Zero poultry is involved in the making of Chicken Fried Steak, a Southwestern specialty believed to have descended out of the German Wiener Schnitzel in the 19th century, via What's Cooking America. Instead, the recipe consists of a beef cutlet rolled in a mixture of milk, eggs, and spiced flour that forms a delectable golden-brown crust when fried in a pan (or deep-fryer, either works). The savory tidbits left behind form the creamy gravy that blankets the steak, and what's dished up on the side traditionally meshes with the savory sauce, such as hearty mashed potatoes and roasted greens.
Food historians attest to the entrée originating out of necessity — essentially masking inferior meats with a broiled, battered coating — yet it's emerged as a true comfort staple in its own right. Just because we don't live in Texas or Oklahoma, where the real thing roams, however, doesn't necessarily entitle the TV dinner version to take up our precious time, either. On that token, restaurant chains remain your best bet, but where you lay down your dollars can dictate what sort of meal gets sent your way. Going in blind? With the assistance of customer input to rank restaurant chains from worst to best, we've reached the ultimate conclusion for satisfying your craving. Follow along!
"You could not find meat with a magnifying glass and a search warrant." We'd expect this cheeky retort to come from an aggrieved carnivore stuck at a vegan joint, but the response was directed at Texas Roadhouse, whose Country Fried Sirloin lags behind in last for customers overall. Going by the description on the menu, the chophouse should dish up something delicious -- a crispy-coated sirloin steak, drenched in gravy and joined by a couple of side entrées (one of which is the excellent Loaded Baked Potato) for $18.49 begs to be ordered.
Places like Texas Roadhouse don't bluff on the monstrously huge portions, and the price tag at least validates the cost. But the cutlet overwhelmingly tastes like breading -- oily, bland breading -- as well as lots of fatty chunks, which multiple reviewers credited to souring their meal. In Kissimmee, Florida, one TripAdvisor user wrote "The country fried steak was very tough and full of gristle and fat." Another reviewer shared the same experience with the premise of avoiding the entrée outright, vowing after their lackluster meal to "order something with visible meat" to rectify the mistake. Because let's face it, Texas Roadhouse is a fail.
Saltgrass Steak House
Technically speaking, Saltgrass Steak House should have clobbered the competition with this round-up. A Texas-based chophouse, hawking Angus-grade beef that's pounded thin and buried in a cream-based gravy -- how could any comfort food lover pass that up? Actually, that's pretty easy. On the Country Fried Steak, the word through the grapevine is less enthusiastic due to flavorless breading and beef so dry it might as well be the mystery meat from a retirement home buffet.
We did notice a TripAdvisor review that appeared to be in the minority, describing a "remarkable" cutlet that was crisp and plenty dressed without getting soggy from the moisture. If only that were the majority. A patron who frequented a San Antonio outpost was treated to the opposite: a lackluster slab parched of flavor. And you know there's trouble if the eatery's rugged furnishings outshined the meal.
The Lone Star franchise might bring the sizzle with the ingredients, but it doesn't dish up the steak -- at least one we'd want to eat. Also, we're a tad perplexed by the $20 price tag, given that you're only allowed one side dish while similarly comfort-centric places heap on two (or sometimes three) helpings.
Logan's Roadhouse isn't just the victim of financial bankruptcy but a mediocre cutlet to boot. For the Country Fried Steak, the restaurant claims to prepare the cutlet from scratch, heaping on white gravy and two entrées on the side that could be steamed broccoli, a Caesar salad, or for some appropriate Southern flair, a saucy pile of BBQ Baked Beans. Under $13 for all that grub is an undeniable deal, and a few commenters were definitely in awe over the gigantic portions capable of feeding a group. Yet less impressed reviewers, however, had a bone to pick with the poor presentation.
For example, a visitor whose spouse ordered the entrée was able to confirm that the meat steak "was pretty cafeteria-ish," a bad sign when discussing restaurant chains we go out of our way to spend money at rather than places we might be obligated to grab a bite at, like schools or hospitals — two places not exactly prided for their culinary contributions. Generally speaking, getting bang for your buck is one of the draws to dining out at franchises, but it's not like Logan's has the monopoly on breaded beef patties served on a budget. We'd suggest holding your fork tight for a tastier platter down the line.
IHOP's dished up chicken fried steak for quite some time, saddling breaded patties with hash browns, eggs, and its signature flapjacks for a morning-approved spin. Yet, as recently as September 2023, the breakfast chain dropped a savory counterpart to round out the chain's lunch and dinner sections. It's unclear whether the recent iteration is here to stay, but what we do know for a fact is how diners feel about the gravy-smothered staple. Under the roof of this national institution, it's a mixed bag.
Customers are relatively responsive to the International House of Pancakes' artery-testing menu -- who wouldn't enjoy buttery griddle cakes dolloped with whipped cream? We discovered the Country Fried Steak to be a bit polarizing. Take these reviews for two different establishments, both based in Florida. Whereas one diner praised the battered cutlet as an "excellent" pick among many tasty dishes on the menu lineup, another patron, whose child ordered the dish, witnessed a far less appetizing version: "My son ordered the country fried steak and it came soaked in a water-like 'gravy,'" they stated. Because the cream sauce was so diluted, what should have been a crunchy filet turned into a soggy sponge. It's a toss-up, honestly, so proceed with caution.
Shoney's is heralded for its all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet, but sleepyheads rolling out of bed later in the day can opt for American classics such as burgers, sandwiches, and comforting casseroles that could've been made by mom (Baked Spaghetti ring a bell?) Unsurprisingly, this section of the restaurant is where the Country Fried Steak lurks, and the menu shows the thin meats are coated with the chain's "signature seasoned flour" prior to frying. There's also a Country Fried Steak Breakfast that allows you to customize the ultimate platter with your preferred style of eggs, potatoes, plus extras like fresh fruit or grits for a belly-stuffing sampler.
When it comes to customer responses, the overall incentive for ordering this Country Fried Steak was more out of convenience than seeking out a particularly delectable dish. On the flip side of the equation, plenty were put off by the filet's indistinguishably sludgy appearance and a liquified gravy. Assuming it'll be granted some mercy with the side dishes, you would be mistaken. Rating their experience at a Vidalia, Georgia outpost, a TripAdvisor user remarked, "The steak was pretty good, but the gravy and mashed potatoes were horrible." It's fine for what it is, but once you get to our top picks, you won't go out of your way for Shoney's.
Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen
Breaded and fried by hand, the Country Fried Steak from Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen does a better job of channeling the comfort staple than what we've seen, although not by the widest margin. Starting with its perks, you'll definitely score a feast that's tasty and decently priced. The platter features the main entrée, two sides (out of 16 options to choose from, mind you), and buttery Texas Toast for under $14.
The reviews aren't ideal if nabbing a completely exceptional meal takes precedence over convenience. One customer encountered "90% breading" when they received their plate, and this was directly echoed by another patron who snapped a photo of their heavily-coated beef flank, confirming "the country fried steak was over-battered." When any hint of hearty meat did come through, as a particular reviewer experienced, the texture proved to be anything but tender, unfortunately: "The steak was tougher than a Walmart Round steak and had about as much flavor."
The crispy coating makes chicken fried steak a delectable indulgence, but it can't overpower our bites, especially when, according to customers, it's a bit bland and under-seasoned. We wouldn't say no to trying it, and you're probably in for a yummier experience compared to the bottom rung.
We may not be homesteaders manning the plains, but we are familiar with the insatiable appetite that only Cracker Barrel can match. Sawmill gravy, a less-refined style that's traditionally made from meat drippings and corn meal, tops the Country Fried Steak, or for the more ambitious early birds in our midst, Grandpa's Country Fried Breakfast boasting eggs and hash brown casserole, plus a big ol' biscuit.
Business Insider found Cracker Barrel a step up in richness and authenticity, and internet consensus backs this up for the most part. True, many report devouring a freshly cooked chicken fried steak, and if you know anything about Cracker Barrel, it's the sides that keep devotees coming back for seconds. And yet, a couple of reviews that have strayed from the morning lineup have actually regretted their choice. "In the future, we'll stick with breakfast, dumplings, and veggies/sides," one visitor vowed on Trip Advisor.
When a poster trashed the dish on the chain's subReddit, an employee chimed in to recommend the fried chicken in place of the chicken-less slab. Their reasoning? The kitchen constantly cranks out batches of chicken as a result of high demand, not to mention they're battered to order, which prevents soggier pieces. "Country Fried Steak is one of the last things I'd suggest to anyone," they admitted.
Well, well, well. You might have taken Denny's as too run-of-the-mill to rank any higher, but the diner chain can flip a mean flapjack or omelet where we want it, when we want it. This, admittedly, might explain our tendency to overlook a pretty praise-worthy entrée that deserves a spot in the Grand Slam in our books. The Country Fried Steak & Eggs is predictably calorie-dense, paired with a trifecta of eggs, potatoes, and your preferred type of carb that can include (what else?) pancakes.
Those who've eaten their fair share of chain cuisine can attest that it is not always at the tippy-top of fine dining. But you know what? This is the stuff greasy spoons are made of. A customer dining out with their spouse reported that their partner's fried cut "was very juicy," while an equally pleased patron voiced no complaints about the greasy, gravy-drenched bite that lived up to their expectations. "I wanted chicken fried steak, and I wasn't disappointed."
There's no doubt establishments like Denny's, which left the mom-and-pop world decades ago with over 1,000 locations, take shortcuts to slap food on the table faster. One TripAdvisor reviewer, for example, "watched the guy in the kitchen microwave my entire meal of broccoli and chicken fried steak." For the most part, though, it's hard to beat the end product.
Seeking out homestyle cooking, served and enjoyed in a familial atmosphere? Hunting for a hearty dish like chicken fried steak will make you grateful for Bob Evans. Generally, feedback is pretty favorable towards the Country-Fried Steak Platter. The extras that join the breaded course — per the menu, there are green beans, mashed spuds, and a smooth white gravy one review hailed as "excellent" -- point to a solid plateful for chowing all the way down.
Since breakfast is what Bob Evans is known for, of course, there's naturally a wake-up plate -- called the Country-Fried Steak & Farm-Fresh Eggs -- that pairs eggs, potatoes, and pillowy biscuits versus fries or a side salad. However you order it, patrons explain why it's worth picking up. The breakfast version, specifically, pleased a customer dining in Kissimmee, Florida, who raved over the "super crispy" breading and the hearty ladling of gravy that's thick and avoids the sludgy, cafeteria-grade texture. Another fan on TripAdvisor awarded their "delicious" deep-fried cutlet five stars, finding it faithful to the sort of country image promoted by the eatery. Should the barn-inspired outlet be in your neck of the woods, you might see what the fuss is about.
Perkins Restaurant & Bakery
Perkins Restaurant & Bakery is an established diner institution out of Ohio. In Circa 1958, the eatery's first gig as a mom-and-pop was flipping griddlecakes, but travel ahead to the present day, and you'll see a buffet of breakfasts and suppers punctuated by tantalizing pies proudly baked the old-fashioned way. From what we gather, though, doggy-bagging your dessert will be necessary, as the Country Fried Steak is decadent and downright enormous. Don't brush it off as dinner-only -- here, patrons can carve into one at sunrise as well, affixed with the sampler of eggs, hash browns, and pancakes (that's the Country Fried Steak & Eggs combo platter).
Out of most reviews we looked at, customers were delighted by the fair price for a heaping load of food. The solid execution, commented on by other visitors, undoubtedly contributed to Perkins' higher score, as chain restaurants constantly get conflated with unremarkable quality. A Yelp user, for example, admitted that the entrée wasn't going to beat any real-deal Southern kitchen but pointed to the "good size" and "decent amount of sides," lending it an advantage. "It was cooked and served the way it is supposed to be," they wrote. Who could ask for more than that?
Premium Angus steak? Dishes whipped up from scratch? As you can see, Claim Jumper is a chain in name only since the amount of elbow grease that goes into crafting its menu -- specifically, the Country Fried Steak -- is beyond conjecture. Contrary to the flattened appearance that traditionally defines the chicken fried steak, the saloon-styled joint cleaves a much chunkier slab, according to customers, who simply can't get enough of the "meatier" feel, for lack of a better term. It's more than evident from photos taken by customers that it's a messy, gravy-smothered adventure for any large appetite. And having encountered enough gristly hockey pucks to last us a lifetime, the kitchen nails a battered beefsteak that's crunchy and succulent.
We could go on all day about the homemade gravy and unbelievably rich breading, but to really soak in its strengths; you'll wanna listen to the folks happily gobbling it down. "The country fried steak was not a lean patty tenderized to death," a commenter on Yelp assured. "It was a thick cut — not for the faint of heart!" Another patron was in heaven over the cutlet being "so tender you cut it with a fork." With roasted veggies and the creamiest spuds, $18.99 is quite reasonable for a hearty rendition that will stick to the ribs.
Hot plates like Chicken Fried Steak scratch the itch best when slightly sloppy -- the craggy coating and thick blanketing of gravy signals a feast on one's hands, something Twin Peaks pulls through on. Though $15.99 isn't exactly considered a bargain, we found the sports bar's plate to actually be worth the higher expense. The patties in question (your choice of chicken or beef) are not only freshly battered but they're also anchored by some spectacular flourishes one could only dream of ordering from a standard diner chain. For example, the silky gravy is boosted with fiery jalapeno, as opposed to simply black pepper.
Suffice it to say restaurant-goers have expressed surprise at finding the Chicken Fried Steak quite excellent, bearing lots of flavor and portions that might be considered comically excessive but undoubtedly explain the price printed on the menu. An Ohio-based reviewer raved, "I am a big eater and could only finish half." But size isn't the only perk on its side. The indulgent elements pep up the plainer cut of beef, but without skipping a beat, the cutlet's texture remains tender and able to ride out the piquancy delivered by the seasoned breading and add-ons alike.
Black Bear Diner
Black Bear Diner's quieted growling tummies for nearly 30 years, slinging the biggest breakfast spectacles made for Sunday brunching or curing hangovers alike. The fact that there are three different delineations on the chicken fried steak, each more delicious (and artery-clogging) than the last, should dispel any myths that chains can't batter a beef cutlet with gluttonous aplomb. The BIGFOOT Chicken Fried Steak & Eggs is a proper gorge-fest and the most extreme in terms of its calorie count, but other options include a basic morning sampler with eggs and biscuits or a hearty spin on Eggs Benedict that subs the ham for breaded beefsteak.
It's a shame Black Bear Diner is only on the Midwest and West Coast. Quite frankly, this fried steak slams its competition nationwide, as many positive responses pouring in suggest. The hefty size makes it a knife-and-fork deal, of course, but foodies will be pleased by the slab's succulence that resembles, without exaggeration, a very good piece of fried chicken. The breaded shell is airy and well-seasoned, and the meat, according to this reviewer on Yelp, is perfectly tender -- "nice and crisp on the outside and scrumptiously moist on the inside," they exclaimed. Add in the wholesome gravy and a cup of strong black coffee, and unlocking heavenly bliss is possible.
Read the original article on Mashed.