Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fried Fish Friday (Catfish Cafe - Humble, TX)

New feature! Man cannot live by CFS alone. Besides fish is good for you.

Catfish Café in Humble delivers on both words in the title. The restaurant is small but cozy – a perfect little cafe. The catfish (all you can eat or orders of 3 and 4 strips) was hot and juicy. Tarter sauce was pumped out of a big jug, allowing generous portions (and Chicken Fried Neighbor to mix some evil concoctions). All you can eat was $15.99 which includes a side of hush puppies and French fries. Both were tasty but the fish was the star. The staff was attentive and kept the catfish flying out of the kitchen.

7042 FM 1960 Road East
Humble, TX

Carriage House - Houston, TX

I discovered the Carriage House on accident because I was on my way to Hickory Hollow which is right down the road. Fortunately, I can’t seem to pass up a sign announcing chicken fried steak, so I made a return trip.

With horses on the premises and the acreage surrounding the restaurant including old building and, of course, carriages, the Carriage House is part diner and part historical grounds.
More barn than restaurant, the Carriage House is like no other place I’ve ever seen. It is literally like walking into an old barn, complete with wood all around, horse harnesses, hay bails and creaking floors. It is a cavernous place with many rooms that evokes a dark old saloon from yesteryear. The décor is more like an antiques store, with more china hutches than the collective grandmothers of my readership. This made for a very homey feel, especially for being inside of a barn.

The CFS: Very tender and cooked perfectly, making it hard to believe that it was cube steak. How they got it this tender is a mystery beyond my cooking skills. I wish more places would do it like this.

Breading: Flakey and crispy. It was as light as one could make such breading after frying it. It had a taste that reminded me of a cafeteria style breading , done with more care and thought.

Gravy: The gravy was flavorful – creamy and peppery with great consistency.
Knife: Regular knife. I usually lean toward something more substantial, but the tenderness of the CFS made anything more than your fork unnecessary.

Sides: Salad bar + one side. I chose the fried okra as my side: it was delicious. Fresh, hot and very crispy. The salad bar, which I used simply as a way to kill time until the fried items arrived, was well stocked but not very large.

Cost: $ 7.29. A great deal.

Service: Walkup service (which got crowded around lunchtime). The food came out hot and fast.
Music Selection: (Very) old country. It fit the location perfectly!

This place is certainly a throwback – a unique specimen from inside to outside. And the food is also unique. The quality of the CFS and the ethereal quality of the preparation ensures I’ll make another visit. I’ll bring Trigger next time.

7955 Fallbrook Dr.
Houston, TX 77064

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Love and War in Texas - Plano, TX

Chicken fried parents have been singing the praises of Love and War for several years. The perfect storm of hunger, location and need for salt merged and we paid a visit. If anything, they undersold it. Despite being right behind Central Expressway, Love and War is a great place that could be anywhere in Texas: bar, outdoor concert venue, requisite Texas decorations inside, Shiner on tap and great food.

The CFS: The “Big Tex Chicken Fried Steak.” Super (fork) tender and very moist. Cube steak.

Breading: Thick, southern style but needed a little salt.

Gravy: A creamy gravy with ham. The flavor was good but the ham overpowered the CFS. There was a significant amount of heat too – more than you might expect. Cayenne pepper on the top (dotted with a little pasilla chili which chicken fried father unwisely gobbled down).

Knife: Steak knife. But, the tenderness of the CFS made it almost an adornment.

Sides: As good as the CFS was, this visit was all about the sides. Choose two. The mashed potato was creamy with great potato flavor and lumpy as Hill Country. The cream/ham gravy was ladled on top with a generous sprinkling of cayenne. The Texas Caviar (black eyed peas) had a great blend of peppers, heat, bacon and earthy bean flavor.

Cost: $ 11.95. A bit expensive but the quality of the food made it worth the cost.

Service: Friendly but not totally efficient. French fries were brought instead Tot’s mashed potatoes. We had to repeatedly ask for silverware. But a little banter, an earnest effort and good food makes up for a lot in my book.

Music Selection: My perfect playlist: Uncle Tupelo, Willie and more.

Try the wagon wheels (fried pickles) if you are really hungry – you won’t be disappointed.

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