It seems logical that the Lone Star State’s favorite comfort food, chicken-fried steak, traces its heritage back to central European immigrant cooks who found themselves in Texas but without the fixin’s for a fine, tender cut of veal to make wiener schnitzel. Instead, they took a hunk of cow and beat the chaw out of it, then fried it up like southern-style chicken and served it with pan-dripping peppered milk gravy and mashed potatoes. This genealogical speculation is supported by the fact that the Hill Country, with its preponderance of German great-grandmas, is home of so many excellent chicken-fried steaks. In many other places throughout the Southwest, CFS means diner grub at its worst.
The Monument Café makes some of the best desserts anywhere in Texas, using the finest ingredients to produce classic sweets. There is usually a fried pie (fruit fully enclosed in a pastry crust and fried to a crisp); we have had superb baked tapioca pudding as well as angel food cake with fresh strawberries; and the cool cream pies are dazzling. Chocolate pecan is dark and fudge-like, loaded with chunks of nut and topped with a ribbon of pure white whipped cream.
The choice of meals is wide. Hoover’s has its own smokehouse, perfuming the parking lot outside, from which come pork ribs, Elgin sausage, highly-spiced Jamaican jerk chicken, and lesser-spiced (but nonetheless delicious) regular-spiced barbecue chicken. In addition to the smoked fare, the menu lists chicken fried steak, meat loaf, catfish, and an array of sandwiches that range from a meatless muffaletta (made with a portobello mushroom) to half-pound hamburgers.
In our never-ending search for the perfect chicken-fried steak, we hit a high standard at a table in the City Cafe. What a beautiful hunk of food! Gnarled and crusty, golden brown with a brittle crust and a thick ribbon of tender meat inside, this was an exemplary steak.
Texas Hill Country is where some of the best chicken-fried steaks are made and served; so to make such a claim of primacy in this neighborhood is quite a boast. But we would put the Hill Country Cupboard’s steak right up there among the very best.
For biscuits and gravy in the morning or square meals and mile-high pie, Norma's has been a Dallas favorite since the 1950s. It's a true diner with counter service, booths, and tables serviced by a staff of in-your-face waitresses.
Located in the big sale barn at the heart of the vast Amarillo stockyards, where several thousand head of beef cattle are auctioned every week, this is one sure-as-shootin’ cowpunchers’ haven with a mostly-steak menu plus honest hash-house breakfast every morning starting at 6.