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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mary's Cafe - Strawn, TX

While out on weekend service call at Possum Kingdom Lake, recently, my wife and I decided to drop by Mary's Cafe in Strawn, TX to see what all of the hubbub was about. For years, I had heard of Mary's and their famous Chicken Fried Steak (CFS). Not only had former colleagues and friends told me about Mary's, it was also featured on an episode of Texas Country Reporter (Show #1143 - Best of TCR Volume 2, Show #2) with Bob Phillips, one of my favorite Sunday shows. So, we headed down highway 16 to grab some lunch.

Strawn is a small town a few miles off of I-20 pretty much in the middle of nowhere. If you are traveling down I-20 between Thurber and Ranger, jump on State Highway 16 headed North and you will find it.

It was only a short ride from our service call, so we arrived around lunchtime. A good size crowd was gathering inside, so the hostess ushered us to the back room. It was a bit dark in there, lit mainly by the glowing neon beer signs that adorned the room. Once our eyes adjusted to the reduced lumens, I scanned the menu.

I have heard of the CFS here for years, but never had the opportunity to visit and try it, so I was looking forward to that. I was tempted by the burger, since I have made it a point to try a burger almost ever where I can. When my wife, Kathy, decided to order the small CFS, I opted for the burger, figuring she would have some available for me to sample. I was curious about the comment on the menu about the burgers taking extra long to cook, but not curious enough to ask about it. That should have tipped me off to the burger size.

The 1.25 lb burger at Mary's Cafe
Kathy's CFS arrived in a short time. Even though she ordered the small one, it pretty much took up the entire plate. The waitress came around the corner carrying a hubcap of meat stuffed between two buns. I belted out a comment I shouldn't repeat here when it came into view. My first thought, good thing I didn't order fries too.

I begin to attack the burger and immediately noticed the patty, while very large and hard to bite into, was pretty dry from being cooked so long. The flavor was good, the veggies were fresh and the bun was soft, but the well-done consistency really took away from the overall experience. I proceeded to break it down using a knife to create bite-sized pieces for a more manageable eating experience. 

Kathy cut off a portion of her CFS and put it on my plate. I coated it with peppery gravy and gave it a taste. I had made the wrong decision. The CFS was amazing.

After about 10-15 minutes, I had eaten just about half of it when I decided I needed a take-home box. There was no way I was not going to be able to finish this monster here. Rarely do I bring home a 'doggie bag', but this big 'un was a little too much beef for one meal, even for a big boy like me.

I probably won't order the burger again at Mary's. It wasn't bad, just a little too cooked for my palate. I usually live by my own rule on things like this: stick with the specialty of the house. I should have listened to myself, but my love of burgers won out.

Oh, well, it was still a nice drive to Strawn, a cool place to have lunch and definitely a place to go back to in the future. For a chicken fried steak, that is.

As for the Texas Burger Stop's rating, here goes:
  • Patty Size and Style: monstrous
  • Cooking style: grilled to death on a flat top
  • Char: good char across the patty
  • Bun: fresh tasting, falls apart under the weight of the patty
  • Vegetables: good veggies
  • Napkins needs: cooked to well to have any juice left
  • Special attributes: really good Chicken Fried Steak
  • Ownership: appears to be locally owned
Mary's Cafe on Urbanspoon

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