The origin of chicken-fried steak is debatable. While many historians thought this dish originated in Texas from German settlers' Weiner schnitzel, references point to it originating in Colorado and spreading through the Great Plains states before making its way to Texas around 1932.
While upscale restaurants might use tenderloin, most restaurants opt for less-expensive cube or round steak. The meat is pounded and tenderized, then dredged in a flour and egg batter and deep-fried. It is then topped with a rich cream gravy made from the pan drippings. There is an art to making a good chicken-fried steak. Great cooks know how to properly season both the meat and batter. They don’t beat the crap out of it with a tenderizing mallet, and they’re able to maintain the perfect oil temperature while cooking. This results in a juicy and tender, yet crispy dish that melts in your mouth with each bite.
There are hundreds of places around North Texas that serve this iconic dish. We’ve tried to narrow this list down to some favorite or unique versions.
Ozona Bar & Grill is well known for their chicken-fried steak (photo at top), and they’ve won multiple awards for it throughout the years. They use top butt (from the sirloin) hand-batter it to order and top it with cream gravy. Every time we’ve had it, it was consistently well-seasoned, tender and crispy. They’ve expanded their CFS offerings over the years and now have chicken-fried steak fingers, a sandwich, sliders, and on weekends, CFS and eggs. You can also forego the cream gravy and order it either queso-style or Cowboy-style, with chili, cheese, and red onion.
Haywire's was recently named the 2021 Best Chicken-Fried Steak by the Observer. Their wagyu beef lends itself to a version tender enough to cut with a fork. It’s topped with a jalapeño-sausage gravy and served with buttermilk chive mashed potatoes and crunchy green beans. The jalapeño-sausage gravy provides a nice kick to a gravy that is sometimes bland at other places.
Tom’s Burgers & Grill has one of the most unusual chicken-fried steaks in the area. Their steak is soaked in buttermilk and encrusted with Ruffles potato chips. This chicken-fried steak is worth the trip to Arlington. It is served three ways: the good old-fashioned way with mashed potatoes, cream gravy, corn on the cob and Texas toast; as a sandwich on a toasted brioche bun; and for breakfast with two eggs, hash browns and toast.
Street’s Fine Chicken serves a Texas-sized 8-ounce tender cutlet dipped in buttermilk, seasoned, and fried to perfection. Topped with a jalapeño gravy and served with a side of your choice and a buttery biscuit. The original location on Cedar Springs used to be a Black-Eyed Pea. And long-time patrons of Black-Eyed Pea still flock here specifically to indulge in their chicken-fried steak. There is also a second location of Street’s Fine Chicken at Forest Land and Inwood Road.
AllGood Café has been applauded for many years for plating one of the best chicken-fried steaks in the city. They start with a fresh tenderloin and pound it thin before dredging it in flour and buttermilk and deep-frying it. The result is a crunchy crust that yields to a juicy, slim filet mignon. Topped with a peppery cream gravy that has been made from a stock of roasted chicken bones, it yields a golden brown cream gravy that is worthy of licking your plate in public.
Norma’s Café has perfected chicken-fried steak for the last 65 years. This old-fashioned diner uses fresh (not frozen) steak, a secret seasoning and double-dipping before frying to perfection. Do yourself a favor and order it with a side of eggs and their killer hash browns.
Babe’s Chicken House has the chicken-fried steak by which most other chicken-fried steaks are measured. Not only is it the size of a small iPad, but it also comes with endless loads of sides, including mashed potatoes, gravy and biscuits.
Bubba’s Cooks Country is owned by Babe’s Chicken House, so you know it’s going to be great. They have been serving up Southern comfort food to the Park Cities area for years and recently opened a new location in Frisco.
Oak’d Handcrafted BBQ only serves their chicken-fried steak on Monday’s (unless it’s Texas Chicken Fried Steak Day, of course). A perfectly cooked chicken-fried wagyu tenderloin served with creamy mashed potatoes and topped with a wagyu jalapeño-sausage gravy. They also add the unique twist of adding glazed bacon burnt ends on top of the gravy. These burnt ends take the dish to a whole other melt-in-your-mouth level of deliciousness.
Jonathan’s Oak Cliff's version was named best chicken-fried steak by the Observer in 2020. This place is the king of hangover cures, including their chicken-fried steak with a crispy batter that doesn’t fall off when you cut it and is served with a seasoned gravy that will have you craving more. It's served with two eggs, potatoes and toast. They closed their original location on Beckley Avenue in August and are opening a new spot at Forest Lane and Inwood in 2022, but you can get the same sandwich at Jonathan's Diner at 1619 Beckley Ave, just a wee bit north of the original location.
The chicken-fried steak is certainly kicked up a notch at Neighborhood Services in Addison. A dry-aged Waygu cutlet is dredged in a crispy and thick batter, then laid on top of creamed russet potatoes and topped with a roasted jalapeño and applewood bacon gravy.
For those Angus beef lovers, check out the chicken-fried steak at Whistle Britches in Dallas, Plano or Southlake. They serve an 8-oz Angus beef fried steak, with whipped potatoes, buttered green beans and milk gravy. A serving of CFS is usually enormous because the steak is pounded very thin before it is cooked. Not here. At Whistle Britches, you receive a beautiful, thick cut steak that is drool-worthy.
Oddfellows in the Bishop Arts District serves an Akaushi chicken-fried steak. Akaushi means “red cattle,” and this breed is primarily raised in southern Japan. They are one of four breeds of waygu, famed for their superior marbling and tenderness. In the daytime, the CFS is served with two eggs, potatoes and country gravy. In the evening, it is served with mashed potatoes, green beans and a poblano cream gravy.
The chicken-fried steak at Ellen’s Southern Kitchen starts with a cube steak, breaded, and fried to order and served with homemade sausage cream gravy and two fresh vegetables. They also have a chicken-fried steak benedict.
Company Café on Greenville Avenue serves a grass-fed, gluten-free chicken-fried steak with eggs and a honey jalapeño gravy. This might sound blasphemous, but it isn’t as sinful as you might think. The crust is made with Chex mix cereal, which makes it crunchy and unique from the flour-based crusts you find at most places.
And finally, you wouldn’t necessarily think of going to a Tex-Mex restaurant for chicken-fried steak but at Matt’s Rancho Martinez, theirs is called the “Monster,” and it’s served four ways: country-style (topped with cream gravy), cowboy-style (smothered with chili, cheese, and onions), tampiqueno-style (topped with spicy tomatillo sauce, sour cream, and Monterey Jack cheese), and bob-style (topped with zesty queso, sour cream, and guacamole).