Saturday, June 6, 2009

Hickory Hollow - Houston, TX

Tucked away behind the Sam Houston Race Track on Houston’s northwest side is Hickory Hollow (note the backwards ‘k’ in the name). Hickory Hollow is a great little roadhouse style BBQ place with a wide menu.

Unlike other places that try to approximate a Texas-style café, this place makes the details count. The meals are served on large pizza pie trays (which are hard to cut on but big enough to hold the mass amount of food you get). The flatware is held in bins alongside napkins from a holder. The iced tea is served in glass mason jars.

The accolades are impressive. The website lists a few on the CFS alone:

The Houston Press says it’s the Best Chicken Fried Steak in Houston. The Houston Business Journal Gourmet Choice agrees. Oprah Magazine says it’s the Best Value. “Just look at the size of those chicken fried steaks!”

I must say I agree.

The CFS: She was big (and I didn’t even order the largest size). I ordered the Medium Hired Hand (the third largest) and it was huge. The steak (cubed sirloin) was nice and juicy but was a bit chewy, suggesting it could have been tenderized a bit more or cooked a bit more. It didn’t detract from the taste, but there were bites where the steak was a bit stringy with the connective tissue.

The Breading: Southern style and crunchy. It was flaky and had a good balance of butter, pepper and possibly butter milk. One nice thing was that it was so big and there was so much breading that I was able to manufacture my own tasty bites with a great amount of gravy, extra crunch from the breading the and the soft and chewy steak.

The Gravy: They call it “River Bottom Gravy” – it was tasty stuff. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but the gravy is a yellow color, and it has notes of corn and chicken, along with a good amount of buttery, creamy flavor and pepper. It wasn’t heavily glopped on, but given the size of the CFS, there was a great deal of it.

Knife: Too small! The knife was a standard dinner knife, which was too small. Something larger was necessary.

Sides: You can either get a salad and mashed potato or a salad and baked potato. I went for the mashed and it was good - great balance of flavor and a good creamy texture.

The Price: $9.79 for the Medium Ranch Hand with salad and mashed potato. Given the amount of food, this was an excellent deal.

Music: None, except for Court TV (which I turned off so I could read about the Rockets’ latest injury report in the Chronicle).

Service: Walk up counter service. Your order is sent out to you from the kitchen through a little window (they’ll call you number). Everybody was friendly and efficient. Although they weren’t busy at the time, my guess was that they always move that efficiently.

If I could, I’d have Hickory Hollow cater all of my meals. I wouldn’t live another 10 years but at least they’d be a good 10 years.

8038 Fallbrook Drive
Houston, Texas

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LMB said...

Place sounds great, although I have a deep-seated problem with yaller gravy. The yaller comes from one of three things: packaged "chicken flavor," which is artificially colored; tumeric, which gives it that kinda fonkey taste (tho' it's great in Indian food); or plain yellow food coloring. In any case, why?

CFS Man, next time you make a trip to Dallas, head on north to Gainesville on I-35. Exit US-82 to the west (old cloverleaf interchange), drive for 3 miles, and you'll find yourself in Lindsay, a little German town (before you get to Muenster). There are two barbecue joints next door to one another on the north side of the road. The one on the right was Dieter Brothers, but may have changed since I moved away in 2003. The one on the left is The Smokehouse, and, IMHO, is by far the best. Lots of good, hand-pounded steak, good breading, great gravy. And, though all the sides are great, I'm really partial to the beer-battered onion rings, which overflow the plate. and the slaw. Servings are preposterously large.

Both places have great barbecue, and the beer flows exactly as you'd expect in a German joint. But Dieters' uses pre-packaged steak. In my book, you shouldn't be able to cut CFS with a fork (though you should be able to chew it).

I'd have e-mailed this, but couldn't find an addy on your site.


Chicken Fried Texan said...

You had me at “preposterously large!” GREAT suggestions. Thanks for putting these on my radar.

I agree about the yeller gravy. I’ve never had one I really liked.

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