Many years ago, there was this little restaurant on the northeast corner of 16th Street and Bethany Home Road in Phoenix called Lone Star Steaks. It was the anchor in a small strip mall with some of the worst parking in the city. But it opened and gained a following because it served decent grub - mostly steaks, comfort food and huge servings of Chicken Fried Steak.
Then, a huge national chain wanted to open up a franchise in Phoenix. It too was called Lone Star Steaks and they told the little place to change its name or face legal action. So, the little place became TEXAZ Grill.
My roommate Dave and I were on the quest for some food that would satisfy, but we weren’t looking for anything fancy or too expensive. Mostly, we wanted something to chase off the hunger of the day and make us smile. We tried a Greek restaurant in west Phoenix, but they closed at 8 PM and the clock said 8:05, so we were out of luck.
Seeing TEXAZ on our way home, I made the suggestion and Dave said that it was fine. We pulled into the parking lot and walked inside. Lucky for us, the place was fairly empty. We were immediately seated at a table in the center of the restaurant and handed menus.
The place still looks the same as it did when it was Lone Star Steaks, with the license plates, beer and cheerleader posters, and news clippings adorning the wall. The place had a comforting glow from the low lighting and the neon near the bar.
Dave knew exactly what he wanted when he opened the menu. I was having a difficult time deciding. Our server arrived at the table with water and silverware and took our drink order. Dave got the Diet Pepsi ($2.00) and I got the Iced Tea ($2.00). Our server also took our order. Dave decided to go with the Chicken Fried Chicken ($11.00) and chose the mashed potatoes as the side. I finally gave into the Chicken Fried Steak ($11.00) and also chose the mashed potatoes. Our meals came with a salad and I had mine with Ranch dressing. Dave had the Honey Mustard dressing. We both opted to have them hold the chopped olive mix they put on top of their dressing.
I also was attracted to their chili and ordered a cup ($3.50). Dave was going to do the same but is fairly picky about his chili so he waited until mine was served to take a taste and see if he liked it.
Our server left, but quickly returned with our drinks and a basket of bread. Well, actually, it was a basket with one roll and one biscuit. I let Dave choose which he wanted and he went with the roll, which was a honey-whole wheat one. It clearly was from a supplier because it looked like every other roll served in many restaurants across the Valley. I grabbed the biscuit and slathered it with butter and drizzled it with honey. I thought the biscuit was decent, although a tad on the dry side. Dave seemed to enjoy the roll.
My chili arrived and it was a fair serving served in a thick, ceramic coffee mug. The chili was topped with cheese and onions and a pepper. Remembering my last encounter with one of those small peppers, I set that aside. I dug into the chili and was pleased that it was hot and not soupy. The chili was hearty and bold and had a great spiciness to it. The onions were crisp and cold, and they had not held back on the cheese. Dave tried a bite and immediately asked for his own cupful.
After finishing the chili and a fresh round of drinks, Dave and I got our salads.
My salad was just your generic iceberg with carrot and red cabbage mix topped with dressing. I had forgotten that TEXAZ loves to put chopped tomatoes on their salad. A lot of chopped tomatoes. The salad was cold and I was very happy that my Ranch dressing was not the chemical tasting kind that is slightly yellowish and tastes somewhat sour. This was very fresh and had a nice hint of garlic.
Dave’s salad was the same makeup as mine, and he, too, which he had asked that the tomatoes be held. They were just so overwhelming. He said his salad was good and the honey mustard dressing was great. He also expressed his approval that the salad had a good amount of dressing on it.
After our salads, we only waited a few moments before entrees arrived. Our server was also thoughtful enough to bring out another roll and biscuit.
Dave’s Chicken Fried Chicken was two huge chicken breasts, slightly pounded, battered and then deep fried. They were stacked on top of each other and smothered with creamy pan gravy. The skin-on mashed potatoes were served next to the chicken and also covered with the gravy. Dave took a bite and was happy. The chicken was moist and tender. He said the gravy was rich and delicious and he loved the mashed potatoes.
My Chicken Fried Steak was outrageous in its size. Two gigantic round steaks had been pounded until tender, and served like Dave’s chicken. So, in front of me were two very large portions of Chicken Fried Steak with mashed spuds and gravy. This was not for the faint of heart or anyone even thinking of dieting. I cut off a bit of the meat, plunked it into the gravy and then had my first bite. The meat was very tender and the breading was great. Thankfully, the cook new how to fry the steaks so there was a bit of crispness to the batter. The mashed potatoes were very good. They still had a few lumps in them and were not overly creamy. Just great, in my book. While I thought the gravy was very good, I thought it was a bit on the salty side, although I give kudos to the maker of the gravy for not being shy with the course ground pepper which gave the thick mixture a little bit of a bite to it.
A photo of the Chicken Fried Steak can be found at: http://i28.photobucket.com/albums/c20...
Dave and I ate through our meals and struggled to finish it all, but we couldn’t. We also wanted to save some room for dessert. So, we abandon our meals finishing about 2/3 of each plate.
Our server returned and took our plates asking if we wanted dessert. Since we both were almost stuffed, we decided to split an order of the Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce ($3.50).
About five minutes passed and our server arrived with a plate containing a cut square of bread pudding covered in a translucent, sticky sauce and topped with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream. The bread pudding was smoking hot in temperature and, thankfully, the ice cream helped to cool it down. The pudding itself was dense, moist and loaded with raisins. Dave and I both loved the consistency and the fact that it wasn’t sickeningly sweet. The whiskey sauce was very good and had a strong alcohol taste to it. The ice cream was Blue Bell brand and was creamy and delicious. The pudding was a big hit with us.
We finished lapping up the last of the whisky sauce and requested our bill. The total was $38.92, which included tax. We felt this was a very good value considering the size of our entrée portions. The service was attentive and friendly, but not overbearing, and our server was very good about checking on us without hovering.
We headed back to the car and began the drive home. We both had clearly made gluttons of ourselves, but we thought the food was pretty good. It was basic comfort food and plenty of it. It wasn’t anything unique, but it did fill the void and was a nice, relaxing night out.
And it certainly was better than the restaurant that forced it to change its name.