Contrary to popular belief, I do my very best to eat as healthy as I can during the week. I have even gone as far as to cut down on most meats and breads and have added more vegetables and fruits to my regular diet, so there’s that.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t get those cravings for the big bad high calorie kill-me meal, so at least once a week, I allow myself one meal out and when I do, I do it in the name of the Lost Ogle. And, in case you can’t tell the running theme over the past few weeks, I’ve been searching for the best chicken fried steaks in the city, one restaurant at a time.
(Don't worry, I'm still on the look-out for Indian Tacos too.)
This week’s attempt comes from a tip someone sent me (sorry, I forgot who), suggesting that the “best down-home chicken-fry in the city is at Jimmy’s down on SW 59th.” It was an establishment I was familiar with, having driven by it numerous times whilst cruising the area, but have never stopped there, which, when I think about it, is doubly strange when you learn the joint’s full title is Jimmy’s Round-Up Café & Fried Pies.
You just had to add the fried pies, didn’t ya?
Looking a bit nicer than most of the eateries down that road, Jimmy’s, 1301 SW 59th St., is definitely an old-school diner with an old-school clientele and it should be, having been open for over 25 years. Stopping by after church on a Sunday, it was mostly filled with grizzled old men sitting by themselves, eating plates of biscuits and gravy while the old-school waitresses attempted bits of small-talk in-between refills of harsh coffee.
Famous for their hot, hand-pinched yeast rolls, a big basket of these butter-topped portions of manna from Heaven appeared at our table before we could even order anything and it was hard to not dig right into them, so why fight it? Slathered with sweet cinnamon butter, these rolls were a meal unto themselves and I almost just ordered another basket, threw a twenty on the table and left, but, you know…chicken fried steak.
Giving the menu a quick glance, it was filled with traditional diner fare like chicken ‘n’ dumplings and meatloaf and such. The chicken-fried steak was beautifully described as “Hand breaded! Never frozen! Our biggest chicken fried steak ever! More meat!”
Ordered along with the quintessential sides of cream gravy, mashed potatoes and fried okra, I’ve got to say that the above picture truly doesn’t do the meal justice. The meat had a good steak to breading ratio, with the insides pounded to a tender, fork-cut consistency while the breading was crispy and crunchy, spiced perfectly and never soggy. Whatever taste you’re imagining in my mouth at this moment, it’s better than that. And don’t forget the peppery gravy! I know I won't. Ever.
The mashed potatoes were homemade and creamy, but it was the fresh okra that really topped the meal. Crisp and hand-breaded, it was like how grandma used to make. If your grandma was white. Mine was Mexican and used to make tamales. Confused-face emoticon.
One thing I was not confused about however was the fact there was no way that I was gonna leave without at least sampling some of my own private kryptonite, their in-the-title fried fruit pies. Really, what a better way to end a meal like this than with a hot, fresh-out-the-fryer handheld cherry pie?
So rich, so flaky, so slowly oozing hot cherry filling like a confectionery Cronenberg motif, I think I might want this instead of cake at my next birthday party. Or funeral, whichever comes first. Its sugary braided crust and buttery outside was total overkill to any already pre-meditated massacre of sweetness on the inside. Jimmy’s definitely gives the Arbuckle folks a run for their money.
I can’t recommend Jimmy’s Round-Up Café enough. Overall, it is definitely a top contender for best chicken fried steak in the city and what makes it all the more special is that it is that hidden gem that only a few people know about, keeping their cooking honest and non-pretentious and truly from the heart.
Louis Fowler gets it: you guys like Cheever's. Follow him on Twitter at @LouisFowler.