Friday, February 20, 2009

Ken Martin’s Safari Grill – Bryan, TX

Chicken Fried Road Trip: College Station (Part 2 of 3)

Seeking sustenance after a long day, I journeyed to Ken Martin’s Safari Grill. With only hunger as my guide, I sought to eat a third CFS in as many days. The place is tucked away in north Bryan in a grouping of office buildings and apartments.

There isn’t anything particularly “safari” about the restaurant other than the fact that the booths have a jungle animal print and the walls are staked with occasional tiki torches. The menu is pretty standard diner/cafĂ© fare– no exotic animals available on the menu.

The CFS: Not good. The steak had a bit of an odd odor and the taste was a bit off. The steak was sufficiently juicy and chewy but the flavor was just not right, so I chose not to finish it. It also appeared to be pre-cooked and came out to my table minutes (say, six) after I ordered it. So, either my reputation had preceded me or it was ready to go even if I had come in hours earlier.
Breading: Southern style. It was a little hard, making it difficult to cut properly. The taste was fine but nothing memorable.

Gravy: The pride of the house, according to the waiter. It was yellow (yellow like the yellow sunset picture on the menu, according to my waiter). But, it was flavorless (like the sunset picture on the menu). I’ve had yellow gravy before which was good, but this version was not good. It was nearly tasteless and added virtually nothing to the dish.

Knife: A more sizable steak knife was brought – useful for cutting through the tough outer shell of the breading.

Sides: Choose two – I chose the green beans and mashed potatoes. The beans were from a can and a bit on the soggy side (even for beans from a can). The potatoes were actually pretty good, lumpy, well seasoned and the hint of an occasional skin. But, they were slathered with the infamous yellow gravy, making them less appealing. Still, after abandoning my CFS, I happily finished my starch.

Cost: $ 6.99 plus a dinner salad for $ 1.99. Not a bad price (if the food were good).

Service: Very nice! My waiter was helpful, efficient, gracious and enthusiastic. It’s not his fault the food was bad. I felt bad knowing I would write a bad review, so I tipped him big (also it occurred to me that they wouldn’t be in business much longer).

Music Selection: None.

No sense dwelling on it, but this was the worst CFS of my still young quest. I’ve never been on safari, but if this is the food one receives, I’m happy to stay in Houston.

3231 E. 29th St.; Bryan, TX 77802
(979) 776-7500

Monday, February 9, 2009

Chicken Oil - College Station, TX

Chicken Fried Road Trip: College Station (Part 1 of 3)

This entry is part of a three-part series on a road trip to College Station (homebase to all you Aggies).

I pulled into town on an empty stomach and dreams of creamy and tasty CFS for a hundred miles. On my trip to BCS (Bryan-College Station for those of you who aren’t Aggies), I decided to stop first at Chicken Oil to sample their CFS.

Chicken Oil is an alternative location to the popular Dixie Chicken watering hole and is more accessible for non-college students.

The outside and inside look like a several dozen old gas stations were smushed together. Oil and gas signs from every once established, long since gone and even a few current petrol companies. The floors are hard wood and creak with age. The wood tables are carved with the names, dates, slogans, proverbs, advice and nonsense of thousands of patrons who’ve enjoyed Chicken Oil.

The CFS: Tasty and warm. Just what I was looking for. Still, it was a little dry on the outside, even though the steak (cube steak) was chewy and juicy.

Breading: Hand formed breading, but hand formed breading from perhaps hours before. There wasn’t much love in the breading and it tasted a bit dried out. It wasn’t flaky or crumbly like I like it. It did, however, hold the CFS together.

Gravy: The gravy came in a little cup on the side (no other option was given). It was white and peppery but otherwise lacked flavor. It tasted like it needed a little broth, salt or heat (cayenne?). In any case, it didn’t exactly satisfy.

Knife: Standard kitchen knife provided and appropriate.

Sides: No choices. It came with Texas toast (surprise), salad and a bag of french fries. All were good but the toast was especially good: lightly toasted on the outside and soft in the middle. I could eat a whole loaf.

Cost: $ 6.49 for the small (and it was small). Overall, considering the whole plate, a satisfying meal and a satisfying price.

Service: Counter walk up service. Friendly but disinterested. Well, A&M hasn’t had such a good football season (compared to Texas Tech, Texas or Oklahoma), so I grant a little sadness.

Music Selection: Old country (Ray Price, Kenny Rodgers and I thought I heard a Patsy Cline).

While I chose not to add my mark to the table at which I was sitting, I enjoyed my visit to Chicken Oil. Still, while obviously popular, the CFS felt like a bit of an afterthought at Chicken Oil. This really is a burger and fries joint and a darn good one at that.

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