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Apr 21, 2008 01:34 AM

Country/Chicken Fried Steak!

A friend came to me asking where to get this stuff in Toronto. I'm a long time transplant who had a mom from Texas that used to make it occasionally but havn't had it in years. Because of this he assumed I'd know where to find it but havn't. Anyone know if this wonderful heart-attack-on-a-plate southern dish can be found in Toronto?

I know Denny's offers it but theirs is more like frozen, breaded hamburger patty that's deep fried ..which can be amusing at 3am but not really what we're looking for. Also Armadillo Grill on Front apparently used to offer this but no longer on the menu.

There was a place in Montreal called Savannah that was supposed to have a great chicken fried steak. But it had closed for good by the time we went for a visit.

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  1. Honestly? It ain't here. Chicken fried steak with gravy made in the fry pan on mashed potatoes with lots of pepper--heaven. What's close, by virtue of shared culinary DNA from Middle Europe, is a good schnitzel. The old Hungarian strongholds around Bloor+Bathhurst are fading and folding but the places like Country Style are still afloat. I'm sure others will offer suggestions. Again, though, it's a dish with no real roots in the GTA that I've ever found.

    1. Shanghai Cowgirl is the only remaining option I know of.

      Texas Longhorn in Mississauga used to have a great one until a revamping. Always felt like I needed a defibrillator after a couple of bites. Their mesquite skirt steak is still pretty good though if yer hankerin' fer some Tex-Mex.

        1. re: phoenikia

          The Cock and Pheasant version is misnamed, it's not chicken fried steak which is battered deep fried steak, not chicken like the Cock uses.

          1. re: Scary Bill

            Bill, the old school, home-cooked version was pan-fried, hence the name. Crispy bits were whipped together with milk and flour(and, gasp, a little butter) into a no frills bechamel. Traditional called for lard but many updated to vegetable oil. It's leaden but tastes and smells so damn good. The real Texas/Oklahoma aesthetes paved a plate with fresh-baked biscuits and then laid on the steak and gravy. My great-grandmother--an Oklahoma Land Rush veteran--usually served it that way.

            1. re: Kagemusha

              Thanks for the input everyone. I've heard mixed things but think a trip to Shanghai Cowgirl is in order.

              1. re: abigllama

                Whenever we're cross-boder shopping, we always stop into Bob Evans Restaurant in Niagara Falls NY (near the outlet mall, and Target). My bf loves their country fried steak. I'm a veg, so I just stare in awe and enjoy my grilled cheese.

                1. re: illy

                  I've enjoyed pan fried chicken steaks with black pepper gravy served with rice at several Hong Kong style cafes...those that specialize in western cuisine.

                  1. re: T Long

                    Those chicken steaks in HK diners unfortunately don't resemble chicken/country fried steaks. Chicken fried steaks are actually cuts of beef pounded and heavily dredged and pan fried, served typically with a white gravy.

                    1. re: Blueicus

                      lol, Thx for setting me straight....don't know how I could think that "chicken fried steak" in that context is not made with chicken. The english language can be wonderful. Btw, what you describe, I recall that also being called a "cowboy steak".

                      1. re: T Long

                        Country/Chicken-fried steak goes by no other name to my knowledge.

                        A "Cowboy Steak" is no particular type of steak or steak process, merely a marketing term used by a butcher or restaurant for pretty much any cut of beef that may or may not be marinaded or rubbed.

                        1. re: Scary Bill

                          I saw a documentary type program a number of years ago. They took this piece of meat, pounded it, breaded it, and pan-fried it and did refer to it as a Cowboy Steak...a reference to how steak is sometimes prepared by working cowboys on the range. In fact, cowboys were shown doing the cooking. There was no reference to "Chicken-fried steak" but I was struck by the similarities to the process described on this board. Unlike yourself, I have not otherwise come across the term "cowboy steak".

                          1. re: T Long

                            I'm surprised.

                            Google "Cowboy Steak" and "Cowboy Steak Recipe" and you'll see countless references as I described, many of the references in the GTA and vicinity. Though I did not go through many of the search items, I saw none that referred to Country/Chicken Fried Steak as Cowboy Steak, though there may well be one.

                            1. re: Scary Bill

                              Like you Bill, I'm unaware of the "cowboy steak" variant for chicken-fried steak. It seems to be a Texas/Oklahoma thing. As I mentioned above, the origins seem to be in Texas among German immigrants where the schnitzel process obviously informed the "chicken-fried" approach. The gravy is made the same as it is for fried chicken--again, a dish(chicken+gravy+biscuits)that I've only seen served by cooks with ties to that area.

                              1. re: Scary Bill

                                Hi Scary: Actually I did that after posting. You are right about the variety in "cowboy steak" descriptions....probably so overused or misused to the point of being irrelevant in a succinct description. And there were no linkages to "Chicken Fried" that I saw. Also I could not find a web description of "Cowboy steak" that was similar to the TV program description. I stand by my earlier post as to what was described as a "cowboy steak" in the documentary, but fully accept and understand your replies. Could this be a case of regional variations in names of the same a western sandwich here is usually called a Denver sandwich in Calgary.

                                1. re: T Long

                                  Kaga & T Long:
                                  A short story- About 4 years ago I came across several ads for "Cowboy Steak" being sold by K & P Meats in South Etobicoke. The ads made it sound like a delicious and inexpensive "new" cut of beef-and I had only recently come across tri-tip and flat iron, similarly represented cuts which were pretty ok- so Mrs Scary and I were anxious to try it on the cue'. We drove to the store only to walk out without a purchase, greatly disappointed, as their Cowboy steak was clearly some purposefully unidentified tenderized cut sold frozen in a bag of 5 or 10 pounds.

                                  As always, caveat emptor.

                                  1. re: Scary Bill

                                    I've seen those, too, Bill. They seem better suited to scrubbing out the bathtub since they look more like a sponge than a cut of meat. The ones I rejected were just big-assed "steakettes" full of holes.

              1. re: phoenikia

                unless they're meant to be tough as shoe leather... shanghai does not do a very good rendition.

                1. re: phoenikia

                  Finally was able to check out the chicken fried steak at Shanghai and it's good stuff! It was fairly on par with how my mom from Texas used to make it. The steak was a bit chewy but don't ever remember there being an sort of high grade steak involved in this! Need to ask for some extra gravy but otherwise it was excellent! Thanks for the help and now have a go to place when the craving strikes.

                  Now off to the gym to justify my indulgence last night!

                2. Alright, I've found it too, Except at Perkins Restaurant that is attached to the Holiday Inn Airport East. I was staying there under unfortunate circumstances, and was more than happy to find that they served it there. I cannot speak for the other restaurants in this chain as I have not eaten at any other. But this place had it!!

                  It was crunchy but the steak was a bit flat. But it tasted amazing!!! good portion size and I eat a lot!! :D Also, it wasn't tough as described about the Shanghai Cowgirl Steak.

                  The menu to prove it can be downloaded here:

                  If anyone knows any other place that is a bit closer to St George station, let me know! :D

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Shaku

                    Thanks for the tip Shaku. I will try to check out the CFS when down in the falls area at the Perkin's there. Denny's down there offers a CFS but it's more like a breaded hamburger patty version.

                  2. Went to Shanghai Cowgirl last night on a default, were planning on Johny Banana but it was closed up earlier than web site hours advertised. On the visit last year I enjoyed my Chicken Fried Steak almost on novelty value alone, but decided to give it another shot and they knocked it out of the ballpark. The cream gravy was awesome, and had tons of the burnt bits I remember in it. The steak was fairly tender, not a top cut of beef otherwise they wouldn't bread, fry and smother it in gravy. :) I was super happy with the meal, service was helpful and friendly as well.