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Posts Tagged ‘Chicken Fried Steak’

Crack Barrel Review, Nationwide Chain


Cracker Barrel ReviewI was reading about this couple the other day, 80 years old, who have visited every Cracker Barrel Old Country Store in the country, except one. Interesting goal.

According to Wikipedia, there are 640 outlets. The company started in 1969 with the first store located in Lebanon, TN.

The accent is on “country home cooking” and there is also a small attached general store, which sells retro home decor and food products.

They pride themselves on a number of their offerings being prepared in-house, all day long, like biscuits, mashed potatoes, and gravy.

Here’s the bottom line. I probably haven’t been in one of these in ten years. I think the prices have come down, making it a better value, but I think the quality has declined, as well.  I had chicken fried steak and eggs, and the steak tasted like it could have been from any food service supplier. I know it’s hard to get consistency, but I do like a good CFS prepared in house.

So, “it is what it is,” and I’ll see you again in ten years.

Crack Barrel Review

Chicken fried steak and eggs.







Full menu. Locations.
Cracker Barrel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Crack Barrel Review
Crack Barrel Review


Boston Market Country Fried Steak Review


Boston Market Country Fried Steak ReviewBear with me as I take you on this journey of magical heat and eat meals. Today’s example, “Boston Market” Country Fried Steak.

A frozen entree, with mash potatoes and cream gravy. Boston Market, like many companies, does not actually produce this product, but licenses their name to  Bellisio Foods, a company I know a bit about.

Bellisio is the successor to Michelina’s, which in turn was the successor of two early heat/fix and eat food companies, Jeno’s Pizza, and Chun King Chinese foods.

Both companies were started on a shoestring in Northern Minnesota, by local son of an  immigrant entrepreneur, Jeno Paulucci. He built both companies to attain tens of millions in annual revenue, and sold them off, Chun King first, to RJ Reynolds, followed by Jeno’s, which was spun to General Mills to combine with their own “Totino’s” brand.

Most of these foods were produced in my hometown of Duluth, MN, until Jeno had a hissy fit, threatened to move production out of state, and ultimately did – to Ohio. Jeno could be incredibly generous and civic minded, and meaner than moose piss other times.

Years later, he starts a new frozen food company, “Michelina’s,” also based in Duluth (including some production) which he builds up by acquiring other brands in the segment.  Jeno was successful in building another monster company, with production facilities around the country, and distribution around the world.

A number of qualified buyers approached him during the last part of his life, but he rebuffed them all, asking far more than the company was worth. Finally, literally on his deathbed, a transaction was negotiated, but for less than the company was worth.  Fine tuning the operations, the principles flipped the company a few years later to a Thai conglomerate, and made a bundle.

So now you know where this product comes from – intellectually. Physically, it is produced in a factory in Jackson, OH, about a hundred miles east of Cincinnati.

“TV dinners” were introduced by the Swanson Company in 1953-1954.  Swanson was started in 1899 and is stilled around, owned by Pinnacle Foods (formerly Vlasic). The dinners came in tinfoil trays, with separate compartments for entrees, vegetables, and starches. They were heated in a conventional oven – from frozen – for about an hour. They weren’t very tasty.

Today, they are microwave friendly, of course, packaged in plastic, a few minutes from frozen to ‘edible’ tho I still use a conventional oven if the directions are on the box as an option.  Which is what I did today, about 45 minutes at 350, with a ‘potato stir’ in the middle.

And here’s what I say about every single “heat and eat” fried thing I try. After sixty years, don’t you think they could have figured out the science to make crispy things crispy? There are few experiences worse than biting into something you expect to be crispy/crunchy, and having it have practially zero texture.

I like chicken fried steak for breakfast, so I prepped it that way, added eggs, toast. Usually mashed potatoes aren’t a breakfast dish, are they? But that’s how this meal is packaged. How were the potatoes? Better than fast food, not as good as those heat and eat tubs they sell nowadays.

Tactile experience aside, the flavor of the meat was OK.  As was the gravy, but the plate (pictured) becomes one big mess, not at all (of course) like the corporate marketing image. It might help to put the gravy in a separate ramekin. Just sayin’.

I’ve tried other brands of this same entree –  Banquet, Claim Jumper, Advance Pierre, among others.

They’re all about the same. At restaurants, you hit the jackpot when you find a cook that makes his own.  Would I buy this again? Nah. Just did for the novelty, and for the sake of YOU. LOL.

Boston Market Country Fried Steak Review

Frozen, out of the box

Boston Market Country Fried Steak Review

Corporate Publicity Photo

Boston Market Country Fried Steak Review

Out of the Oven

Boston Market Country Fried Steak Review

Plated as breakfast

Boston Market Country Fried Steak Review

First TV Dinner – 1954

Boston Market Country Fried Steak Review

Boston Market Country Fried Steak Review



Boston Market Country Fried Steak Review


Chicken Fried Steak Recipe – Weekend Breakfasts At My House

Chicken Fried Steak Recipe

Breaded steaks, ready to fry

When I was growing up, it was etched in stone  that the family had a big Saturday breakfast together; often my dad cooked the elaborate set-up, which might have been steak and eggs, pancakes or waffles, fruit turnovers, sausage or bacon.

It got so that friends of me and my siblings wanted to do sleepovers on Friday nites just for the morning repast.  Kids were placed in charge of beating batter, folding and stuffing turnovers, and most certainly, setting, clearing and washing.

I carried this on, when I had families. It was flexible tho, depending on people’s schedules, and would be either Saturday or Sunday. It is reportedly a fond memory of my daughters.

Even now, on my own, I continue the practice, but again, it’s not locked into a day.

Today I went with trying to perfect my chicken fried steak recipe, along with eggs and a home version of poutine.

For the steak, I used the flour/eggdip/crumb method, fried until the edges start to look a bit crispy – doesn’t take long!

Fare Buzz

My crumb mixture today was a combo of panko and crushed pretzels. I’ve tried all sorts of other combos – potato chips, saltines, corn chips. Most are probably too salty for most people.

For today’s poutine, I went with tator tots, brown gravy and feta. It was over the top satisfactory.

A couple poached eggs, and an everthing bagel. Ok, the bagel was a goof-up, cause I baked bread yesterday which I intended to use, and forgot I had put it in the icebox.

It was a good breakfast, large enough for two diners. Tried to share with the cat, but he would have nothing to do with it.

Chicken fried Steak recipe

Sunday breakfast











Chicken Fried Steak Recipe


Lamberts Review – Sikeston, MO

Lamberts Cafe Review

Chicken Fried Steak

Always been curious about this place, which advertises heavily along the interstate. They also have another Missouri location and one in Foley, Alabama. They are known for “throwed rolls” – servers walk around the room with tins full of piping hot popovers, diners raise their hands, and a roll is pitched to them. (Note of caution, the servers are wearing GLOVES, cause the damned things are HOT).

This “country themed menu” restaurant also includes “pass arounds” with each meal; servers walk through the rooms with buckets/pans of fried okra, sorghum, black eyed peas, apple butter, fried potatos, and mac and tomatos. The night I was there, despite sitting right near the kitchen door, the “pass arounds” were seemingly in short supply. While the sorghum girl frequently passed, potato guy and okra person were nowhere to be seen for the entire meal.

Entrees (like catfish, fried chicken, meatloaf, pork chops and the like) come accompanied by your choice of two or three sides from an extensive list (beans, taters, slaw, cornbread, tater salad, greens, veggies and the like).

I went with chicken fried steak, which came with mashed potatoes, gravy, and I chose greens and white beans for my sides. Surprisingly, this is one of the better chicken fried steaks I have had, and if you are a regular reader, you know I have tried them in a lot of different places.

Food is delivered very quickly, seeming to indicate there is some pre-cooking done, as this is a massive place, but it didn’t seem to affect the quality or taste.

The only annoying thing (for me) is the constant honky tonk piano music.

Kids will love it. There is a lot of Americana decking the walls, and there is a kid’s menu, too. Full menu.  Hours/Locations.

Lambert's Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lamberts Review


Circle A Ranch Country Fried Beef


Advanced Pierre Country Fried Beef ReviewI’ve written a whole lot about  the products from Cincinnati-based Advance Pierre, the premiere “heat and eat” and “gas station sandwich” maker in the U.S.  Often, besides in vending and C-stores, you’ll find their frozen products at dollar stores.

You know how much I love chicken fried steak?  I’ve tried it all over the country, both from restaurants and the heat and eat varieties.

This product was made in the plant pictured below, and is comprised of beef, mechanically separated turkey, and, not kidding, about 150 other ingredients.  Nuke of 90 seconds, stir “gravy,” nuke another 30, let sit for 30, and then “enjoy.”

Now ordinarily, I’d put this product in the category of “I tried so you don’t have to.”  But I didn’t really “try” it.  I had one bite and it was so awful, I couldn’t go on.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Advanced Pierre Country Fried Beef Review

Frozen, pre microwaving

Advanced Pierre Country Fried Beef Review

After microwaving

Advanced Pierre Country Fried Beef Review

Advance Pierre Plant, Amherst, Ohio











Circle A Ranch Country Fried Beef


Red Apple Pancake House Palatine Review


Red Apple Pancakes Palatine ReviewBack in the Chicago burbs to see a client, usually disagreeable in January (the weather, not the client), but it’s 45 today. I wanted breakfast and headed for one of my usual haunts, the Palatine Inn, but drove by Red Apple Pancakes and decided to give that a whirl. Glad I did.

Deceptively small from the outside, the parking lot was full to overflowing, but there were still tables available.  Paulo showed me to one and brought coffee.  The breakfast menu is extensive and there is a separate sheet of specials.  The restaurant also serves lunch and closes up shop for the day at 3 PM.

There are quite a few people in my universe who would insist you “can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but to prove them wrong, I DID NOT order chicken fried steak and eggs (which I have written a lot about), I ordered chicken fried chicken and eggs, so there, pffffffft!

Everything on the plate was done perfectly, and despite the crowd, I noticed food was coming out of the kitchen quickly.  The ‘steak’ was crispy, the gravy creamy, the taters extra crispy as I ordered, as were the eggs,  and the rye toast done perfectly.  Add to the plus column a bowl of butter on the table, quite a Chicago area thing it seems, and I am so happy it is!

There is another Red Apple Pancakes a couple of suburbs over, in Carol Stream, IL, no idea if there is a connection or not.

Red Apple Pancakes Palatine Review
Red Apple Pancake House on Urbanspoon
red apple pancake house palatine


Crystal Lake, IL – Andys Family Restaurant Review


Andy's Crystal LakeLanding at O’Hare after an overnight flight from Honolulu, I was starving.  Why didn’t I eat on the plane?  Conked out on the new lie flat seat/beds in first class, very comfy, a little too comfy.

Was heading from Chicago to Madison, so I thought I’d stop en route and get a tasty breakfast on the back roads, and my back road of choice to Madison is US 14, so I hit Andy’s Family Restaurant in Crystal Lake, IL.

Over ordered, not a surprise, went with the Chicken Fried Steak and eggs, the place was jammed, but service was prompt and friendly, they have had lots of practice, this place has been around for years.

Played “butter Jenga” while I was waiting, scarfed the meal and hit the road.  Great place.

Andy's Crystal Lake

Andy's Family Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Andys Family Restaurant Review


Huntley, IL – Sammy’s Restaurant and Bar


Hard to believe I would find myself in this little burg twice in a lifetime, let alone twice in a month. But here I am, it’s Father’s Day, I deserve a nice breakfast out in the traditional Father’s Day tradition!

Sammy’s Restaurant and Bar is open for all meal services, and offers pretty standard “diner” fare, along with daily and nightly specials. There is a set lunch special menu, and the nightly specials are consistent from week to week, with the usual (for the area) fish fry on Friday’s.

Sammy’s doesn’t wait for the dinner hour for their fish fry, however, they start serving it up for the lunch crowed.

I went with Sammy’s variation of “Country Steak” and eggs, which in this case, did not include batter, fried beef, but rather a chopped steak patty with country gravy, two eggs, hash browns, and toast. I went with marble rye on the latter.

The beef patty is pretty ample, perhaps a half-pound pre-cooked weight, a food service type burger (meaning not hand-formed from fresh ground beef), and the gravy was good.

I was pretty happy with the service and food, and like so many small town places in the Upper Midwest, prices make the meals a really good value.

Sammy's Restaurant Huntley Illinois

Sammy's Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon


El Paso, TX – IHOP


You gotta love it when a date’s idea of a big nite is going to IHOP.  Well, at least I do.  Pretty tired of high-maintenance relationships, on any level.   Add to the glamour of IHOP that your date brings a “two-fer” coupon, and you’re sitting pretty.

She went with the chicken Caesar, wondering if the Romans had croutons. (Cute!).  (I didn’t have the heart to tell her the Caesar salad was invented in Tijuana, and had nothing to do with Italy).

Feeling all Texan-like, I went with Country Fried Steak, mashed taters and gravy, and steamed broccoli.  (WTF?  How did that get on my plate?!).

The food was – well, it is what it is.  At $17 for dinner for two, and two beverages (with the coupon), that’s a cheap nite out.

IHOP was started in Toluca Lake, CA (a ‘burb’ of L.A.), in the 50s, and just down the street from the original Bob’s Big Boy.   Today there are thousands of these pancake outlets around the globe, and in the last couple years, the parent company also acquired Applebee’s, and changed their corporate name to Dine Equity.

IHOP’s menu is online.

IHOP Country Fried Steak

IHOP on Urbanspoon


Portland, OR – Bird Dog Review


The “Bird Dog” name doesn’t come from any of the conventional or urban slang definitions of that phrase, but rather, one would imagine, as an homage to the cafe’s signature dish moniker, a hot dog prepared in the way occasionally people are used to hearing a different cut of meat prepared in some parts of the country.

The “Bird Dog”, is a “chicken-fried” hot dog, smothered in a rich, creamy sausage-laden gravy. It’s hard (for me) to imagine a more creative mash-up of some of my favorite foods.

The joint offers a wide variety of hot dog, burger, and sausage preparations, which increases in size with the addition of unique one-offs as daily specials.

Sausages are made in-house, hot dogs are 100% Carlton Farms pork, and the burgers Silvies Valley Ranch grass fed beef, no hormones or antibiotics.

The quality and care in prep shows throughout.

I’d been meaning to get to Bird Dog for some time, and had the opportunity when I was in their part of town around lunch time the other day.

I wanted to try a variety of things, including the signature dish, a side of chili cheese fries, and, having relocated to Portland from New Orleans, I was intrigued that they had a “muffaletta” dog, a tribute to the signature classic sandwich of New Orleans.

As I was already deep into committing to one hot dog with the Bird Dog selection, I asked that they prepare a plain burger patty with the olive tapenade from a muffaletta and a slice of provolone;  they happily agreed to my non-menu request.

The Bird Dog is an ample pork hot dog, immersed in a corn-meal and other flour batter, and deep fried, to produce a crispy coating; placed on an oversized, ample bun, with a generous topping of pork sausage gravy, all on its own, it’s a very satisfying and filling meal.  The ‘tubular nutritional delivery vehicle’ is a tasty frank, mild in seasoning, and the sausage gravy is some of the best I’ve had in Portland, creamy, no hint of a floury taste, with nice chunks of sausage throughout.

The burger patty was massive, hovering between 1/3 and 1/2 pound, I would imagine, obviously hand-formed, and the olive salad I asked for, spot on reminiscent of the New Orleans recipe.  A bakery-soft, but sturdy, toasted bun cradled the patty.

My side of chili cheese fries was notable, also one of my clear favorites in Portland.  A “hot dog” style chili, very meaty, good flavor, no beans, burying a mound of crispy shoe strings.

Dining in, you have access to a wide selection of toppings you can add yourself, from a pickled vegetable bar to a host of mustards and sauces.   Bird Dog’s website says all of the side dishes are made in house, and I imagine the toppings are as well.

This is a place, that if it was closer to my work, I’d hit all to frequently.  I’d like to try a number of their house made sausages, and might opt for the sausage sampler plate in the future.

Or a chicken fried burger?  Mac n Cheese dog?  Cuban?   They also offer their take on the Sonoran Dog, a regional favorite from the Southwest.

Too many choices of too many good things.

Perfect for Burgerdogboy, and you.

Bird Dog is snuggled  amidst a couple of long time hot dog competitors on East Hawthorne,  so now you have a choice of the old timey guys that wrest on their laurels and rep, or some bright, innovative, quality cuisine that dazzles.

I say the choice is obvious.

Bird Dog Portland Oregon


Bird Dog on Urbanspoon

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