Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Langford’s Grocery ― Houston, TX

I’ve been meaning to try Langford’s for a few weeks, but was sidetracked by other culinary visits. But I happened to catch a Diners, Drivers and Dives (with annoying boy-host Guy Fieri) where he visited the Bayou City and sampled some of our excellent fare. Langford’s website boasts they have the best burgers in town (hence the visit from the bearded spiky one), an eccentrically decorated roadhouse that feels a bit out of place in the nexus of loft condos in Houston’s Midtown neighborhood. But, Thursday is chicken fried steak day at Langford’s, so I paid a visit.

(image from Langford's website)

The CFS plate starts with a little salad with an excellent cilantro cream dressing. Accompanying the CFS is a spectacular mashed potato with bacon and topped with cheese and scallions.

The steak itself was a big hunk of sirloin, almost as wide and tall as a hamburger patty. The breading didn’t stick to it well at all but I didn’t much care. The rich brown gravy could have used a hint of salt, but the breading was plenty salty by itself. This might have balanced out in each bite but the strong creaminess of the gravy muted this communication. I applied a few dashes of salt from the converted ‘Coronita’ bottle-to-salt shaker and all was well.

The only unpleasantness was a powerful garlicy flavor to … something. I can’t tell you if it was the gravy, the mashed potatoes or the cilantro cream dressing since none tasted strongly of garlic at the time I ate it. But it was one of them. And it was POWERFUL. I can describe it perfectly because I can still taste it three hours and a stick of gum later. But at $6.29 for a half CFS, starter salad, small mashed potatoes (or fries) and a half a perfectly browned Texas toast, this is a great lunch deal. The plate and portion reminded me of little roadhouse cafes in central Texas. Just don’t schedule any face-to-face meetings after lunch on Thursdays.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hickory Hollow - Houston, TX

As is often the case, the best keep getting better. Thwarted in our attempts to find CFS on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend by permanent closures (the Railroad CafĂ©) or temporary closures (the Steamboat House), Mrs. CFS and the tater tot returned to one of our favorite standards: Hickory Hollow (unfortunately there is no way for my computer to reverse the “k” in “Hickory” to mirror the sign out front).

Being too proud to order the “Cowgirl” (the “smallest” CFS), I went for the low middle option (the “Field Hand.”) Even at that, no field hand could expect to eat this and go back to work. The CFS was perfectly cooked and as fork tender a steak on a CFS as I’ve ever had. The breading and meat weren’t perfectly melded in balance in that they felt like two distinct parts of the same dish. But it didn’t matter ― the velvety texture of the steak and the crunch of the breading made for a perfect bite.

The mashed potatoes were topped with a perfect amount (not too much, not too little) of their golden, smoky gravy. Salad is usually…well, salad…but the mini salad bar at Hickory Hollow was perfectly fresh, stocked with edible veggies and compete with a delicious ranch dressing (to whit, even the tot wanted, unprompted, to eat some).

So, pour yourself a mason jar of sweet tea and head back again to Hickory Hollow (again and again).

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Gus’s Diner ― Sun Prairie, WI

Start the morning off right and I’ll tell you how: a big cup of coffee, good friends and hefty chicken fried steak. Visiting friends in Madison, Wisconsin, we were treated to an excellent late breakfast at Gus’s Diner in neighboring Sun Prairie. Gus’s Diner recreates a quaint and vibrant traditional greasy spoon diner where you would feel accepted wearing sneakers or bobby socks.

(image snagged from ChicagoNow.com)

The steak was tender and well cooked, if a little buried (and outshined) by the allied players on the plate. The gravy wasn’t my particular cut of brisket, given that the white gravy had mushrooms and a bit too much parsley. What can you say, it’s Wisconsin. It was, however tasty and flavorful and was a nice earthy contrast to the starch of the CFS and perfectly browned hash browns. The accompanying sunny side up eggs provided an amazingly rich mouthful that satisfied all around.

I try not to make it a habit to dine on CFS outside of Texas (especially in Louisiana, sorry Pelican-staters), but this was a welcome meal on a cold Midwestern morning.

The History of CFS

From the Handbook of Texas Online. A must read! (kindly sent in by a reader).

Thursday, June 3, 2010

AAA Restaurant - Houston, TX

Crispity, chrunchity goodness.*

The chicken fried steak at AAA Restaurant.

AAA is a throwback style diner with a diverse clientele and a traditional menu. The crunch factor was high on the CFS. The picture does not do it justice. The peaks and valleys of fried crust provided an excellent textual counter to the tender steak. This provided an unfortunate related problem where the lumpiness of the steak cooked unevenly in places. Even so, the overall bite was perfect, smothered with the thick white gravy which was nicely balanced. I ordered the baked potato as a side because I often enjoy a giant starch bomb slathered with sour cream. Not too often. But this tater was enjoyable with a fluffy meat and a soft skin. I couldn’t finish it since I was stuffed of CFS, but the little foil package it comes in can double as a doggy bag for a midnight snack (or the following week when you’re hungry again).

* Trademark Butterfinger candybars. Any association is purely coincidental.

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