Hill Country Cupboard

Review by: Michael Stern

Like Diogenes searching for an honest man, we are always on the lookout for the perfect chicken-fried steak. We’ve found some excellent ones (and too many mediocre ones). One of the finest is served at the Hill Country Cupboard in Johnson City, Texas. This big barn of a restaurant by the side of the highway claims to serve “The World’s Best Chicken Fried Steak,” backing up that claim with the humorous parenthesis, “(NEARLY 3 DOZEN SOLD).”

Texas Hill Country is where some of the best chicken-fried steaks are made and served (and most likely the place where the chicken-fried steak was invented decades ago by European immigrants who used American beef to make a cutlet similar to wiener schnitzel). Therefore, in this neighborhood, a claim of primacy is quite a boast.

The boast is justified. No need for a knife here; a fork will crack through a golden brown crust that is rich and well-spiced, an ideal complement to the ribbon of tender beef inside. Alongside the slab of crusty protein comes a great mound of skin-on mashed potatoes; and of course, there is thick white gravy to blanket the whole shebang. It is possible to get a “Mexican chicken-fried steak,” which is covered with spicy sauce and melting cheddar cheese: not a terrible idea, but neither is it an improvement on the excellent simplicity of the basic formula.

The Cupboard is a place where locals eat. Two airy dining rooms are crowned with circulating fans, illumination provided by fluorescent tubes shaded by what appears to be burlap feed-sack material. Service is no-nonsense; checks are put down on the table along with the meal.

What To Eat

Chicken Fried Steak


Ice Tea


Huevos Rancheros


Hill Country Cupboard Recipes


What do you think of Hill Country Cupboard?

3 Responses to “Hill Country Cupboard”

Carol Bayer

April 23rd, 2013

Hill Country Cupboard serves one of the best chicken-fried steaks I have ever had, perfectly breaded and cooked and served with delicious green beans (cooked with bacon) and just OK mashed potatoes. The gravy could use a little more flavor, but it complements the meat well. My husband had the catfish and found it outstanding.

Good service, OK atmosphere, and great price. Definitely worth the stop.


Angie Etheredge

September 30th, 2007

The Hill Country Cupboard is a quaint cafe on Hwy 281 in Johnson City, TX. This place definitely offers you a slice of local life with local advertisers printed on the tables and locals working the tables.

We were drawn by the statement that they had “the best chicken fried steak with over 3 dozen served.” My husband found the chicken fried steak to be very tender, but the gravy was way too bland and needed much help from the salt and pepper shakers. I had the German platter which I found delicious. There was just enough vinegar/sugar kick in the warm German potato salad and the red cabbage. The German sausage had just enough spice.

The service was quite lousy; maybe they were short a hand that day? First, we waited nearly 40 minutes for any food to arrive. When finally it did, my daughter got french fries instead of the mashed potatoes that she ordered. The waitress said she would get some, but never did. My daughter also wanted the dish of ice cream that came with her meal, but after two attempts to get it, I just had her switch to the other option, a cookie. If you have extra time and do not mind the long wait, stop in, otherwise you might do better somewhere else.


Carl Unler

March 24th, 2007

I visited the Hill Country Cupboard during a tornado-plagued afternoon, after visiting the LBJ boyhood home located just a few blocks away. The setup of the restaurant was kind of cool; one side is a big barn-type thing, the other a gift shop/bar where locals were pounding Lone Star.

I ordered the chicken-fried steak with German potatoes and coleslaw. Unfortunately, the food was pretty unimpressive. The steak was very thin; I think I’ve had better at Denny’s. The potatoes had a wicked spice to them, good for the first bite or so, then rapidly verging on inedible. The coleslaw was the biggest disappointment; it tasted like eating a paper bag. KFC coleslaw is way better than this.

All in all a pretty humdrum meal, but at least I didn’t gorge myself… but that is the goal, isn’t it?


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