Coast Cooking

Chicken fried steak is an excellent example of Southern diner excess

Chicken fried streak is as hearty a dinner meal as you will ever encounter.
Chicken fried streak is as hearty a dinner meal as you will ever encounter. Special to the Sun Herald

This week we are focusing on classic Southern diner food.

Putting together a list of foods that might make the Top 10 list, it seems awfully meat and gravy heavy.

Perhaps that is a telling fact about the roots of American dinning. Most of us descend from people who labored in the fields and factories that were about as demanding a work environment as can be imagined.

When you came in for the big noon-time meal, you needed to load up with a couple of thousand calories just to make it through the rest of the day.

So it is no surprise that chicken fried steak makes the cut.

The first time I had this glorious example of American excess was at a diner in east Texas. That was in the early 1980s and the memory of that dish is still distinct.

A well pounded cube steak, made thick with crispy fried batter and a cup or two of white gravy was pretty impressive.

Your chef friends will remind you that the gravy is just a variant of béchamel sauce, and it can be made in two varieties: awful and scrumptious.

My east Texas chicken fried streak was pretty good, at least for the uninitiated. It is not something I order very often, but sometimes the mood hits, and a chewy deep fried piece of beef, lots of heavily peppered gravy just hits the spot.

Who do you think makes the best one on the Coast?

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