Trigger nostalgia and unrelenting fried food cravings in an instant with three simple words: Chicken fried steak. The beloved dish is a southern staple, a comfort food and a great unifier among us Houstonians. Regardless of where you’re from or who you are, chances are you’re likely to like chicken fried steak. After all, what’s not to love? Seriously, who (aside from vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, etc.) could actually resist the crispy golden crust, the tenderized beef and the sumptuous coat of peppercorn white gravy?
Safe to say, many a Houstonian has made cherished memories over a piping-hot plate of chicken fried steak. And if that chicken fried steak wasn’t homemade it was cooked up at a local diner, cafeteria, hole-in-the wall or some other beloved off-the-beaten-path locale.
Listed chronologically by opening date, here’s a look at the longstanding Houston-area restaurants that have been dishing out chicken fried steak for decades. Obviously, these Houston-area stalwarts do the humble dish justice. While some merely feature the delectable entrée on their menu, others have garnered national acclaim and enduring popularity for their take on the chicken fried steak. Note that several of the establishments listed below have been in business longer than half a century.
Cleburne Cafeteria (1941)
Houston history: Anabelle Collins and Martha Kavanaugh opened Cleburne Cafeteria on Fannin Street in 1941. By 1952, newlyweds Nick and Pat Mickelis had purchased it from the pair. Come 1969, the couple relocated the restaurant to its current location on Bissonnet Street. Throughout its history, the restaurant has burned down and been rebuilt twice. Today, Nick and Pat’s son, George Mickelis, runs the restaurant.
The entrée: The entrée is offered daily. Sides and rolls are available for purchase. While traveling down the line, keep track of what you order so you don’t end up with a pricey surprise at the register.
Review: “When I think of Cleburne Cafeteria I think of childhood memories of me barely being able to hold my own tray. The best time to go is on the weekend especially after church. This is an after church “Luby’s on steroids” lol The food is continuously being made fresh, there is a crowd but it is worth it. I never deviate from the Chicken Fried Steak, Mashed Potatoes w/brown gravy, fried okra or mac and cheese, with a yeast roll. It is very good! The deserts are soooooooooo sinful! Everything is done “BIG” here, from the carrot cake, strawberry shortcake to the steaks.” - Keandra of Houston, Texas.
Location: Cleburne Cafeteria is located at 3606 Bissonnet Street in Houston’s Greenway/Upper Kirby area.
Barbecue Inn (1946)
Houston history: Louis and Nell Skrehot opened The Barbecue Inn in 1946. The couple’s son Wayne and his son David now run the beloved establishment, which continues to operate at its original location on West Crosstimbers Street in Houston’s Greater Heights/Garden Oaks area.
The entrée: Barbecue Inn’s chicken fried steak is made to order. Translation: Prepare to wait a minimum 25 to 30 minutes before receiving your meal if a chicken fried steak is what you seek here. The dish is served with cream gravy and a choice of two sides.
Review: “This is an old school restaurant with all the trimmings! The atmosphere is simple and friendly, but the food is delicious! Fried chicken and chicken fried steak are made to order. So it comes nice and hot. I felt like I was stepping back in time with joyous memories.” - Jeanne of Humble, Texas
Location: Barbecue Inn is located at 116 W Crosstimbers Street in Houston’s Independence Heights area.
Goodson’s Cafe (1950)
Houston history: Goodson’s Café opened in Tomball in 1950. Several years later, one of its employees, Ella “Ma” Goodson, bought the cafe. Over the years, the cafe gained distinction for its chicken fried steak, which has been featured in several publications and programs both locally and nationally.
The entrée: Dubbed the “Best Chicken Fried Steak in Texas,” the acclaimed entrée is offered in two sizes, small and large, and comes with yeast rolls and a choice of two sides from a selection which includes green beans, baked squash, fried okra, blackeye peas, dirty rice, kernel corn and French fries.
Review: “Absolutely the only place we get chicken fried steak. Gravy is wonderful as are the giant yeast roll! This is our go to meal here...but we have had the pork chops, the chicken strips (regular and hot)...all is fantastic. Our go to desert is the peach cobbler!! So good!! Great people! Cute place full of all kinds of stuff to buy too!!” - Lorraine of Galveston, Texas
Location: Goodson’s Cafe is located at 27931 Tomball Parkway in Tomball.
Dot Coffee Shop (1967)
Houston history: Dot Coffee Shop was the first of many restaurants opened by Houston’s Pappas family. Since 1967, the diner has served comfort food favorites like chicken fried steak, pot roast and pecan pie. The eatery still operates out of its original location, situated at 7006 I-45 South at Woodridge.
The entrée: The restaurant’s chicken fried steak is served with cream gravy, french fries and the choice of an additional side. Options include early peas, buttered corn, black eyed peas and mac & cheese.
Review: “Probably my favorite old school café in Texas. Little known fact: this is the very first restaurant that started it all in the Pappa’s chain. You can get the exact same cheesecake here that they sell at Pappas Steakhouse for half the price. The chicken fried steak is to die for.” - Joe of Houston, Texas
Location: Dot Coffee Shop is located at 7006 I-45 S. at Woodridge Drive in southeast Houston.
Hickory Hollow (1977)
Houston history: Opened in 1977, Hickory Hollow continues to operate out of its original location on Fallbrook Drive.
The entrée: It’s chicken fried steak has been featured both on the Travel Channel and Food Network and is offered in three sizes; the five-ounce Plowman, eight-ounce Hired Hand, or the 10-ounce Rancher. Eat the whole 10-ounce Rancher and you might just be immortalized on the eatery’s Wall of Fame. Each chicken fried steak comes with a choice of two sides from a selection that includes fried okra, mashed potatoes, mac n’ cheese, cole slaw and hot tots, most aptly described as jalapeño potato puffs.
Review: “I’m something of a chicken fried steak aficionado and, when I visit a place for the first time and spot chicken fried steak on the menu, that’s what i order. Hickory Hollow’s portion size is most generous, but more importantly, the flavor is right on the money. Thoroughly enjoyed it.” - Michael of Houston, Texas
Location: Hickory Hollow is located at 8038 Fallbrook Drive in northwest Houston.
Don’t see your favorite go-to chicken fried steak spot listed here? Share it in the comments below!