(Adapted from a column published Oct. 25, 2011.)
Besides politics and religion, nothing can get a bar brawl going like chicken-fried steak.
The "best" is a matter of wide dispute, ranging from the lightly floured steaks at revered Mary's Cafe in Strawn to the juicy, thick sirloins at better restaurants such as Lucile's or Reata.
Finally, Texas is devoting an entire day to chicken-fried steak and discussions thereof.
Wednesday is Texas Chicken Fried Steak Day.
Former state Rep. Ralph Sheffield of Temple, former owner of a steakhouse and owner of Las Casas in Temple, persuaded fellow lawmakers in 2011 to agree on a holiday, if not on a single official state chicken-fried steak.
"I did it because Texas has the greatest chicken-fried steak in the world," Sheffield said then.
Las Casas' chefs pound a steak, dip it in buttermilk and then flour it. Some restaurants use an egg wash and bread steaks with everything from tortilla crumbs to panko breadcrumbs.
"I've had it made from prime beef, and I've had it made with scrawny little cutlets," Sheffield said.
"It's just one of those things Texans love. It's comfort food."
Seven restaurants across Texas helped lobby for the holiday, including Fort Worth's landmark Paris Coffee Shop, an 85-year-old breakfast-and-lunch cafe at 704 W. Magnolia Ave.
(Paris owner Mike Smith now also offers a “senior plate” chicken-fried steak. Once, he sold a choice of two chicken-fried steaks, one lightly floured and another thicker with more batter, listed as a breaded veal cutlet.)
The Bone Daddy's sports grills also helped launch the holiday, along with state favorites such as the Blue Bonnet Cafe in Marble Falls, The Parkway Grill in Wichita Falls and Perini Ranch Steakhouse near Abilene.
One of the favorite chicken-fried steaks locally is served at a chicken restaurant: Babe's Chicken Dinner House in Arlington, Burleson, Granbury and Roanoke, and coming soon to North Richland Hills.
The competition for "best" also includes barbecue landmark Billy’s Oak Acres BBQ; Stockyards mainstays such as the Star Cafe, M & M Steak House, Horseshoe Hill Cafe and Hunter Brothers' H3 Ranch; and suburban favorites such as the remodeled Chef Point Cafe in Watauga and Mac's in Arlington.
By the way, chicken-fried steak wasn't invented in Texas.
The first references in print are from Colorado Springs, Colo. It's not even clear whether it came to America with Germans as schnitzel or with Celtic immigrants who fried everything in the Deep South.
And it's not a gourmet delicacy.
"But neither is a fajitas plate," Sheffield said.
"It's just something Texans like."