There's always some confusion when non-Texans first encounter chicken fried steak. As former president Bush--the one with a measurable IQ, otherwise known as H.W.--admitted in a 1989 address, "I didn't know if chicken fried steak was a chicken fried like a steak or a steak that tasted like a chicken."
Of course, being of blue blood stock he can be forgiven. Commoners from outside the state, meanwhile, will often ponder the difference between Texas' national dish and their own country fried steak.
Maybe it's an obsession the rest of this country will never fully understand--and obsession it is, for some estimates have Texans consuming 800,000 chicken fried steaks per day. At about 800 calories and 54 grams of fat each, that amounts to some 640,000,000 calories and 43,200,000 globs of fat.
Or to put it another way, chicken fried steak adds 183,000 pounds to Texas waistlines, each and every day--estimated, of course.
Well, to walk with a swagger you first have to waddle. Besides, chicken fried steak is too damn good for calories to really matter. So in this weighty toque to toque battle, which restaurant will come out as the heavy favorite?
I decided a scale--sorry, can't seem to stop--involving crust, meat, gravy, presentation (it should be simple), integrity (how it holds up to the fork) and intangibles, such as a stock of Texas beer, would decide the outcome.
The crust at Lucky's is crisp, not greasy, golden brown and beautifully textured--though seasoned by a wimpy line cook on this occasion. Allgood's shows the same rich color and brittle bite, but a flat surface. It is robust, however, with a wash of salt behind a good amount of pepper. Call it even.
Gravy amounted to a draw, as well, both serving a thick, smooth paste. The kitchen at Lucky's emphasizes pepper and roux, while Allgood prefers a creamier version. Allgood carries the day, however, when it comes to meat--somewhat denser in flavor and pounded until tough fibers break apart. Lucky's, on the other hand, served a gray, sinewy hunk of beef.
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Neither scored well when it comes to intregrity. Pan fried steaks will generally hold together a little better. Allgood took full points for presentation while Lucky's was docked for mashing side dish bowls against the steak, leaving them smattered in gravy.
Which, of course, cheats the guest of a few grams of fat.
Not that it would have altered the final score, but I also knocked half a point off Lucky's account for serving St. Louis-headquartered beer on tap rather. Probably should have penalized them more.
So, a comfortable--though not huge--win for Allgood Cafe. Now to walk it off...