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Chicken-fried steak in the Bay Area?

My husband has developed a longing for chicken-fried steak, a favorite dish from his youth. Any places that you can recommend? I think he's just looking for the basics - battered thin Minute-type steak with white gravy. Divey atmosphere preferred. We live in Marin but will, I'm sure, need to travel. (CFS is probably a felony in our neighborhood...) Thanks!

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  1. I'm morbidly fascinated by cfs and have ordered it whenever I see it on the menu. Only thing is I can't tell if it's "authentic" or even good -- the crunch is what keeps me at it. It's even allowed in Marin! Bayside Cafe in Sausalito, Bubba's in SA, coffee shop in Fairfax next to the variety store is where I had it (always gravy on the side). Hope your husband finds the best and lets us know where!

      1. You might give Aunt Mary's Cafe in Oakland a try. When I went the dishes were a bit mixed as for as the quality. I would give it another try though. They have chicken fried steak w/ beer gravy.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Allfrog68

          Tried Aunt Mary's CFS at dinner the last week before they stopping serving dinner (before Christmas 2009?) -- made with flat iron steak and was too thick. Not the traditional preparation.

        2. IHOP in San Rafael has "Country Fried" Steak on either the dinner or breakfast menus. It's 12 oz. worth of pounded-thin beef, breaded and fried, with gravy on top. I'm no connoisseur of CFS, but it tasted fine to me.


          1. Is Marvin's in Novato still around? I had some fantastic cream gravy studded with sausage there that i posted on years ago. Seems like the kind of place that could make a proper CFS.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Marvin's in Novato is still going strong. Last time I had the corned beef hash - very tasty and meaty. DIdn't notice the CFS on the menu, but I might have missed it. Will check next time around.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                I remember Marvin's CFS from four years ago; I posted about it then. "wafer-thin (maybe exaggerating a bit) pounded-to-death meat with as much batter/crust as meat, the whole thing dry and hard. The good gravy was the only thing that made it edible."

              2. Rico's Diner in downtown Oakland does a good chicken-fried steak. Only open for breakfast/lunch; closed on Sundays. Nice people, great burgers and milkshakes too.

                Rico's Diner
                400 15th Street, Oakland, CA

                1. Soscol Diner in Napa used to have great CFS. Go early- they are only open until 2 pm.

                  Toast in Noe Valley has a passable version.

                  1. A couple of CFS to add to the database:

                    The best I've had is from Doug's Place in Castro Valley. Greaseless, crispy crust, tender juicy meat, good meaty gravy.

                    Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe - didn't love the cornmeal breading, and the scant gravy was excessively thick, almost like pudding.

                    Rico's Diner - nicely fried steak, but the gravy was dominated by the flavor of cooked milk.

                    Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe
                    4081 Hollis St, Emeryville, CA 94608

                    Rico's Diner
                    400 15th Street, Oakland, CA

                    Doug's Place
                    20871 Redwood Rd, Castro Valley, CA 94546

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: daveena

                      Correction on Rudy's chicken-steak: It's one of the rotating lunch/dinner specials... in this case Monday's only. Don't say I didn't warn you if you show up looking for breakfast steak...

                      It looks like Castro Valley is a veritable treasure trove of fried steak these days. JD's on Castro Valley Blvd (locals just call it 'the boulevard' as CV really only has one) has been advertising their chicken steak with a big window painting for a couple months now. You always gotta keep an eye out for the food deal when driving through town. It's $9.75 for chicken fried steak, smothered in a white gravy, two eggs, toast. The first week, it was so popular they were running out.

                      On an absolute scale, I like Doug's gravy and hash browns better. Taking into account the price, and excellent calories per dollar ratio, JD's is a must try.

                      Looking for help: I was daydreaming the other nite in bed and came up with this: chicken fried steak sticks! Maybe a half in wide, served in a french fry like container. With a mashed potato and gravy (either brown or white with sausage) dipping sauce. While some have not been altogether enthusiastic about my idea(s), doesn't this sound great? And do you know anyone who serves something like this? chicken steak for the food on the run crowd!

                      1. re: Jumbo_Jack

                        This is exactly how they served CFS (i.e., in sticks) in school lunches in Texas. I think Sonic Drive-In and Dairy Queen used to sell CFS sticks, although it's been ages since I've visited either place so I have no idea whether they're still sold there.

                        Given your high endorsement of the CFS at Doug's and JD's, I'll have to check out their CFS. I'm not a fan of the food at either place, but I love CFS!

                        1. re: cvhound

                          Neither Sonic nor Dairy Queen carry then around here that I've seen.

                          Are you originally from CV? How can you *not* be a fan of one? It seems to me there is a red-state/blue-state like dichotomy that exists in CV, that most people grow up only going to one eatery. Maybe you're just not going with the right people?

                          What are you a fan of in CV?

                          1. re: Jumbo_Jack

                            I moved from Dallas to Oakland nine years ago to attend b-school at Cal. I moved to CV 3.5 years ago b/c that's where my non-foodie husband owned a home. When we eat out, we generally head to Oakland, S/F or Berkeley, in that order.

                            My husband loves eating at Jenny's Cafe, but that's just b/c he loves Jenny and Henry. We've tried most of the restaurants in CV and ate out extensively during our 7-month kitchen remodel in 2007. Honestly, I prefer eating dinner at home than eating out in CV, so we rarely eat out in CV any more.

                    2. Several friends (including some from Texas, if that means anything) swear by the CFS at the Bluebird Cafe in Hopland. My wife and I spent a weekend up in Mendocino and went a bit out of our way to stop by Hopland on the way back. If you decide to make the trip, keep in mind that they ONLY serve chicken fried steak at dinner, which starts at 4PM. We were there at around lunchtime, and sadly had to return home to the city before trying it. :(

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: brhau

                        Only dinner time at Bluebird? It used to be only at breakfast, and if you missed the cut off when lunch service started, you were out of luck.

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          I guess the take-home message is to call ahead and check. :) We begged them, and they said they could fry the cube steaks but there was no gravy made. So sad ...

                          We ate there anyway, and made the mistake of getting one of their low-turnover, exotic meat hamburgers (either wild boar or bison). As I feared, it was as dry as cardboard. Like a cafeteria burger. I bet their normal burgers are good, though. Pie was also excellent.

                      2. A couple of weeks ago, we spent the night in Union Square and were looking for a diner-type breakfast place the next morning. We chose Pinecrest Diner on Geary, partially for its divey-ness. (It's open 24 hours a day, if that tells you anything.) I ordered the chicken-fried steak, and loved it. The breading was very crispy, and the gravy was tasty. I can't really compare it to other restaurants' versions, but this one was a yummy "morning-after" dish.

                        Pinecrest Diner
                        401 Geary St, San Francisco, CA

                        1. Creekside cafe in Sonoma has a great cfs as well as out of this world special french toast. Those are the only things I have gotten in my visits there because I can't resist them. My friends and wife had other things and loved what they had.