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M3: confused waitress or weird definition?

Allstonian and I went to M3 this evening prior to the Carolina Chocolate Drops show at the Somerville, in part because we had recently noticed that they had a chicken-fried steak on the menu and I'm still looking for a quality rendition of that dish hereabouts. When the waitress took our order, I asked first what cut they used for the chicken fried steak. (The time Deep Ellum served me a chicken-fried skirt steak made me gunshy.)

Waitress: "It's the breast."

Me: "No, I'm sorry, I was asking about the chicken-fried STEAK. What cut of steak is it?"

Waitress: "Right. It's the breast. It's a chicken breast."

Me: "The chicken-fried steak is a chicken breast?"

Waitress: "Right. They pound it out and flatten it and bread it, that's what makes it a steak."

Me: "Okay. That's...that's not what a chicken fried steak is."

So we finished ordering, and the waitress went away to put the orders in. I unwrapped my silver from my napkin and realized that the fork had cremated macaroni and cheese all over it. I looked over at Allstonian, showed her the fork, and shouted over the blaring Depeche Mode song on the way-too-loud soundsystem, "Do you just wanna bag this? I have a really bad feeling about this meal." She immediately concurred and stood to leave. I walked over to the waitress and said "You know what, we're just gonna go. Can you kill that order?"

As we were leaving, I thought it best to explain to the hostess why we were leaving, so I handed her the silver and -- very politely -- suggested maybe someone needed to have a chat with the dishwashers. As I was walking up, I swear I think I heard the manager explaining to the waitress, "No, the chicken fried steak is..." Since at that point our mind was already made up that this wasn't going to be our night to try this restaurant and we already had our raincoats back on, I didn't press the point at the time, but I'm still curious.

DOES M3 serve a chicken schnitzel and call it a chicken-fried steak? Or was this waitress just totally unclear on what this menu item was, so she started talking out of her ass when asked a question about it? Either one of these things are serious points off, but I'm still willing to give this place another shot, on the assumption that they were having a really bad night.

However, our dinner at Amsterdam Falafel was entirely tasty and the Chocolate Drops were amazing as always, so we pulled the night out regardless.

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  1. Kudos for spotting that the universe was aligned against you eating at M3 and making the move. It beats staying and getting pissed off.

    1. Hilarious... it's nice when your server knows what the heck (s)he is talking about. Thanks for the heads up. Born & bred Bostonian, Bruins Fan, and Irish as they come... but I went to school in TX, ("Did time." IMO, any time in TX is 'doing time.') and developed an affinity for chicken fried steak among other local specialties & novelties. Hope someone can report the REAL review of the CFS! Haven't been to M3 yet... will have to check it out. (but it'll be difficult to drag a guy like me away from Redbones if I'm in the Square...as spotty as they might be with the 'cue, I still love the place, the decor... the tap selection... oh yeah, and my southern-born wife likes their collards. )

      1 Reply
      1. re: BBQJesse

        I've been doing time here for 34 of my 46 years on this planet. That waitress might have gotten herself shot down here. Dipstick.

      2. Try typing 'steak' into Yelp's search. I did see one person say it wasn't what they were expecting (but were they expecting chicken?) but there are enough mentions of it that I think *someone* would have bitched if it were chix.

        OTOH half of them are saying 'country fried' so who knows.

        1. The menu has Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Buttermilk Chicken Fried Steak. I think your ditzy waitress was correct, it's a pounded breast of chicken, looks like you dodged a bullet and saved some green to try another place.

          3 Replies
          1. re: treb

            You can totally use buttermilk to make chicken fried steak. I do it myself. For that matter, the menu has a chicken and biscuits dish that is a boneless fried chicken dish, which is another data point against the CFS being chicken, I guess.

            1. re: treb

              Did she get confused between the Buttermilk Fried Chicken and the Chicken Fried Steak?

              1. re: Kat

                No, Jenny Ondioline and I both asked her several times over because we were so flabbergasted by her insistence that it was chicken, and finally resorted to pointing out the item on the menu - "Buttermilk Chicken Fried Steak." She continued to insist that it was chicken.

            2. Chicken Fried is its own subgenre in meat cooking. Breaded in thick batter and fried, you can have Chicken Fried Steak, Chicken Fried Chicken, Chicken Fried Fish, etc.

              I think your waitress was just confused about the whole "chicken" thing. The Chicken Fried Steak is steak, and not a notable cut.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Boston_Otter

                Proper CFS is top round. Other lean cuts are also acceptable. As I said, the time I ordered CFS at Deep Ellum and was served skirt steak is an example of CFS gone horribly wrong. Also, it's not a "thick batter," which implies that the coating ingredients are mixed together.

                1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                  I spent most of my childhood in rural Texas, and it was always cube steak, and the batter always seemed to be pretty thick. Also, always white gravy, never brown. But I think there's as many versions as there are high school football fans ...

                  1. re: ClippyZ

                    I too, typically, see Cube streak (in TX) but here... my experience is that they use whatever they think is ok for the day. Yes, It's supposed to be a little stringy, and I think the texture of the cube helps to hold the batter. Do you guys dare to print this thread out for her/them @ M3? (evil. sorry.)

                    I think it's great to find so many northeastern CFS proponents! ...not to mention everyone from everywhere to also provide a 'proper' CFS primer!
                    :-) Slainte to all.

              2. Bless that waitress's heart. (That is Southern speak for her being ignorant, clueless and useless.) Frankly I think the idea of M3 is good, and I'm glad Chef is from Nashville (which is the meat'n'three epicenter of the universe) but M3 is not really a traditional meat'n'three. I have to go back to Nashville to go to a proper meat'n'three, like i did earlier this month to Wendell Smith's off Charlotte Pike. Boston needs this kinda place, but I'm not sure how that will ever happen.

                1. devils advocate.. I have heard the terms" beef steak", "Tuna Steak" if English was her second language I can see where the confussion for her could have come from. To assume ignorance or the worst of her may be unfair. But then I have been accused of being a bit too Pollyanna.

                  now the dirty fork is another issue entirely

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: girloftheworld

                    Hopefully, we all realize that it's not the dirty fork itself that is the problem. Rather, it is the fact that no one NOTICED the dirty fork before the customer.

                    1. re: girloftheworld

                      The waitress was not American, and one can perhaps forgive her for not being familiar with the concept of "chicken fried steak," but her native language was English for sure. None of that excuses her for making up an answer to our question, rather than asking in the kitchen.

                    2. I had the chicken fried steak at M3, and it was a cube steak,, as I'm used to (the waitress also knew that that was what it was). I've had friendly, helpful service there the two times I've gone, as well as clean silverware, but it is a little chaotic if you don't go early.

                      28 Replies
                      1. re: fantundo

                        Good, I was hoping someone had actually had this dish. I'll try again next time.

                        Thing is, we were there at 5:45 and there were two other tables occupied, so I have no idea what was up with the confused waitress and dirty silver. The way-too-loud Depeche Mode song would actually have been made more tolerable if there were more people in there, because the ambient crowd noise would have taken some of the edges off.

                        1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                          Is cube steak another name for your top round steak or is it close enough to it that you don't mind that cut? Is CFS usually sliced very thinly to help counter the leanness of the meat, and is it ever marinaded for the same reason? A friend used to make a So. American version of this, with very thin lean beef (I've never found it up here, only 'shaved-like') which she marinaded in a scallion batter, fried, and served with plenty of lemon. My family loved it, but i never figured out how to replicate it. I stopped looking for that cut long ago so maybe it exists up here now.....

                          1. re: opinionatedchef

                            Cube steak is a catch-all name for any piece of meat that's been run through a commercial tenderizer. They're usually but not always either top or bottom round. I have no problem with using cube steak when I make chicken fried steak, because it saves me the trouble of buying a top round, cutting it and then pounding it thin with the spiky side of a meat tenderizer, which both takes a while and scares the cats.

                            My own CFS starts with a couple hours marinating in salted buttermilk, followed by dips into beaten egg and seasoned flour and a 30-minute rest on a rack so the crust firms up, then a shallow fry in cast iron.

                            1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                              Any spices or just S&P? Is Texas the center of CFSdom or do you think it's equally popular in various states or regions? If my friend's So Amer version is made with a batter, it seems that it must have a thicker coating than your method, which has all the batter ingreds but applied in thin layers- which is prob better...

                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                I usually add a few spices depending on whim, but S&P versions are also common. It's certainly a traditional Texan dish, since it's really just a local variation on the schnitzel that the Germans and other mittel Europeans brought to the hill country in the mid-1800s (just like why Tejano music is so big on polkas and accordions). But you can get a decent chicken-fried steak basically anywhere in the US anymore (although in some parts of the country it's known as a country-fried steak), which is why it's so odd that it's so hard to lay hands on here,

                                  1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                    Though it has spread, I really consider chicken fried steak a southern thing. Go to any old school resto in CA, ME, MN, CT, VT, NH, etc etc and you will be hard-pressed to find it.

                                    Down south it is pretty ubiquitous. Sort of follows the fried chicken after which it is (sort of) named.

                                    1. re: StriperGuy

                                      I think chicken fried steak is more of a Texas thing.

                                      1. re: treb

                                        I've seen it all over the South. AL, AR, TN, GA, etc etc.

                                      2. re: StriperGuy

                                        I'm not particularly proud of it, but one of my favorite sandwiches in the area is the Good Ol' Country Boy from Deli-Icious in Davis Square. Country/chicken fried steak, bacon, cheese, and BBQ sauce on buttered toast.

                                        1. re: StriperGuy

                                          Somewhat to my surprise, the most recent chicken fried steak I've had in a restaurant was at a diner called the Dutch Mill in Shelburne, VT.

                                        2. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                          Worth noting though that "country fried steak" can also refer to something completely different, which just confuses things further.

                                          At least up this way though, country fried steak has always meant chicken fried steak that I've seen, just without the potentially confusing "chicken fried" moniker.

                                          The one that always makes me laugh is when I see "chicken fried chicken" on a menu. I know what they mean, but it looks absurd.

                                          1. re: jgg13

                                            Country fried steak is a S/SE dish where chicken fried steak rules in Oklahoma and Texas. I live in SE Texas and chicken fried chicken is a boneless breast, while fried chicken is bone in. Then there is milanesa, a Mexican version of chicken fried steak served in non Tex-Mex places for the most part, small places such as carnecerias and taquerias.

                                          2. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                            It is hard to find, which is a little surprising because other Southern staples eg. grits and biscuits & gravy aren't that hard to find. Do you know of the CFS at Redd's in Rozzie?


                                        3. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                          My Love says he sees 'sandwich steak' at MB; is that also good for CFS? or is it not tenderized like cube steak so needs pounding? thx.

                                          1. re: opinionatedchef

                                            I don't know, I've never seen it. You can tell if a piece of steak has been tenderized, it's all thin and dimpled and stuff.

                                            1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                              When I was a kid, these cuts, already tenderized, were labeled minute steak in the northeast. You could spot them a mile away since they had a checker board textural pattern. Not sure if this is a term that butcher/supermarkets use anymore.

                                              1. re: smtucker

                                                We also called them cube steak.

                                            2. re: opinionatedchef

                                              No, it should be bottom round steak about 1/2 inch thick that has been processed through a tenderizer which will come out about 3/8 inch thick and bit larger.

                                      3. re: fantundo

                                        Like Jenny, I am also glad that someone's had the dish. ...soon I guess it'll have to be me! haven't had a good one in years.

                                        1. re: BBQJesse

                                          this is a fun and interesting discussion altho I am a bit curious why no one just called to ask the chef or manager...and let them know to educate their staff.. and mention the silverware too...

                                          1. re: chompie

                                            Did you miss the part where I spoke to the manager about the silverware?

                                            1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                              sorry, I guess I did, but I still don't see it! I see where you told the hostess and overheard the mgr talking to the waitress about the CFS..So what did the mgr have to say? sorry if I cant find it..

                                              1. re: chompie

                                                <As we were leaving, I thought it best to explain to the hostess why we were leaving, so I handed her the silver and -- very politely -- suggested maybe someone needed to have a chat with the dishwashers >

                                                this was in jo's OP.

                                                1. re: chompie

                                                  She apologized about the silverware and said that she'd address it with staff, and didn't have anything else to say. To be fair, I already had my hat and raincoat on and my wife had already walked out the front door, so we clearly weren't going to be persuaded to stay.

                                                  1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                    thanks for clarifying.. I knew about the hostess, but what i was curious about was whether anyone called the manager or chef, in addition to the hostess, later to ask about what they use for the CFS and let them know their staff had no clue on how to describe it or handle the silverware issue...

                                                    1. re: chompie

                                                      If there was anyone on duty in front of house other than two waitresses and the hostess, who was also directing the bussers, I saw no evidence of him or her. Addressing the silverware issue with the hostess -- who again was also clearly discussing the chicken fried steak incident with the waitress when I interrupted them -- is sufficient, assuming that she then discussed it with the GM and/or the chef.

                                        2. This reminds me of a recent meal I had at Brasserie Jo for my son's 35th birthday. I asked the waiter (a man whose demeanor was so aloof that my daughter-in-law wondered what we'd be thinking of him if he'd been a woman) if the duck confit had a crisp skin. My first taste of this dish had been at the home of a French friend, a superb cook, who had grown up with it, so I some idea of it at its best. He replied "No, and it's not supposed to." "Wrong!" I thought, but I decided to give it a go anyway. And later out it came, crisp skin and all. What's wrong with saying "let me check on that"?

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: calisson

                                            I am genuinely baffled by your parenthetical comment about the waiter's "aloof demeanor." Why would his sex have anything to do with it?

                                            1. re: Allstonian

                                              My daughter-in-law thought that if the waiter had been a woman this degree of aloofness would have been seen in an even worse light, as women are often expected to be friendly and smiley in situations where when men are cut more slack. I am not sure I agree with her assessment in this particular case, but I thought she raised an interesting point.