Its been my experience that certain regions that may not be famous for their cuisine in general nevertheless do some things better than anyplace else. For example, in Boston I eat clam chowder with almost every meal (no, not breakfast). Invariably Im blown away by the flavor and quality of every one, and yet no two are exactly alike. Yeah, Ive had good chowders elsewhere, but theres no place else Ive been where I could be confident that *every* restaurant would have a good one, and many would be great.
Some years ago, I worked for an extended period in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Of course I didnt sample *everything* that was available, but I think I got enough of a flavor for for the general area to know that East County San Diego isnt the only place where chain coffee shops, fast food joints and assembly-line eateries rule. With one exception: Every run-of-the-mill restaurant (indy or chain, makes no difference), and every little mom and pop cafe knew the secret of great chicken fried steak. As with Bostons chowder, no two were exactly alike, but all of them could and did produce a piece of meat with the most delicious breading, perfectly cooked to a light golden brown with just the perfect state of right-on-the-edge crispiness. Mashed potatoes were just lumpy enough to let you know they were real, and were always served with a cream gravy redolent of the smoky bacon grease that lifted its flavor (and its cholesterol level) to the stratosphere. The salad might be boring; the accompanying veggies might be canned; and the bread uninspired, but that meat and them taters covered a multitude of sins. Texans also know how to whup up a great piece of pie or a dynamite cobbler, but thats a different topic.
These days I dont eat stuff like that very much. Dont smoke any more either, and wine bottles long ago crowded the Coors cans out of my recycle bin. Still, I do remember, and every once in a while I get a craving. Trouble is, when it comes up, I have no clue where to go to satisfy it, to I wind up at a Japanese place pretending that ton-katsu and sushi are an acceptable substitute.
So how about it, folks -- does San Diego County have a source of really good Texas-style chicken-fried steak? Dennys has it on their menu, but what you get isnt consistent, is usually nothin special, and can sometimes be ghastly. I havent eaten there in several years, but TGI Fridays in Mission Valley used to have it on the menu, and it was probably the closest Ive come to Dallas in San Diego. Anyplace else? Come to think of it, I have gained six pounds in the last eight weeks, so maybe I should just stick to my veggies until the feeling passes.
. . jim strain in san diego.