The Times Record News catering team decided to try a sampling of the quintessential traditional cuisine – Chicken Fried Steak (CFS).
We tried two local restaurants and two chains for the dish.
To judge a well-made CFS, we looked for these benchmarks:
- Can you cut it with a fork?
- Was the coating cooked until nicely browned and did it stick to the steak or did it fall off?
- Were the side dishes also good and did they pair well with the CFS?
- Is the sauce smooth, properly seasoned, and (hopefully) not made with a dry mix?
While there are definitely more country fried steaks in Wichita Falls, our cholesterol levels didn’t allow us to try them all.
($10.49 with two sides – mashed potatoes, white sauce and turnip greens)
Cracker Barrel’s fried chicken was a bit small among the contenders, but was a solid meal through and through.
The meat wasn’t quite fork tender but was still easily sliced with a knife and fork.
The coating was crispy and the sauce wasn’t draped over every inch, so it stayed crunchy for quite a while.
Cracker Barrel’s sauce has a hint of bacony for added home cooking appeal.
The mashed potatoes were just lumpy enough that you knew they were made with real potatoes.
I took a gamble on the turnip greens, as I had only had them a few times before at home. Cracker Barrel’s greens were tender, not mushy, and had a good serving of meat for flavor.
Besides crackers and complementary cornbread from Cracker Barrel, I was stuffed to my gills for a bargain amid the rising food prices these days.
2400 Sierra Drive, (940) 851-0664
McBride’s Land & Cattle Co.
($14.99 with salad, fries, Texas toast, an onion ring)
McBride’s is renowned for having the best steak around, but sometimes it’s good to see what else is on the menu.
My first thought for their fried chicken was “that’s too good of a cut of meat to go into a chicken fried steak”.
Don’t get me wrong – a quality product should go into every dish, but traditionally a fried chicken is a tasty use of less coveted cuts of cow. Downtown McBride has done it right, prioritizing quality over quantity.
No, the steak didn’t cover the entire plate like a meaty hubcap, but it was a sizable portion that will keep you full for a while.
The steak was easily cut with the side of a fork and the coating was still crisp, even under the sauce. I could write pages about the steak coating. Golden, crackling with grooves to hold that flavorful sauce.
They’re light on seasoning, which I like because a guest can add their own salt or pepper, to taste.
The sauce was smooth and simple. And they didn’t load a ton of it there, which I like because I don’t want the steak to get soggy or the coating to fall off.
Salad, fries (including their famous single onion ring) and Texas toast prepared for a glorious country meal at a well-deserved local restaurant.
501 Scott Ave, (940) 322-2516
($10.77, sides were mashed potatoes with white sauce, macaroni and cheese, Texas toast)
Like going to Grandma’s for dinner. The whole plate was filled with lightly breaded fork tender CFS and smooth, flavorful, gravy and mashed potatoes. Mac and cheese made with a little ham is a perfect partner. Served by a lady as sweet as your favorite aunt who made sure the customer was happy and the food was good. 1100 Sheppard Access Rd #3 Wichita Falls, Tx 76306. 940-723-2916.
The Cheddar Scratch Kitchen
It’s hard to compare local to franchise, but Cheddar’s prides itself on its home-cooked menu. While the CFS can be cut with a fork, the over-breading has fallen off. Not sure why the lumpy sauce was slightly sweet and the green beans even sweeter. Every kitchen has its bad days.
Came in for a late lunch, our friendly courteous server was running to cover the lack of staff. Ordered CFS take out and as most tables were empty after lunch we waited for it at the bar. 4240 Kell W Blvd., Wichita Falls, TX 76309. 940-692-9292.
It was hard to pick just one, but the local joints clearly beat the restaurant chains for this local cuisine.
P3 wins for us for overall flavor, large portion, good price and friendly staff.