Matt’s Rancho Martinez
The reason Julia Child and Matt Martinez Jr. became fast friends was his chicken-fried steak. She first tried the Texas staple on a trip to Dallas. Martinez had long been cooking it (and experimenting with toppings) for his hunting buddies. Try the various incarnations he came up with: cowboy style, served with chili, cheese, and onions; Tampiqueño, with salsa verde; and Bob style, with chili con queso, sour cream, and guacamole.
This old-fashioned diner cooks its award-winning chicken-fried steaks as “the cowboys made them on the trail before freezers were invented.” You know the score: fresh steak, secret batter, deep-fried. Add some creamy gravy, country veggies, and killer cornbread, served by a waitress with a twang and a smile. It’s a recipe Norma’s has perfected over 56 years.
Place at Perry’s
Ten years ago, then sous-chef Jaime Corona had the idea to repurpose leftover rib-eye ends to make an aristocratic chicken-fried steak. Today, co-executive chef Corona can’t trim rib-eye loins fast enough, so his meat purveyor specially chops ends for the steakhouse’s popular dish. With a special tempura batter and hormone- and antibiotic-free, humanely and sustainably raised Prime-grade beef, it’s Southern comfort’s more glamorous sister.
Everything at this Bishop Arts eatery is a winking homage to an old-school roadhouse, especially the chicken-fried steak, which is traditional in spirit but modern in execution. You get three medallions of shallow-fried beef tenderloin sitting atop garlic mashed potatoes, with crisp bacon-and-onion-glazed haricots verts (ahem, green beans) accompanying. Oh, and there’s that fire-charred poblano pepper gravy. It’s ironic and undeniable.
The kitchen doesn’t cut any corners when it comes to making chicken-fried steak. They start with fresh tenderloin and pound it thin before they portion the meat, dredge it in flour and buttermilk, and deep fry it in peanut oil. The result is a crunchy crust that yields to a juicy, slim filet mignon. The peanut oil is one of the keys to the unique flavor and makes the dish a little easier on the arteries.