We don't venture too far out of The Woodlands to do our restaurant reviews; at least not very often anyway. But we've often heard positive things about Goodson's Cafe in Tomball, and while out that way on business, we decided to check it out for ourselves. Goodson's has a reputation for being the "HOME OF THE BEST CHICKEN FRIED STEAK IN TEXAS," fueled by the Destination Discovery Channel's United States of Food (episode 3 "Steaks of the United States" first aired July 22, 2012).
The Appetizer - Fresh yeast rolls and cream gravy are brought to you while you wait for your meal. The yeast rolls were large, and fresh, but not very good. They were thick and dry and neither the honey or the cream gravy could save them. They looked really nice and we both wanted to like them but it simply was not to be.
He Said - I agree with Chef Todd Fisher, this is one of the best chicken fried steaks I have had in quite some time. From edge to edge, the well breaded steak is delicious. Goodson's starts out with a nice looking slice of beef and they only missed a little on the extra tenderizing on this one. For me, there are only a couple of different sides that should be served along with my chicken fried steak - mashed potatoes and black eyed peas. The mashed potatoes were described to me as having little bits of peel from the potatoes in the mix which suites me just fine. Sadly, my serving did not have any in it yet they still had that real potato texture and flavor. The black eyed peas were also served up hot, fresh and tasty.
Another must have for me with my chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes is a white cream gravy. Goodson's Cafe serves up an off-white gravy that tastes as though it is made with a chicken broth as a base... that doesn't work for me at all, and it was the low part of my meal that day. White cream gravy is really basic and easy to make - and for me, it would have made the entire meal much more enjoyable. Anyone who wants whatever they might use the chicken stock gravy on is going to have to like the taste of chicken... I like chicken, and I eat it quite often, but I don't want to cover it with chicken gravy.
I had the chicken strips with fries and mac & cheese. The chicken strips were thick and appeared to be hand pulled white meat. They were fried up golden brown and just a little on the dry side (hardly worth mentioning). The menu states these come with honey mustard, and the sauce was good - a brown mustard variety. Our server asked if I wanted to try the "chicken kickers, hot & spicy" sauce on the side, since I was hesitant to take my strips smothered in it. It was hardly hot & spicy, but it did add some character to the otherwise plain-Jane chicken strips. Unfortunately, the fries appeared to be of the frozen variety and were actually cold when they arrived; but that was okay, I shouldn't be eating all of that fried food anyway. Besides, the mac & cheese was really good - so good that I nearly licked the bowl (just kidding).
Goodson's offers a few different dessert items, we opted for the banana pudding. It was creamy and tasty, with large slices of bananas, whipped cream and 'Nilla wafers. It's been a while since I've had any vanilla wafers and these, while good, tasted like a lower cost knock off rather than real deal.
The Wrap Up
Goodson's Cafe has a nice country cafe style interior with some interesting decor and a friendly staff. Overall the restaurant appeared to be clean and tidy. But here's the rub - If you notice in the picture of the chicken fried steak, the sides were served in bowls that were placed on top of the steak when it arrived at our table. This always makes us shudder. Sure, the restaurant appeared to be clean but are the kitchen and the counter tops all really clean enough to be putting dishes on top of prepared food? Are the dishes being sanitized properly, every time? This is more than a pet peeve, it's really something the kitchen needs to keep an eye on. As far as the rest of the food goes, the flavor was only a notch or two above that which you can get at Luby's Cafeteria. Now before you react, let me explain further... The flavor of the different foods were, in a word, natural. Meaning that you could taste the actual flavor of the different foods rather than spices that the cook might have used to enhance, or, in some cases even cover up the natural flavors. This allows for a couple of things - one, you can tell that the food is the real deal and not some out of the box mixture complete with artificial colors and preservatives and two, that the food actually is how it appears - and that, my friends, is fresh. Now, we cannot attest to how Goodson's Cafe procures any of their products, but the freshness comes through in every bite.
So if you're looking for a fantastic chicken fried steak Goodson's Cafe should definitely be on your short list of places to find one. In the meantime, if you know of any other places around here that have a great chicken fried steak with, you know, normal white gravy, let us know in the comments below, would you?
Big E McGee's
Black Walnut Cafe
BJ's Brewhouse 1st Look
BJ's Brewhouse Strike 3
Brunch at Goodson's Cafe
Fielding's Wood Grill
Dosey Doe Music Cafe
Hubbell & Hudson Bistro
Republic Grill Panther Creek
Republic Grill Sterling Ridge
TGI Friday's The Woodlands
The Black Walnut Cafe
Whistle Stop Cafe