Any closer to this chicken-fried steak and you'd be eating it.
Photos by Patrick Michels
6617 Hillcrest Ave.
There's not much in this world that couldn't do with some more gravy, but Bubba's chicken-fried steak may top the list.
That aside, it's hard to find fault with their take on the CFS at this SMU institution (older bro to the Texas chain of Babe's Chicken Dinners
). Go for the full order and you'll get not one, but two tender steaks wrapped up in a robust, craggy fried shell and topped with a modest--but quickly exhausted--helping of white gravy. The menu says you'll get one roll--you'll get two. Choose the right pair of sides and you'll hardly miss the rest of your afternoon.
That's how it went yesterday afternoon for a lunch crew in dire need of a backup lunch spot, after a little iPhone misdirection to our Plan "A" led us to an empty storefront off Hillcrest Avenue. Our five-strong set of hungry brohams, after some deliberation, cut south down an alley, the kind of place it seemed like we might encounter a rival FrontBurner or Pegasus gang lying in wait.
The coast was clear, so after getting our day's exercise covering the two blocks to Bubba's, we each took turns with one of the most promising menus a dude could want. It's a colorful place inside--a real '50s diner feel, checkered tile floors and big red booths--but the mostly fried menu, from chicken to pies, is about 18 different shades of brown. True, the word "Vegetables" looms like a big downer on the menu board, but here the word is given its "20 Questions" definition, as in, anything that's not meat and not a rock. Among Bubba's vegetable options: mashed potatoes, baked beans and rolls.
After a weekend in College Station, Chicken Finger Capital of the World, original Food Dude Noah signed on for another helping of bone-out poultry at Bubba's: three chicken tenders, two sides and a roll.
Maybe because I've had this monster haunting my dreams
the last two weeks, maybe because of the laminated article calling Bubba's chicken-fried steak the best in town, I opted for the CFS plate with fried okra and baked beans on the side. I went all-in with a full order, which comes with two steaks; you can save three bucks if you only want one.
With a four-up Coca-Cola fountain that has probably been around long enough to see Tab Clear come and go, Bubba's doesn't cater to any rarified beverage tastes, and they're not about to just give the goods away.Take all the iced tea you want, but a sign above the machine says soda refills are 25 cents.
Lucky you! 10 minutes to twiddle your thumbs and watch the rest of the table eat lunch.
Three guys in our group ordered the chicken fingers (Bubba's other meat options: fried chicken, grilled (not fried) tenders, fried catfish or chicken and biscuits) and walked away from the register with their lunch trays piled high. Two of us who went the CFS route were told we'd have to wait five minutes, and walked back to the table carrying a drink, a pad of butter and a moist towelette.
While Hophead and I sat at the table waiting for the steaks, watching the rest of the table tear into their chicken, rolls, corn and mashed potatoes--easily 10 minutes, not five--that moist towelette was no consolation for an empty tray.
The full chicken-fried steak setup, four shades of brown.
They brought the CFS plates out to us, though, and I'll warrant it was probably worth the wait. After staring at the honey pitcher on the table for what felt like an hour, I was glad to have an extra roll to empty it on.
The thick crust on the steak put up a fight but the meat underneath cut easily. The chicken-fried breading was thoroughly spiced and plenty flaky--though the gravy ladled onto each steak wasn't nearly enough to cover the meal, let alone the okra-mopping it would take to clear the plate. By the end of it all, it was a nearly flawless lunch--and pretty good training for the nine-pounder in Fort Worth. Next time, though, I'll do it right, with a 10-minute head start and an extra cup of gravy on the side.