The Husband and I are always keen to try local Texas food. Ones that are made by and made for locals who have lived in their neck of the woods for long. After reading about Mary’s Cafe and its famous chicken fried steak in a travel magazine up in the sky, we knew we had to visit that neck of the Texas woods even if it is a two hour drive from home.
I know, we are cray cray like that.
Driving through the interstates, the DFW skyscarpers and suburban suddenly changes into sprawling farm lands, ranches and mountains with mobile phone signal even fading. Mary’s Cafe was seriously in the middle of nowhere.
But even if it was, the dedicated parking lot at the back for this small town restaurant was packed. We knew that Mary’s Cafe was certified Texan because our car was the only non-pick up truck there. Definitely local.
And when we entered the cafe, people in line were all white – ladies with big, blonde hair and blingy belt buckles and the gentlemen in dusted cowboy boots, Wrangler jeans and cowboy hat. Definitely Texan.
As with anything good, there is a wait. Even if you make reservations by phone beforehand, which is strongly recommended, you will have to wait for your table. On top of that wait, that can take between 15 minutes to over an hour depending on when you arrive, you’d have to wait for your food.
If them hard working, physically exhausted farmers, cowboys and ranchers are patient enough to wait, then desk sitting city dwellers can wait. Food will take around 20-30 minutes more.
What to order?
Of course, the chicken fried steak. If you are like me, who loves to check out what other tables are having, you will notice that each table has at least one plate of chicken fried steak. That’s what they’re famous for, so that’s what you MUST order.
It comes in 3 sizes: small, medium and large. The large is really large, falling over the platter’s edges, good for 3 average appetited people. You can share, BUT you either share 1 plate between X number of people or pay $2 extra for the extra plate.
It comes with a choice of carbs – baked potato, mashed potato or French fries, a slice of Texas toast and the token vegetable salad. And let’s not forget that bowl of cream pepper gravy. The kind that really sticks to your ribs, which is so awesome on cold winter days.
Just a little trivia: Did you know that Texas chicken fried steak had German immigrant origins? Read more about that here in a discourse on Serious Eats.
To backtrack a bit, for appetizers, do order a plate of calf fries. What are they? Well, they’re calf balls. Yep, calf testicles. Sorry, there is really no way of going around it.
I’ve never tried calf fries until Mary’s Cafe. And it was good! They come to the table hot, just out of the fryer (so careful!). They prep and cook it in a way that you don’t have that awful innardy taste. Or perhaps because they use really fresh ingredients like from the ranches next door?
The Husband and I tried this cowboy delight elsewhere and were disappointed. We will never have calf fries again, except in Mary’s Cafe.
I made the mistake of ordering their Texas burger, which, of course, was definitely Texas sized. It was as tall as my hand! It’s huge and not as Texas tasty as it should’ve been.
So when in Mary’s Cafe, stick to the favorites: Calf fries to get your appetite going and chicken fried steak.
Oh and do order a slice of their lemon meringue pie! It is light, tart (because I like tart!) and not too sweet. A perfect way to end a meaty meal.
119 Grant Ave
Strawn, TX 76475
Open Monday to Sunday 11AM to 11PM
+ 1 (254) 672-5741