[SAT] Lulu's Jailhouse Cafe
I've been back in SA for almost five months, and my food searches have been for the comfort food I grew up with as a kid: CFS, BBQ, and tex-mex. I've been pretty happy with the Q and tex-mex hunt throughout central and south Texas. But the CFS hunt has been pretty disappointing. I posted a generally poor review of Good Time Charlie's (GTC) a while back, and have been looking for the elusive kick-ass CFS of my earlier years.
So, I was at the downtown library today, browsing books in the 650.1 area (resumes and cover letters) in my first job search in more than 20 years. I had passed Lulu's on the way to the library, so I decided to check out the CFS. Like GTC, Lulu advertises the best CFS. In Lulu's case, the best as voted by local reader surveys.
I'll cut the review short, since there's no sense wasting my time and your's by droning about service (good) and setting (typical diner). I ordered the 6.95 lunch special of the CFS with two sides. I chose the green beans and fried okra. The plate that arrived had a piece of CFS about the size of the plate, covered in a good-looking cream gravy, with off-color green beans and golden brown fried okra. I'm not a dietitian, and I have no reason to watch my calorie intake, but I'd venture that I had about 2,400 calories sitting in front of me...and that does not include the loaf-sized biscuit served on the side.
Although the CFS was a beautiful thing to behold on the plate, one cut into the steak and the wind was sucked out of my hopeful sails. Even with a serrated knife, the steak was just sinewy and tough as a combat boot, with a full-on taste of liver. In a few words, this CFS stood out for how utterly pathetic it was. The green beans had a canned taste, and were way past the time they should have been served to a paying public. The fried okra was standard fried okra, perhaps Cisco supplied; no complaints.
The only bright spot on the whole plate? The cream gravy. Folks, Lulu's knows how to do at least one thing right, and that's the gravy. Creamy, no lumps, generous amount of pepper, no overwhelming sense of sugar (like I found at GTC) and a perfect color. I'd be hard-pressed to find another cream gravy in this area that is as good.
I'll never go back. I'd never recommend. But there's one thing that is becoming clear to me on my return to this great little city (almost) lost in time, my idea of acceptable/good/great food does not jive with local reader polls on many categories.
I have a review of a good comfort food spot on WW White Road, but for the life of me, I can't remember the name. I'll go grab another lunch there tomorrow, and report back (but I'll be dreaming of jalapeno fried chicken and liver and onions tonight).
All local readers' polls are fairly unhelpful to us chowhounds, and the San Antonio one is no exception. I agree with you about Lulu's CFS, which I've never liked. It's big. It's fried. But it's not good. I'd have to disagree, though, about their cream gravy. On my visits, it looked beautiful but tasted bad—specifically, like raw flour with a little black pepper. They need to use more meat drippings, in my opinion. (I'm with you on hating cream gravies that taste really sweet.)
I think the sausage gravy served with the plate of biscuits and gravy at Guenther House is quite good—unless that's changed in the past year. It's a different approach to gravy, of course, with plenty of fatty pork-sausage bits crumbled into it.
As for the other spot you've heard about, could it be Mr and Mrs G's Home Cooking? On my last visit, they had very good fried chicken and Southern-style sides. I should acknowledge that it's been a couple of years since I last checked it out.
Unfortunately, with the job hunting in full gear, I wasn't able to make it back to 'the' place, but it was not M&M G's. The place I went to was more of a dive on the North side of I-10/90, on the left. The liver and onions was heaven. Hopefully I'll get there on Monday and post the report. And, Holly, I haven't tried Bud Jones, but I'll put it on my list. Thanks.
As far as comfort food goes, Mr. and Mrs. G's is the only place to go. I don't know if they have CFS but everything else is amazing. It's a bit of a hole in the wall but so yummy. I go at least once a month and would go more but it's like eating Thanksgiving day dinner each time I go. I have heard the CFS at DeWiese's Tip Top cafe is good and I have had their other food and it was good.
I'll have to try Mr.and Mrs.G's sometime. Maybe if my sister and her boyfriend come for Christmas we can try it.I will of course go there before then.
I can remember when the old Wyatts cafeteria in Windsor Park Mall closed.Later on Lulu's opend a restaurant in that space. And across the way was a mexican place,in the old El Chico's.Forgot the name of the mexican place which was very good.The beef enchiladas were made with shreddedrather than ground beef.
neither place lasted in the mall.
Also,when they do the local polls here in the paper,they also list the critics favorite as well.
I'm not much on chicken fried steak in restraunts.As you say it can be tough.
I would mainate the meat with something to give flavour and add tenderness.
Also,the batter would be light.I hate getting one where there's more batter than steak.Also I donot understand why anyone would add sugar to a cream gravy.
may have to try making my own at home.But I would use minute steaks,then dip them in egg and flour,then fry,and use Pioneer cream gravy mix.
Haven't been to the main library in ages. Don't really eat downtown anyways,except if someone comes to visit. Need to get down there to try to do family history research if i can.Need to really go up to Milwaukee to their library
as most of my dad's relatives live there,and they have more books on german families and their histories,etc.
Have you tried Bud Jones on SW Military? They advertise CFS as well as other things.Haven't been to Tip Top in ages.I work two jobs,a regular one and a part time one.Even do the part time on weekends,so working 7days a week don't get around much anymore.
Totally agree, Lulu's is over-rated. When I went, the place was full of smoke and smelled of fried "stuff". The food was less than average. I never returned in spite of my co-workers thinking it was good and going back a few times. But we never agreed on food. They thought Pizza Hut made the best pizza. Oh well.
All that was a few years ago, though.