Gluten-free, grass-fed chicken-fried steak. Has a phrase ever seemed so contradictory? A classic CFS is a tasty, guilty pleasure: pan-fried, fatty, gravy slathered, down-home goodness void of any nutritional value. Like I said, a guilty pleasure. Yet there it was on Company Cafe’s menu—a healthier version of the dish that many a Texan holds dear to his heart—taunting me, practically daring me to order it and prove my heart-clogging hypothesis correct. Surely, this CFS couldn’t be any good.
“Go on. Order it,” my server encouraged me wearing his “Eating like a hippy never tasted so good” t-shirt. “It will change your life.”
Whether Company Cafe’s chicken-fried steak changed my life is to be answered later. But what this bright, cheery Lower Greenville restaurant did accomplish is change my opinion on restaurants of its ilk. Healthy doesn’t always translate to flavorful. But Company Cafe gets it right, serving delicious familiar comfort food while still flying its gluten-free, organic-freak flag with pride.
That’s not to say that the cafe is some granola-crunching, patchouli-wearing flower child compound (though Company Cafe’s gluten-free granola is amazing). Other than the clever peace symbol clad t-shirts and the menu touting organic this and free-range that, owners Chris Cowan and Stephen White look like average Joes, and so do their customers. Company Cafe’s fare is the same. The breakfast menu is littered with the familiar: gluten-free waffles that stay amazingly crisp, breakfast tacos featuring cage-free eggs, raw cheddar, and smoked venison sausage, and the Deep Bowl: grass-fed beef and sweet potato hash topped with sliced avocado and two eggs. It sounds so simple but it’s deliciously satisfying.
And that brings me back to the grass-fed beef dilemma. In theory, I like the idea of eating a healthier, more humane beef. But steak purists—including me—aren’t the biggest fans. It simply doesn’t have the same fat content as grain-fed cows and thus can produce dry, flavorless dishes. Happily, Company Cafe gets its right. Its grass-fed burger was a juicy, well-seasoned patty. Can it compete with the best burgers in town? No. But is it a tasty, healthier alternative? Yes, it is, and when topped with Dallas Mozzarella Co.’s green chile-flecked queso blanco, it’s sinfully delicious, minus all that pesky sin. An accompanying side of crisp, grease-free sweet potato fries were highly addictive.
Obviously, veggie lovers will find much to devour at Company Cafe. The house salad features organic greens, pickled onions, blueberries, dried cranberries, candied pecans, and Texas Daily Harvest goat cheese. East Texas’ J.T. Lemley’s Produce and its prized tomatoes take center stage on a simple salad of basil, olive oil, and Dallas Mozzarella’s burrata.
And as for that gluten-free, grass-fed chicken-fried steak? The crust was crisp, the beef tender, and the jalapeño-honey gravy just the right blend of sweet and savory. My guilty pleasure didn’t feel so guilty anymore. Did it change my life? No. But by shaving off a few cholesterol grams, it might have saved it just a little.