DallasFood.org did a series of detailed reports on finding the best chicken fried steak in Dallas a while ago (reports now published in D Magazine). Imagine my shock when the #1 CFS was finally revealed to be at none other than Ozona Bar & Grill, a mini chain with two locations, one in Dallas, and one in none other than Aggie Mecca, College Station. In my 4 years at Texas A&M, I never went to Ozona. The College Station location is on a street with tons of chain restaurants (I think this actually describes every street in College Station). Tucked between Johnny Carino’s, Rudy’s BBQ, and Fazoli’s, it never struck me that Ozona would be anything special.
Seeing that I’m not the lone CFS fan in my group of friends, we had to give this #1 place a shot. Among my little group, our favorite (and perhaps biased favorite since it is Aggie-owned) CFS joint in the Dallas area is Kelly’s Eastside in downtown Plano. We had to compare, was Ozona going to takeover as the new favorite?
We met up for dinner at Ozona on a Monday night, which happened to be $1 margarita night, which equals great news. We were off to a good start, and an even better one when we ordered onion rings as an appetizer.
It’s amazing how in this world of fancy culinary techniques and new fusion ideas, a decent basket of onion rings is still a rarity. The ones at Ozona, crispy and golden and not too greasy, were perfection. The honey mustard dipping sauce was the perfect complement. I love onion rings. Before this visit to Ozona, my favorites were from Clear Springs Seafood Restaurant in Tyler, Texas. The ones at Ozona are at least as good if not better, and a lot closer to home.
The $9.50 CFS plate comes with fries and a salad. After seeing all the raves about the spinach salad on DallasFood.org, that’s the choice I went with.
The spinach salad, with sliced mushrooms, bacon bits, croutons, battered fried jalapenos, and shredded cheese in a honey mustard dressing, is much more than what you would expect from a starter salad. It was a memorable salad, but a tad overdressed on this visit. Usually with a side salad, my complaint is that it comes with too few croutons. My complaint on this one is actually the opposite, almost half the bowl was croutons. I could’ve used a few more leaves of spinach.
Onto the main course (and reason we were there)! CFS with french fries (this is actually half the serving size since I split a plate with someone. At $9.50, this is a great deal since it easily feeds two).
This was a good CFS. It has been tenderized so it was not at all grainy and the batter was very crispy. DallasFood.org was right on with its assessment of the CFS’s strong beefy flavor. I thought the gravy, though creamy with just the right amount of viscosity, could’ve used a tad more black pepper. I have to argue that with my personal preference, I thought the CFS had been over-tenderized, so much so that it lost some of the texture you expect from CFS. Perhaps I’ll have to try DallasFood.org’s runner up CFS at Allgood Cafe that has more of the grainy texture I’m used to.
Onto the sides. The fries here are mediocre at best. The soggy, greasy fries boggle the mind. How can the battered fried onion rings, jalapeno pepper toppers, and CFS be of such golden crisp perfection when the fries just plain suck? DallasFood.org raised the same question in its reports, and I have no answer. To be fair, DallasFood.org did say to order the garlic mashed potatoes (which are supposed to be smashing) in place of the fries but I forgot on this visit. The white toast is, well, white toast.
If the CFS at Ozona Grill and Kelly’s Eastside are comparable (though different in style) in quality, taste, price, and size (Ozona gives two regular sized pieces whereas Kelly’s gives you one giant slab of cow), then who reigns supreme? It comes down to the side dishes. If you’re a huge fan of Ozona spinach salad and can remember to sub out garlic mashed potatoes for the soggy fries, then go for Ozona. But I’ll still vote for Kelly’s Eastside as my favorite. You get a choice of two vegetable sides (love their mashed potatoes topped with queso and squash casserole when it’s available) and most importantly, that awesome buttery, fluffy corn bread. It’s a million times better than white toast.
But I’ll still come back to Ozona, if nothing else but for their beautiful onion rings and $1 margarita nights. I guess I’ll have a CFS while I’m at it :)
Rating: 4 /5
Ozona Bar & Grill
4615 Greenville Ave.
Dallas, TX 75206
As a complete side note, my friend had his stereo jacked from his truck while we were eating dinner at Ozona (he parked right in the main parking lot). So make sure you take extra precautions (put away your stereo face if that’s an option) if you go here.