The Chronicle visits Texas comfort food specialists Jacoby's Restaurant and Mercantile this week. Critic Rachel Feit finds a great chicken fried steak and other classics "dandified" for the city folk:
On my first visit, I knew I had to try the chicken-fried steak. The dish is one of those culinary touchstones that measures a kitchen's competency. It is also the simplest of all cowboy dishes to make - fried cube steak covered in cream gravy. Yet it is too often done terribly. The meat can be tough or flavorless, the breading too heavy or soggy, and the cream gravy a pasty mess. I'm happy to report that Jacoby's CFS is none of those things. Their steak is tender and well-flavored, the breading on it is light and crisp, and most importantly, the cream gravy is made from real pan drippings and not from a mix. Instead of a pile of leaden mashed potatoes, the steak comes with a light arugula salad and gently fried fresh okra. I do think it is spendy at $19, but all of it is emblematic of Jacoby's craft approach to ranch-style cooking.
New way South Austin cafe Independence Fine Foods is also reviewed by The Chronicle this week. The independent restaurant is a welcome addition to the chain-dominated area:
The speciality sandwich of pork belly bánh mì ($8.50) came on a house-made baguette with garlic mayonnaise, carrots, jalapeños, and cucumber. While the bread was a little on the airy side, the pork belly itself was fatty, thick-cut, and delicious. My side of Greek pasta salad was perfectly seasoned and balanced with tomato, olive, and feta cheese. Of the two composed salads on the menu, my husband ordered the roasted beet offering ($7.75) with gorgeous golden and red varieties and all the usual suspects of chèvre, mixed greens, and toasted walnuts. Salt and pepper were needed here, but overall it was very good.