Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Potatoe Patch – Houston, TX

Out running some errands at the I-45 – 1960 corridor, I came across the Potatoe Patch (apologies to the driver behind me who was caught off guard by my quick swerve into their parking lot). I thought the name was a riff on Dan Quayle’s inability to correctly spell the singular “potato” but apparently there are several people who spell it this way.

The Patch is a large version of a small town diner and has a very comfortable feel. They have an elaborate entry system, suggesting that the place gets busy (a good sign). There were several groups of office workers and several of Houston’s Finest enjoying lunch (a very good sign).

As I sat down, my waitress brought a little basket of fried vittles. It consisted mostly of okra but also a few onions and another veg (parsnip?). All together, it was a great start to the meal.

After I munched a few fried vittles, a “roll guy” came around offering fresh-baked rolls. When I first came in, I took virtually no notice of the sign proclaiming: “throwed rolls…if they ain’t worth throwin’, they ain’t worth eatin’” (all the apostrophes made me dizzy). But, I soon found out that “throwed rolls” was not a figurative expression as the “roll guy” lobbed one at me from about 30 feet. Fortunately I fielded my position well and, after bouncing it off my chest, I wrangled it in. The roll was warm and soft and I gobbled it down.

Steak: A nice thin sirloin – there was a great amount of give and it was nice and juicy and hot.

Breading: It was a bit thinner than other southern style CFS breadings and it was very light (in color and texture). This didn’t hold up well to the gravy but the thinness was a plus and it was different. For lunch, it was nice to have something light (even though CFS is by design heavy).

Gravy: Very white. It was a little bland but very thick. The flavor of both the breading and the mashed potato side (see below) was tasty enough to overcome this wanting, but more flavorful gravy is always better than less flavorful gravy.

Knife: A more substantial steak knife was provided and was helpful. The CFS was a bit tough, so I would have liked something more substantial.

Sides: The dish only came with one kind of potato side but you could have it virtually any way you wanted. I had mashed and they were very good. It was coated in the same gravy and had a great garlic and onion flavor. Beyond that, there is a list of sides and I chose the lima beans. The beans were good; cooked with ham hock, every kid who espouses a hatred of the tiny bean should try these. Those plus the okra mentioned above and I was a happy lunchgoer.

Service: Great! I haven’t been told “God bless you” outside of church so many times in one place. My waitress (and the cashier) were very quick and super friendly.

Music: none.

My receipt indicated that I should “Please come back and catch more hot rolls.” I plan to – the CFS was great and the visit was very pleasant. In fact, a menu item caught my eye: chicken fried steak potato(e). I will return.


2020 FM 1960 East
Houston, Texas 77073

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Church's Chicken - Humble, TX

With Mrs. CFS working late one night, and the Tater Tot and myself needing sustenance for two, I ventured out to Church’s Chicken for a quick, salty meal. I never would have thought Church’s had CFS (which they call Country Fried Steak) but for a commercial I had seen earlier in the week advertising their new CFS meal. Being a curious and hungry fellow, I decided to give it a chance.

As many are, this Church’s was attached to a Valero gas station. This was a bit of a problem because I had boycotted this Valero for it’s generally gross appearance and skanky clientele (along with the hard core pornography open on display inside, not that I’m a prude or anything). Inside this Church’s was pretty much like most others – reasonably clean and primarily serving as a shortcut to getting into the Valero station snack shop.

CFS: I wasn’t expecting much and I got it. The steak was a chopped, pre-processed patty, although it did have a bit of bite. Generally, though, it was pretty flavorful.

Breading: A thin, “Shake ‘n Bake” layer of breading held it together. It was pretty crispy and held up to the gravy well. It had a nice hint of pepper which made it nice.

Gravy: My order taker gave me a choice between white or jalapeno gravy. Having seen the jalapeno advertised in their commercial (and enjoying a good jalapeno), I couldn’t resist. It actually was pretty good, with a good balance of creaminess, pepper and heat. I might try to recreate this!
Sides: The meal came with two sides (no choices): mashed potato and corn on the cob. The mashed potato wasn’t bad, similar to what you’d find at Popeye’s or KFC. It had a nice salty potato flavor and a thin brown gravy on top. It was formed into a perfect circle, so much so that I hesitated to disturb the perfect orb. The corn on the cob had a wooden stick in it (for easy eating) and came wrapped in a little yellow bag. It was very soggy suggesting it was probably boiled. The tot liked it, though, as he is a corn aficionado.

Price: An astounding $4.99 for the meal ($2.99 without the meal).

Service: Efficient if not a little curt. I cut her some slack since working at Church’s connected to a gas station can’t be that rewarding.

Music: none.

For fast food CFS “on the go,” this wasn’t all bad. It was certainly not as bad as I expected. I’ll probably not seek it out again, but in a pinch or during a late night CFS binge, I’ll no doubt be stopping there again.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Dixie Cafe (Johnny Reb's) - Hearne, TX

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

Wrapping up my trip north, I consulted Google for quality CFS in the Bryan-College Station area. Dixie Café’s name kept coming up – this was for very good reason. To preview: this was the best CFS I’ve had on this journey so far. It is not to be missed.

The interior is a standard diner with an eclectic mix of customers – farmers, travelers, business people, high schoolers (and everybody was happy). Texas Monthly actually listed the Dixie Café in their “40 best Diners” issue (see earlier post) and noted that the décor was “confederate.” I believed this substantially to not bring in my New York Times to read (it being a Communist paper), but other than the Confederate flags on the shirts, I didn’t see evidence of confederate décor.

The CFS: Very, very good. The steak (cubed sirloin) was soft and had the right amount of chew.

Breading: Southern style. Thick, crumbly and tasty. The was a nice hint of buttermilk and pepper.
Gravy: Thick and white. A classic CFS gravy with good hint of pepper and cumin. It came served on the CFS.

The balance of all of the flavors and textures was excellent. Each element was in perfect harmony and brought another layer of enjoyment to the dish.

Knife: A bigger than average steak knife was used and it was appropriate.

Sides: I picked the okra and the mashed potatoes. The okra was disappointing as it was cold and a bit mushy. The mashed potatoes were fantastic – a great garlicy flavor, good pepper and skins in.

Cost: $12.99. Higher than CFS on average but well worth it.

Service: Very good. The waitresses buzzed around the café and kept the iced tea (sweetened) filled and the sides coming.

Music Selection: Probably none. Just the hum of a busy restaurant at lunch time.

The worst part about the meal was that I had to drive three hours home wanting to take a nap and unsure about when I’d be back. Who would have thought heaven was off Highway 6 in Texas? My only regret was not saving room for pie.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

CFS, New York Style

The New York Times has praised the cube steak today noting that it’s a cut of meat that’s returning to vogue (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/04/dining/04steak.html?8dpc). They even include a recipe for chicken fried steak: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/04/dining/041srex.html. But, here in Texas, it never went out of style (and we don’t hyphenate “chicken fried” steak).

Locations of visitors to this page