There are two iconic Texas dishes. And there are lots of Texas dishes...dishes that are very popular in Texas and a lot of them originated in Texas. But there are two dishes that rise above the rest for popularity and for the fact that they just aren't made better anywhere else.
The first, of course, is barbecue brisket and I have discussed that elsewhere. The second one is chicken fried steak.
I am not a big fan of cube steak or round steak. Round steak sucks. It's a tough and generally miserable cut of beef. Cube steak is tenderized round steak so...not much difference.
But something very curious happens when you dip that thing in batter, deep fry it and then smother it in white gravy sprinkled with pepper and served with mashed potatoes. It suddenly becomes chicken fried steak and it's a good meal. Prepared properly it is a very, very good meal.
I have lately been attempting to master the basics of smoking a beef brisket but I don't know that I will ever be able to adequately prepare a good chicken fried steak. Anyone can make a bad chicken fried steak. Dairy Queen does it all the time although they call them "steak fingers." Bad chicken fried steak can be found regularly in public school cafeterias and that is probably where it gets a reputation for being sh*tty.
But, generally, most restaurants in Texas are capable of making good to very good chicken fried steak. Some make damned good chicken fried steak. There are certain dishes that just have to be experienced in certain places (and I'm not comparing one cuisine to another here)...like pizza in say, New York City (or Chicago) or sea food in New England or cajun food in New Orleans. And Texas is the place for barbecue beef brisket and chicken fried steak. Don't know why...it just is.
I never really experienced a truly good chicken fried steak myself until I was in my early twenties. I suppose this is because my only exposure to it before then was, as I noted above, in a public school cafeteria and because of that I had always looked down on this meal. But, in my early adult years I was taken to a restaurant for a lunch "special" and it completely changed my outlook on chicken fried steak. The restaurant was "George's"
in Waco, TX. George's was, at first glance, a dump. It was a shabby, run down building and the interior was nothing to look at either...worn out floors, crappy furniture...heck, I don't even think the dishes and silverware matched. But they served a lunch special of chicken fried steak that was amazing.
First of all, the dish was enormous. The plate was big and the steak covered the whole plate...must have been close to 12" in diameter. Mashed potatoes were on top and to one side with gravy all over it. It came with a huge schooner of beer which, of course, makes most any meal in my opinion. But the chicken fried steak, itself, was better than any I had ever had before. To say that I was pleasantly surprised was an understatement. These days George's is a big deal in Waco. They have a new location which, judging by the web page, is pretty fancy.
And as for myself, since then (sometime back in the late seventies) I have sampled chicken fried steak in quite a few places both in Texas and outside of it. But the best chicken fried steak, just like brisket, would always be in Texas and if you have never sampled it there I would recommend that you give it a chance.