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Best Chicken Fried Steak?

  • s

I am from Texas and get a hankering for good chicken fried steak. I have had it at Chili's but certainly there is a better version in the area. Ideas?

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  1. Elsie's Magic Skillet in Alexandria used to have the best, but Elsie sold the place and the CFS is no better than what you'd find at IHOP. Tastee Diners in Silver Spring/Bethesda/Laurel was decent, but they only served it on Sundays for some reason. Problem is, very few places serve it with a nice white peppercorn gravy, instead they drown it in a sort of bottled chicken gravy.

    Seriously doubt you'd find anything comparable to what you'd get in Texas, but good luck. This donrockwell thread mentions Southside 815, New Heights, Madhatter, and The Diner in Adams Morgan as having CFS. I'd be wary of American City Diner, as the last meal I had there did not agree with me.


    1. I feel your pain. I'm from Oklahoma and haven't found anything comparable to back home. Like you, I do Chilis once in a while. It's servicable, although it doesn't come with fried okra, which is necessary to the true CFS experience.

      Frank's Diner in Jessup does an ok CFS as well.

      1. CF Folks near Dupont has it as a special every Monday. I'm no expert, but their CFS with country gravy tastes pretty darn good to me...

        1. I hate to say it---Cracker Barrel has it. They even have fried okra. If someone can come with a better alternative in NoVA, please post back. I'd be willing to give a try!

          1 Reply
          1. re: MizYellowRose

            Well, it's a Cracker Barrel kind of food. You won't find a chicken fried steak at Ruth Chris' or Charlie Palmer just because they serve good steak. Though I'd be curious to see what Ray's interpretation would be if he chose to add it to the menu. I'll be it would be good. I'm not sure what makes one particularly good - seasoning and the gravy, I guess, and those are a matter of taste. The one time I tried a CFS (I think it might have been in a Hot Shoppe when they were around) I found it much too salty for my taste.

            I don't think there are any more Black Eyed Pea restaurants in the area, but you could look around. OK, I just did, and the home page lists only locations in Colorado and Texas, so maybe that's closed the circle. Black Eyed Pea was just a little classier than Cracker Barrel though on the same order, and had chicken fried steak (as well as chicken fried chicken) on the menu.

          2. Have there been more CFS discoveries?

            1. i'm from texas too darling and i feel your pain — chicken frieds are my heart's desire. anyway, there is one at king street blues in both alexandria and courthouse arlington. It's not amazing but it will do to sate a craving. i have heard the southside one is good but never tried it for myself.

              1. I'm not positive but I think Levi's Port Cafe on 8th might have them!

                1 Reply
                1. re: scotcheroo

                  Levi's doesn't do CFS. They do a mean smothered porkchop, though.

                2. I have enjoyed a good chicken-fried steak at Frank's Diner on route One in Jessup, Howard county, Maryland.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: elgringoviejo

                    The CFS at Frank's makes a fine alternative to bacon or sausage at breakfast, but it's not going to be satisfying to someone from Oklahoma or Texas looking for a taste of home. It's not even in the same league.

                  2. I am also from Texas. Dallas. I grew up on chicken fried steak. Around here, people think its actually chicken and not beef. I have not found it around here to be very good. I wish you could come to my kitchen, I almost have it down to perfection including the country gravy. Good luck on your quest!

                    1. Hunter's Head Tavern

                      9048 John Mosby Highway
                      Upperville, VA 20184

                      I have never been but in Northern Virginian Magazine it said to have had good chicken fried steak!

                      1. Try the one at Mimi's cafe at 175 and 108 in Columbia. Pretty awesome.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: jeff.m.huber

                          Just left that area, where is it located?

                          1. re: RobertM

                            Now you all have gone and done it again. I keep adding to my list of things to eat in that area. Argh! This is now probably 10th on the list.

                            And yes, a1234, it's bad, but oh, so good when done right. After a medical incident, I'm aware of the salt, fat, etc., so much more. However, a treat at the right time helps to keep many straight. In fact, I know that's a credo of good diets for weight loss. I don't have that as a primary concern (sodium and cholesterol being the top contenders), but it rings true all the same.

                            1. re: Dennis S

                              Taking my pills now.
                              I figure it is up there by Costco, in the section with the other restaurants.
                              Should be able to temp fate next Saturday.....

                              1. re: RobertM

                                If you get a solid bead on the place, let me know. As I said, I have a list growing for that area. This week is either the pit beef on 175 near 295 or the Mexican place closer to 95.

                                1. re: Dennis S

                                  Mimi's is in the same shopping center as TJ and Costco. Turn onto 108 from 175, take the first entrance, go past Houlihan's and On The Border to Mimi's.

                                  1. re: Dennis S

                                    Dennis I think you are talking about Express Pit Beef in Odenton?
                                    On RT 170 next to the hardware store. Closer to 32 than 295.
                                    8388 Piney Orchard Pkwy, Odenton, MD 21113
                                    Beefalow Bob's is just up the road in Pasadena. Little audrey has the CFS place mapped to a T. Enjoy

                                    1. re: RobertM

                                      Actually no, but it seems they keep popping up like rabbits who haven't seen each other in a while.

                                      More detail is in another thread. I'm going to stay true and try this place, and will post on it. It's on the North side of 175, down a slight hill, and next to something like a vegetable stand.

                                      Another one to the list...

                          2. the new Ted's Bulletin has an awesome version!

                            Ted's Bulletin
                            505 8th St SE, Washington, DC 20003

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: scotcheroo

                              I didn't like Ted's version AT ALL. The steak was sirloin (not chuck), it was cooked until it was dry and chewy and had no discernable flavor. The batter was alright and so was the white gravy, but man that steak was horrible.

                              1. re: monkeyrotica

                                REALLY?! That is totally opposite of the chicken-fried steak I've had there several times. It's always been super juicy and really flavorful. Wonder if you went on an off day?

                            2. Southside's is pretty good. Be sure to order their breadbasket for an extra couple of bucks.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: justaddwater

                                I will have to give their CFS a try. I've done their sandwiches and fried chicken without much success.

                                1. re: monkeyrotica

                                  Their CFS is perhaps not the "best", but probably among the "biggest." S815 is in the Entertainment Book which makes eating there pretty good value. A good CFS is so easy to make at home with a $3 piece of cube steak, a bit of butter, and flour, why travel around town trying to find a good version?

                                  1. re: justaddwater

                                    Even better if you fry the CFS in bacon drippings.

                              2. here is a pet peeve i have about CFS in this area. What often gets advertised as CFS is NOT - it is what i would call country fried steak, aka schnitzel. it is a breaded steak, which is not what CFS is. I have been disappointed more than once ordering CFS and not getting it at all.

                                Asking the waitperson has not resolved this issue. They usually have no idea about the difference or how it is made in their restaurant.

                                i don't know if they still have it, but Rock Bottom used to have it on their menu. Since RB was started in CO, they actually did a proper CFS and not the breaded thing. But it was hit or miss on the quality. I haven't been to a RB in quite some time.

                                14 Replies
                                1. re: lalajane

                                  I'm afraid your post completely confuses me.

                                  If Country fried steak is a breaded, fried steak, what makes Chicken fried steak different?

                                    1. re: woodleyparkhound

                                      Well, by that definition, I've never had country-fried-steak, since the main difference seems to be simmered in gravy vs. served w/gravy.

                                      So, lalajane, do you agree with this definition? You say "breaded" is wrong - are you differentiating breaded from battered? I've never seen "breaded" CFS, nor simmered in gravy.

                                      1. re: DanielK

                                        Yeah, I don't get that one either. Chili's, which serves about as good of a chicken fried steak as an Okie boy is going to find in MD, serves a battered fried steak with cream pepper gravy on top, but calls it country fried steak on their menu. To me that is the definition of chicken fried steak, but it's possible that the name may have been dictated by corporate since chicken fried steak could be confusing to menu readers.

                                        I've never had a CFS that was simmered in gravy, and I'm not sure how that would work either. The point is the soft beef (cube steak) covered with a crispy coating covered in cream gravy. You can't simmer it in gravy and keep the coating crispy.

                                        1. re: DanielK

                                          i only just read that article.
                                          "Chicken fried steak is a Texas variation that's fried and served alongside creamy gravy. " - This is what i consider CFS.
                                          as stated below, for me it is the breaded vs battered. I only eat it with the white cream gravy. But then again, i never eat brown gravy on anything. as far as i know, you can get it either way (where i am from), but white gravy is the standard. But never "cooked" in the gravy. That i am not familiar with either. it is fried, whether in a pan or deep, i have not considered.

                                          And yes, some places call CFS "country fried". This is why i never order it in this area, unless i know for sure. Waitstaff is usually clueless and it is beyond disappointing to me to expect battered and get breaded. So basically i only get it when i go back home. There was also a place in KC that had a great CFS, but it is closed now.

                                          I have the same issue with Texas toast out here. It gets called that, but it isn't. Obviously, the south has much more influence in this area, and texas much more where I am from.

                                    2. re: lalajane

                                      > country fried steak, aka schnitzel. it is a breaded steak, which is not what CFS is

                                      The difference is in the frying medium? Or is it the breading? Not a difference in the cut of steak or in the milk gravy, but one is deep fried and the other is pan fried?

                                      1. re: GraydonCarter

                                        It is the "breading". Schnitzel is breaded, CFS is not. CFS is battered. or actually, flour and an egg/milk wash process. Different people make it differently, but definitely no breading. Frying wise, the old time way of lard will always be best, but i doubt you would see that in a restaurant. I certainly only use lard on rare occasions (lard roasted potatoes are SO good). I don't know how most restaurants would cook it. at home, i pan fry, but then again i don't have a deep fryer.

                                        1. re: lalajane

                                          OK, so we've established the definition. Battered not breaded, and white gravy.

                                          Again, this defines about 95% of the preparations I have ever seen, including Cracker Barrell and IHOP. (shudder).

                                          Where have you seen it differently?

                                          1. re: DanielK

                                            I was disappointed yesterday - my work cafe advertised chicken fried steak and instead it was country fried steak stewing in brown gravy.

                                            Actually Chicken Fried Steak at IHOP is not terrrible.

                                            1. re: majmaj4

                                              I blame the people who insist on calling ANYTHING between two buns "a burger." Chicken, ahi tuna, kung pao shrimp, a baby's shoe. Now, any piece of breaded meat in gravy is "chicken fried steak." I fully expect to order it and receive a plate of Shake and Bake salisbury steak topped with Velveeta and Half & Half smothered in Campbell's Tomato Soup. "What do you mean 'WTF is THAT?' It's chicken fried steak!"

                                              1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                hahaha! too true. Like with martinis. maybe there needs to be a standard legal definition for CFS, such as with Champagne. LOL!

                                              2. re: majmaj4

                                                "Not unterrible" is the new "not uninspired."

                                                I'm totally using that in my next snarky Yelp review.

                                              3. re: DanielK

                                                I cannot give you specifics, as I long ago gave up ordering. I felt that every time i ordered it, it was schnitzel, not CFS. And i don't even *need* the gravy. I will eat a CFS dry if it is prepared in the proper method and done well.

                                              4. re: lalajane

                                                Some people bread (often corn bread crumbs) chicken before frying it. And there are restaurants that serve "chicken fried chicken" which may be battered rather than breaded, or maybe it's breaded rather than battered.

                                          2. Also a big fan of the chicken fried steak at Ted's Bulletin, although I wouldn't describe it as traditional per se...

                                            My friend from Arkansas used to drag me to Black-Eyed Pea on occasion for their chicken fried steak, she loved it. I thought it was pretty dreadful.

                                            Ted's Bulletin
                                            505 8th St SE, Washington, DC 20003

                                              1. re: woodleyparkhound

                                                haha! this article is terrific! I am now SO hungry for some CFS. This article was a little trip down memory lane for me also.

                                                I laughed at his description about the cube steak. My dad can grill any meat better than anyone, but as a child i found his cube steaks inedible. they were hockey puck hard and dry. Then I would go to KC, and my grandmother (his mother) would make those same cube steaks taste heavenly. I couldn't understand; but as years went by is was obvious it was b/c he just cooked the meat up while she made that same cut CFS style.

                                                And in pointing out another part of that article, everything tastes better with lard.

                                              2. I believe I've discovered the perfect chicken-fried steak at Southside 815 restaurant in Old Town Alexandria. I first had CFS when it had it in Copperas Cove, Texas, cooked by the mom of a high school friend. She mercilessly pounded the chuck steak by hand with an aluminum mallet, dipped it in batter, and set it into a cast-iron skillet to fry in smokin'-hot vegetable oil. Southside's CFS is exactly the same -- real chuck steak, hand-tenderized, nicely battered, perfectly cooked, and served with "a mess o' gravy", peppery and hot, spooned across the top. I get my CFS with Southside's excellent cole slaw instead of the usual green beans and usually find that the steak and cold slaw fill me up so I can't possibly eat the mashed potatoes that come along as a side. If you've got a Southerner's love of chicken fried, you're going to love Southside 815! Oh, and the service is amazingly quick and always friendly.

                                                Southside 815
                                                815 S Washington St, Alexandria, VA 22314

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: RogInVA

                                                  Southside's menu says they use sirloin, not chuck.


                                                  I've had CFS that used sirloin before. It was inedibly dry.

                                                2. Since most of the replies were for Northern Virginia, I thought I would mention Baltimore. In north Baltimore there is Zen West (5916 York Rd., Baltimore, MD 21212) that has a CFS that they call their signature dish. It isn't authentic Texas, but it is pretty good (they use buttermilk in the coating). The only problem I have had with Zen West is that they aren't consistent, sometimes they are very good and others they are just ok.