Over the last 150 years, Texans have taken schnitzel, the signature dish of German émigrés, and transformed it into something wholly and utterly their own: a breaded, fried cube steak served with a peppery flour gravy that’s second only to Ranch dressing in the Texas hierarchy of great creamy sauces.
The B in the massive CFBS here stands for bacon: in lieu of cream gravy, this Sixth Ward café finishes its over-the-top chicken-fried steak with bacon-mushroom gravy, which you’ll also find dolloped atop the accompanying mashed potatoes. (Some devotees sub the other side of fresh vegetables for one of Beaver’s equally over-the-top mac ‘n’ cheese creations.)
Though a bit pricier than its rivals, the CFS at this River Oaks hot spot is worth every penny, thanks to its perfect construction—a batter that clings perfectly to every bite and a sturdy, cracked-pepper cream gravy that blankets both the CFS and the fluffy whipped potatoes on the side.
The folks at this establishment have long proclaimed their CFS “the best chicken-fried steak in Texas,” and they’ve had plenty of time to perfect their recipe—65 years, in fact. Ma Goodson’s version is particularly known for its gravy, which looks like it just emerged from a hot skillet full of drippings.
If the notoriously long lines have kept you from fully appreciating the meat nirvana within the Pearland building that was once the suburb's first school cafeteria in the 1950's, here's a pro-tip: Go on Tuesdays. Not only is the line appreciably shorter, it's also the one day a week you can enjoy chef Ronnie Killen's take on the classic dish. The Tuesday chicken fried steak special is $13.95 and comes with mashed potatoes and fresh green beans and a heaping portion of bacon-fat-laden gravy on top.
Opened as Mary’s Fried Chicken in 1977 by Charles Weirich Sr., this Tomball institution acquired its present moniker in 1994, named in honor of Mary and Charles’s only daughter, Melody. Mel’s family still runs the place today, serving CFS in two sizes: a “small” 8-ounce portion, and a large 16-ounce version—both of which are served with cream gravy on the side, as it should be, in our opinion (see below).
Editor's note: Sadly, our beloved Triple A closed in May 2016. We're leaving its entry on this list in tribute.
Though you can get it at lunch, breakfast is the best time to enjoy the relatively petite CFS, along with two eggs, grits, and homemade biscuits, at this place next to Canino’s farmers market. Your perfect morning comes complete with a bottomless cup of coffee, a seat at the low-slung diner counter, and a fresh copy of the newspaper of your choice.