While chilling at the Silly Goose recently, I overheard a conversation about chicken fried and country fried steaks. It seemed that one of the regulars had never had either of the fried staples before despite being a native Southerner. I believe part of the reason for that is he's a former military brat who spent his some of his childhood overseas, but it is still surprising that he never had a fried steak as an adult. Although I didn't believe my input would have been welcomed in the conversation, I decided to share my views about Southern fried steaks on this blog. Personally, my go to place for fried, breaded steaks is The Port on Memphis' Presidents Island (which is really a peninsula) where I previously worked for a printing and sign company. With my current employer located on Summer Avenue (combined with The Port's daytime hours), it is nearly impossible for me to ever visit it again. However, there are plenty of restaurants on Summer Avenue (such as The Cottage) that can fill the void. One of them is E's 24 Hour Cafe, a local chain of diners (acquired from CK's Coffee Shop) with locations in East Memphis and Midtown. For the purpose of this review, I will focus solely on the Summer Avenue location although Downtown Memphians like the aforementioned "brat" can easily get to E's Union Avenue diner via MATA's Madison Avenue Green Bus... err, Trolley Line (for those living outside of Memphis, the city's transit system isn't the epitome of good management).
SIDE NOTE: Before I go further, I know there are slight differences between a "Country Fried Steak" and a "Chicken Fried Steak" with regards to preparation. To surmise what John T. Edge (food writer for The New York Times) said about the two fried cube steaks, the big difference is the gravy. Country Fried Steaks (which Edge calls "a pan-Southern dish") are battered and fried with an infusion of brown gravy, producing a crust that to me seems more flaky than crispy (with more gravy smothering it afterwards). Chicken Fried Steak (popular in Texas and Oklahoma), on the other hand, is battered and fried in a manner similar to crispy fried chicken, with a creamy white peppered gravy either smothering the steak or served as a side. Honestly, I don't believe the causal diner will notice the difference between the two (I didn't until recently) and will likely see them as one in the same.
In the realm of fried steaks, E's contribution is its Country Fried Steak & Eggs that doesn't come with hash browns (the steak's picture in E's menu is a bit misleading). Being the "meat & potatoes" guy that I am, I got the country fried steak with hash browns, scrambled eggs and E's award winning (2014 "Memphis Most" winner) biscuits. The steak itself is topped with white peppered gravy that's supposedly reserved for chicken fried steaks (I hope this isn't getting confusing) for a decent tasting dish that I'm sure my "Silly Goose" drinking mate would agree. E's country fried steak itself isn't indistinguishable from other places serving it, for it was chewy and seasoned in a way that most are familiar with. Along with hash browns, scrambled eggs and E's sweet biscuits, E's Country Fried Steak made for a tasty breakfast.
As I ate my country fried steak, I perused through the menu to see what else E's offered. When I got to the menu's last page, I saw something that made me smile: a country fried steak sandwich. E's Cntry Fried Steak Sandwich (for you smart asses who love making fun of my spelling, this is the sandwich's exact name) comes with American cheese, lettuce and tomatoes within two slices of toasted bread. As the main part of a sandwich, the fried steak's qualities didn't taste as good with the cheese that I assumed would be great together. To me, the fried steak and cheese was very salty and not a treat to eat. It definitely could have benefited from white gravy (or "brown" if available), something I will have a cup of if I order the sandwich again. Overall, the "Cntry" sandwich is somewhat decent, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who hasn't had country fried steak before. However, if anyone is looking for something off the beaten path, give E's country fried steak sandwich a try and form your own opinion.
After having country fried steak two different ways, I'm confident in saying that E's 24 Hour Cafe (whose Summer Ave. diner is only open all hours from Thursday through Saturday and closes at 10 PM during the rest of the week) is a good place to go for country fried steak. In addition to fried steaks, E's also offers a variety of things ranging from delicious pancakes to bland cheeseburgers. Everything on the menu is available throughout the day, although E's can be hit or miss depending on what you're ordering. My personal favorite is E's Ultimate Hashbrowns that are six ounces of shredded potatoes mixed with ham, cheese, onions, green peppers, tomatoes and a protein of your choosing. For me, I generally go with eggs sunny side up and either bacon, sausage or ground beef. If you like hearty dishes, you can't go wrong with the Ultimate Hashbrowns.
Getting back to my fellow "Silly Goose" regular, if he still hasn't had a fried steak yet, he should ride a trolley..., err, bus..., I mean trolley bus or whatever (such as splitting either a Lyft or Uber ride with friends which is more economical, not to mention faster) and give E's a try. Preferably, he should get just the fried steak and graduate to the sandwich. I believe he'll have a good time with it.
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Labels: Breakfast, Brunch, Burgers, Commentary, Diner, East Memphis, Midtown, Multiple Locations, Nutbush/Berclair, Sandwiches, Southern, Steaks, Summer Avenue
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