’t encountered before.
Breading: Thick and flaky. Very tasty. Clearly made with some buttermilk, it was double dipped, a nice amount of pepper and lumpy as all get out.
Gravy: Smooth, camel colored and creamy. A rich, caramel and flavorful bounty. It came on the side (our waitress didn't ask how we wanted the gravy served). Our waitress offered (without us asking) to bring an extra bowl of gravy and I'm glad she did. I actually didn't think I'd like spooning out gravy to my CFS per bite, but I really liked it. It allowed for portion control and let the CFS stay crispy.
Knife size: You need something major to attack this beast. The CFS came with a standard knife -- truly inadequate for the job. I thought about going next door to the pawn shop to buy something more substantial.
Sides: Dish came with two. I had the fried okra (no surprise) and the cole slaw. I'm easy with okra, so my standards are low. But these weren't so good: the okra was a little soggy and probably pre-packaged. The cole slaw was awful. Everything was chopped too small and the balance of creaminess, cabbage and carrots (the three c's) . There was an unpleasant hint of garlic in it too -- made it smell a little off and left an odd aftertaste. Mrs. Chicken Fried Texan had the mashed potato (which was nice but was a little dry, a nice potato flavor (with skins)) and corn (tasted canned).
Cost: Large (which I had) was $9.29 and the small is $7.99. An amazing bargain given the amount of food. If you’re interested, the grilled onions on top were an extra $0.79.
Service. This wasn't her first rodeo or her first CFS. She sized me up and knew she'd be taking that plate away nearly full (see picture). She was friendly, had an easy charm, got the food out fast and flirted with the tot (who returned in kind).
Music selection: adult contempo.
The "Best Chicken Fried Steak in Texas" can't be a self-given label. Indeed, Goodson's Cafe's "Best CFS" was proclaimed as such by the "Eyes of Texas," which were last recorded in the late 1990s. So, it's been a while since the label was affixed to their CFS. Best in Texas? I can't say. The biggest?: perhaps. Best bargain?: certainly the top 10. It’s worth a drive out to Tomball to see for yourself.