by Steven Doyle
Each year we celebrate October 26th as Texas Chicken Fried Steak Day, and we do so by one of the state’s sons, Jeffrey Yarbrough.
Yarbrough has a colorful history himself. You may remember Dallas’ original four-clubs-in-one complex, including Art Bar, Blind Lemon, Club Clearview and Red in Deep Ellum, one of Yarbrough’s entertainment feathers.
Or perhaps you recognize Yarbrough for Liberty Noodles, the first pan-Asian noodle house in Texas. Liberty Noodles opened on Lower Greenville in Dallas, and the whimsically chic restaurant received rave reviews. As if that isn’t enough, Yarbrough also co-wrote the nationally distributed “Complete Idiot’s Guide to Asian Cooking” with Liberty Noodles Founding Chef Annie Wong.
Yarbrough with Mike Snider, owner of Allgood Cafe in Deep Ellum
In 2004 Yarbrough opened his public relations firm, BigInk, using his knowledge of the hospitality industry to assist other restaurants and venues. His firm details all aspects of the industry from training, public relations to real estate.
In 2016, the Texas Restaurant Association inducted Jeffrey into the Hall of Honor. A long standing Texas Restaurant Association tradition, outstanding individuals are inducted to the Hall of Honor each year to recognize their significant contribution to the Texas restaurant industry and to the association.
This all leads up to our story for today. Yarbrough is the guiding light to Texas Chicken Fried Steak Day, an occasion Texans can hold true as their very own and celebrate in high fashion with a plate of beefy history of its own. Today we ask Yarbrough how the day came to be, and how he will personally celebrate.
Jake and Dorothy’s telltale plate
“It was something that stuck in my craw that there were so many national holidays that celebrated different things like Mango Day, there was Peanut Day, but there wasn’t anything really Texan,” explains Yarbrough. That is when he approached the Restaurant Association. Then the Beef Council, who wished him luck.
The next stop on this marvelous journey was the Agricultural Department of Texas who loved the idea but wanted to know how to collect fees from the day. Yarbrough shook his head and said he just wanted a holiday for Chicken Fried Steak.
The search for the answer escaped Yarbrough, but he actively pursued the issue for two years. It was one day when he was leaving Austin, making a stop in Temple at Ralph Sheffield’s Las Casas.
“Ralph had just become freshman State Representative, and I was telling him how I was so freaking tired of trying to make this day happen. The government wants to collect fees, the associations didn’t know what to do. I just didn’t understand what could be done,” continued Yarbrough. He said it was like a light bulb went off on top of Sheffield’s head. He said promotional bills that would benefit Texas could be walked straight up the Hill for the governor to sign off on. And so it was.
Yarbrough’s all-time favorites for Chicken Fried Steak in Texas (at least today) includes the following:
Jake and Dorothy’s in Stephenville – the CFS is tender and cuts with a fork but as special as the steak are the fresh cut waffle fries. My family has been eating at this café for 5 generations now.
Mary’s Café in Strawn – CFS top rated but the gravy with all the black pepper makes this the real deal for home cookin. One of the best things beside CFS is you can get Shiner Bock on tap.
All Good Café – one of the few joints that uses tenderloin for the meat.
Matt’s El Rancho – CFS super tender and what I like here is I can get it Tex- Mex style with Chili con Carne on half and white gravy on the other half.
Blue Bonnet Café in Marble Falls – Solid CFS especially when you end with some of his pie
Bubbas in Snider Plaza – Fast food CFS. I stop in here for a quickie, and the rolls are good.
De Wese’s Tip Top Café in San Antonio – do gravy on the bottom which add some fun to the crispy part of being fried.
Zentner’s Daughters in San Angelo – they cook on flat griddles which is a great change from most deep frys. The folks there are huge Texas Tech fans.
Celebrate this day with full knowledge that there is at least on Texan who has your chicken fried back, Jeffrey Yarbrough.