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Chicken-Fried Steak @ Texaz Grill (PHX)

Ok, I might be knocking a long-time favorite here, but I need some feedback. I had never been to Texaz Grill before today, but had heard for a number of years that they make an excellent chicken-friend steak. A fellow CFS-loving co-worker of mine mentioned that we should try it since it's right up the road, so we did; the consensus: HUGE let-down. The gravy was pretty good (although it could have used more salt), the batter was pretty good but the cube steak was tough. That, IMHO, is a chicken-fried steak sin.

Who's had it lately and did we just get a bad batch? I was ready to make this my go-to spot for CFS, but I can't do it if this is as good as it gets.

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  1. Ten years ago, when we moved to the Valley, we got the same suggestions. Now, I am a real fan of chicken-fried steak, and believe that I have had the two best examples on Earth. TexAz was not one of them. We were housed in a condo near-by, while we shopped for homes and I'd guess that we dined there maybe six times. I think that one of us had the CFS most of those times, with the same results - OK, but nothing to get excited about. Their ribs were a bit better, but I just failed to see the charm of their food.

    In short order, we discovered Richardson's and the long gone Bistro Zin in the same area, and have not returned to TexAz since.

    When I saw the title of the post, I got all excited, thinking that maybe they had changed things up a lot, as I have not found good CFS within 900 miles of PHX. I'm not saying that it's not out there, but so far, I've not had it. Even my wife, who is a great cook, can't quite get the handle on this dish. Now, she's only had the #2 CFS, as the #1 was gone by the time she met me. Still, everytime that Southern Living, or Sunset does a recipe for it, she tries her hand. I think that it is the recipes, and not her skills, that keep it from excelling.

    If someone knows a great CFS place, please post it!

    Thanks,
    Hunt

    6 Replies
    1. re: Bill Hunt

      Bill - it most certainly has to do with the recipe. Since it's such a simple dish, if you have basic cooking fundamentals, you know how to fry something and can make gravy, there is certainly no way you can mess it too badly. The Texaz grill version was, I believe, just a simple problem of sub-par, tough meat. I think it was fried properly, they probably followed the correct gravy recipe (perhaps my salt tolerance is higher than others), but the meat they order is just not the quality it should be.

      Mind sharing your top 2 CFS places?

      1. re: Bill Hunt

        I'm loath to admit it, but my favorite chicken fried steak... is at Chili's. It's not WOW, but still, something about it just hits all the notes that a decent chicken fried steak should. One of those and a Presidente Margarita and I am one very content jester.

        I've been to Texaz a couple of times, and while it's OK, I haven't been massively impressed. I had one at 5 & Diner ages ago and won't make that mistake twice.

        Oh! You know who I'd almost be willing to bet money would have a good one? the Rock Springs Cafe in Black Canyon City (actually, at that point it is in Rock Springs) on the way to the north country. Next time I get an itch to head that way (and I'm not travelling in the dead of night as I usually do) I'll stop and check 'em out.

        1. re: Bill Hunt

          Yeah, Bill . . . you have to share, as does anyone who has had good Chicken Fried Steak.

          That dish has been a major empty-hole-in-my-belly for me since I left Lubbock in '97. Probably ate it at least once a week if not more during my 13 years there.. Mesquites, on University and Broadway was a favorite, as were a dozen other places around town ... it was local law that you had to make a decent steak to be in business, I think. Only exemption was Thai restaurants.

          1. re: pgerding

            My #1 chicken-fried steak was at a small restaurant in the Greyhound/Trailways bus station in Meridian, MS, The Hub. My parents had talked about it, as they had lived in Meridian in the ‘40s. My first trip there was in the mid-‘50s. Now, let me say that I have never been a fan of the foods that my parents loved, with a few exceptions. This was definitely one. The Hub called their chicken-fried steak, “Chick Steak.” It was a wonderfully lean and moist pounded steak, with a light, almost “tempura” batter, that had a wonderful seasoning. It was spicy, but not “hot” in anyway. They used a beef-based gravy, for both the Chick Steak and the homemade mashed potatoes. They gravy on the steak was lightly applied, unlike most places, which use a chicken-based, heavy white gravy and ladle it on by the quart. We dined there until the early ‘60s, whenever we visited family in Meridian. It was probably in about ‘65, that the Hub closed.

            I’ve tried to find contacts for family, etc., hoping that someone had taken the recipe and had opened another restaurant, but have had no luck. My wife and I spent a half-day in the Meridian Library, looking at old telephone books, and talking to the head librarian, who had been there for 40 years, and knew of the Hub (especially as it was just down the street from the Library). Though she seemed to know everyone who had ever lived in Meridian, she could not help us find the family behind The Hub.

            Number 2 is/was (more about that down the article) Hensley’s Family Restaurant, El Reno, OK. In the mid-‘80s, we were driving between Denver and New Orleans – a trip that we did about twice per year, and were trying yet another route between those two cities. We dropped down from Buffalo & Fort Supply, hitting I-40, just before El Reno. We stopped for gas at the first El Reno exit (west), and I asked the attendant if he could recommend any place to have a late dinner near-by. He suggested that we get off at the next exit (second El Reno exit, heading West to East) and would have a choice between a chain, or Hensley’s Family Restaurant. His parting comment was that Hensley’s was world-famous for their pies. Well, I’m not a real fan of chain restaurants, even Morton’s, or Ruth’s are not high on my list, so we exited I-40 at the next exit and chose Hensley’s. It was a slightly sprawling, though definitely “family” restaurant. The parking lot was still full, even though it was getting rather late for dinner, especially in the near Midwest.

            We were seated, and I asked my server what was good. Her reply was, “well, we’re famous for our pies, but our chicken-fried steak is the best that you’ve ever eaten.” Done deal. The chicken-fried steak was tender, moist with a light batter. There wasn’t one hint of gristle and each bit was heaven. They offered either a brown, or white gravy, and we both chose the brown. Again, it was beef/veal-based an thin, compared to the normal globby white gravy. This steak was also spicy, though there was no heat. I’d love to know the spices. With potatoes and beans, it was a full meal. She was nearly right. It was definitely #2, and a close second also.

            We never had room for their pies. Over the years, we probably dined there ten times. We’d alter our routes, but always find a way to get to El Reno for dinner – maybe early, or maybe late. By the mid-‘90s, driving became out of the question, as our schedules demanded that we fly, because of the extra days required. No more Hensley’s.

            I’ve done a Google search and even posted a question on the OK Board, asking if they are still in business, and if the CFS is still as good. No one ever responded, and I have yet to find a review, or any hint of a hit from Google. I would guess that they were finally put out of business by the ever-encroaching chains, but do not know for sure. If you are ever on I-40, heading toward Oklahoma City from the west, look for the town of El Reno and take the second (do not think that they have expanded to more exits, but they may have) exit and you’ll see (or I hope that you’ll see) Hensley’s Family Restaurant. Now, it’s probably surrounded by a Wal-Mart, a K-Mart, 14 chain restaurants, and a handful of cheap motels, but I do hope that it’s still there.

            Hunt

            1. re: Bill Hunt

              "By the mid-‘90s, driving became out of the question, as our schedules demanded that we fly, because of the extra days required. No more Hensley’s."

              Until I re-read your post, I thought my favorite might be an option, albeit a long distance option. Shamrock, TX is a "sneeze" town east of Tucumcari NM just off I-40. The tiny Shamrock Family Cafe (??I think this is the name, it's right next to the gas station) has a great CFS; and it comes in two sizes! The "regular" falls off both sides of the plate, while the "Senior" is a normal (large) meal size. BTW, age has nothing to do with ordering the Senior. The waitress will size you up (literally) and make the recommendation of which you should order. This CFS is both tender and crisp with gravy served on the side so it remains crisp right to the last bite.

              It's a little silly for anyone other than a Chowhound to time a cross-country car trip around meals, but regardless of the time of day, we try to stop in Shamrock for our CFS fix.

              1. re: Sherri

                Drove through Shamrock many times, but never saw Shamrock Family Cafe. I'll keep an eye out for it next trip (whenever that will be?), as I think Hensley's is long gone now.

                We'd also deviate to go through San Antonio (not on any direct line from CO to LA) to dine at La Fogata (NW quadrant off of 510 Loop). I figured that we added ~500 miles to the trip, just for one night of great Tex-Mex, but worth it.

                Hunt

        2. I haven't been in a while, but the last time I was there I had the chicken fried steak and it was quite good. The meat was tender and the batter was excellent. The only flaw for me was that the gravy was a bit salty for my tastes.

          Again, that was over a year ago so you never know when a place will start a downward slide.

          1. I can't vouch for their version of the dish, but the tiny Ranch House Grill on Thomas on the Phx/Scottsdale border puts a temporary sign in the parking lot every day that says "Honk if you like Country Fried Steak."

            They are only open for bkfst/lunch and I like their brekkie offerings and big portions, but have never tried this particular dish there.

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            Ranch House Grille
            5618 E Thomas Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85018

            4 Replies
            1. re: tastyjon

              Thanks Jon, I actually mentioned to my co-worker today that I suspected RHG might have CFS, but I wasn't sure. Now I'll for sure have to check them out.

              1. re: tastyjon

                We tried out the CFS @ Ranch House Grille on Saturday morning - wow, it's great! The gravy is pepper-heavy which is a big plus (they have a pork chili verde option which I'll have to try next time in lieu of the traditional gravy), the steak was tender and juicy and the batter was just as it should be. With two eggs, hashbrowns and biscuits and gravy (add .50) for $7.50, it's also quite the value. So we waited an hour for our food (two huge tables inside), but I'd gladly wait again.

                1. re: azhotdish

                  I went there pretty recently too, it was tasty! I think they get their biscuits from an outside source... there's just something about biscuits fresh from the oven and I didn't pick that up from these. They are still tasty biscuits. I tried the pancakes last time and loved them. The "silver dollar" size pancakes were at least six inches across, and as darn near perfect as a pancake can be. After going to a kabillion breakfast places around town, I can say that Ranch House Grille is definitely one of my top picks for breakfast; there's a certain "something" about a good breakfast place that just feels right, and Ranch House Grille has it in spades. It's exactly what I like in a neighborhood breakfast place.

                  1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                    IMO .. Making CFS is like making pie, it's as much art as skill. It really takes practice and you have to have a feel for it. I have only ever fried chicken once in my lifetime and I will never do it again. The sheer messiness of the frying process will prevent me from ever attempting a homemade version of CFS.

                    So this being said - I must rely on restaurants for my CFS fix and to my liking (I know it's a chain) I must say Texas Roadhouse does a fine enough job for me. The steak is hand cut on site and has alway been tender enough to cut with a fork. You do have a choice of brown or cream gravy, the mashed taters are homemade and they also offer a chicken fried chicken too.

                    Bz

              2. I took my parents and my partner here in August after reading much about it. I ordered the CFS and the only thing memorable about it was the portion size. The steaks were huge! As far as flavor and tenderness... I wasn't impressed nor willing to run back. However, everyone else that ordered food (fried catfish and two orders of smoked prime rib) seemed extremely pleased with what they were served. Perhaps they have perfected their chicken fried chicken?

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                Texaz Grill
                6003 N 16th St, Phoenix, AZ 85016