|NE Corner of 16th St. & Bethany Home Rd||CFS Served 916512
Jason Kiningham, Special for the Rep
October 28, 2004
"Over 566,782 Chicken Fried Steaks Served."
That's what the sign reads outside TexAZ Grill at 16th Street and Bethany Home Road in Phoenix. And it's true -- owners Steve Freidkin and Jim Mitchell have been keeping track since 1985, when they opened the place.
Back then, it was called Lone Star Steaks, a one-of-a-kind Texas-style steakhouse that promised "great food, from a real Texan, done one meal at a time."
Seems they weren't the only ones with the idea however -- a Kansas-based restaurant conglomerate with a very similar name moved into town and threatened to take them to court to stop using the words "Lone Star."
Instead of spending money on lawyers or the risk of being confused with a national chain, they changed their name to TexAZ Grill (officially pronounced tex-azz), the result of a contest put forth to loyal customers.
Once inside, it's apparent that this is no chain restaurant.
The theme of Texas is everywhere you look. Stuffed armadillos behind the bar. Texas artwork and posters on almost every inch of the walls. Trucker hats on the ceiling. A collection of Texas chili cans by the kitchen. And my favorite, a vintage jukebox in which every song contains the word "Texas" or is sung by an artist who was born or died in the Lone Star state.
Many of the title sleeves are signed by the artists who've come in to dine -- names like Willie Nelson, George Strait and Tanya Tucker.
The Texas theme carries over to the food, of course, and just about everything is made from scratch.
On the lunch menu, you'll find the signature chicken-fried steak, a double-dipped cube steak fried to perfection and served with homemade, skin-in mashed potatoes with peppery sawmill gravy, corn and a buttermilk biscuit -- a filling meal to say the least for a mere $6. It is no surprise why they've sold so many.
Other good lunch choices include the chicken-fried chicken, fried catfish and Southern-style pork chops (all $6 each). My pick though, is the chopped BBQ Brisket sandwich ($5) -- tender slow-smoked beef shredded on a sesame seed egg bun and topped with a homemade tangy barbecue sauce. A truly delicious taste of Texas, but you may want to ask for extra barbecue sauce on the side.
If you're in the mood for a slightly lighter lunch, try the chef's salad ($5.50), turkey club ($5.50) or grilled chicken sandwich ($5). Die-hard American traditionalists will find comfort in the 6-ounce hand-formed beef burger ($5) served with TexAZ fries -- large, home-style chunks of potatoes, not the skinny shoestring variety found most places.
Supper here consists of a somewhat simpler menu. There are no appetizers -- sorry, no hot wings or jalapeno peppers -- and no specialty salads. Just a down-home offering of dishes, with a major emphasis on meat.
Steaks are the star attraction and choices include filet ($17), rib-eye ($14), New York strip ($14) and Texas T-bone ($17).
There's also smoked prime rib available in two cuts (regular, $14, and Mulligan, $17) if you're lucky enough to catch it before they run out.
A standout item on the menu is the homemade chili. It's an award-winning Texas recipe chock-full of meat (no beans) served in a heavy mug ($2) or bowl ($3) with grated cheese, onions and a hot pepper.
If you're daring, there's a collection of Texas hot sauces at the bar.
Dinner portions of the chicken-fried steak are $10, along with catfish ($10), pork chops ($10) and beer-battered shrimp ($14).
My favorite items on the dinner menu, though, and probably the most healthful, are the kebabs. Plump pieces of chicken breast ($10) or juicy filet ($14) skewered with grilled onion, green pepper, mushrooms and tomato. They're cooked in a tasty butter sauce, but if you're calorie-conscious, order them "dry" without the sauce.
Every dinner is served with a house salad with homemade ranch or honey-mustard and choice of potato, mashed or fried.
Plan to come thirsty, too. There's a nice selection of beers, including Texas' Lonestar and Shiner Bock. Plus one of the best-tasting house margaritas in town (order a top-shelf or Patron margarita for an extra-special kick). And if you like your drink spicy, the house Bloody Mary will turn your ears red.
There are a couple of downsides worth noting: Parking can be tough in the tight-spaced lot out front, and there is often a decent wait for a table, especially on the weekends.
Reservations are only accepted for parties of six or more. But once seated, service is usually fast and friendly.
My preference is to try for a seat at the bar, which is fashioned from an old shuffleboard table. Here there's little wait for a cold drink, plus pretzels and spicy peanuts to snack on. There's also a stack of Texas magazines to peruse, and a humorous collection of bumper stickers with such sayings as "Honk if you've slept with Jim Bakker" and "Grow your own dope, plant a man." Plus, you never know what kind of character you might sit next to.