Chicken-fried Steak Countdown, Part 11

DallasFood.org

AllGood Café strives to be a little pocket of Austin in the city of Dallas. The Deep Ellum restaurant regularly hosts local and regional musical talent, and posters for the acts line the walls. They make efforts to support local food purveyors, including The Mozzarella Company, Rudolph's Market, Jimmy's Food Store, and Empire Baking Company. (I would like to see them scrap the Blue Bell and hook up with Henry's, but you can't always get what you want.) They offer a selection of seasonal side dishes. It doesn't take long to figure out that--unlike most comfort food joints in town--these guys give a damn.

Attention to detail is reflected in the quality of the sides. Mashed potatoes are smooth, a little peppery, and rich, without going over the top with butter or cream. Seasonal sides off the blackboard are always a good pick. The corn with peppers pictured above features nicely sweet corn that has been cut off a cob (rather than shaken out of a freezer bag), mixed with diced, fresh jalapeno and bell peppers. Seasonal greens aren't cooked to mush. In terms of combined quality and selection of side dishes, AllGood Café was probably the best of the 60+ restaurants I visited in the Dallas area.

The chicken-fried steak has been consistently good. They use well-tenderized tenderloin for the CFS, giving it good tenderness, but also above-average flavor and a very pleasant texture. Breading is thin and exceptionally crisp, often to the point of brittleness. The crispness of the breading coupled with occasional mild loose-sockiness can make it hard to keep everything together. But the breading tastes so good that it's a flavorful, textural delight to sweep up loose bits of crust into a bite of mashed potatoes. Though there have been some modest bobbles in a couple of visits (e.g., slightly loose sock or a bit too much greasiness in the breading), they're the exception. Most of the time, AllGood Café's chicken-fried steak is an unqualified pleasure.

AllGood Café also makes a chili. Brick red, tomatoey, and gently spicy, I couldn't resist the idea of ordering a cup so I could try AllGood's CFS cowboy style.

Though more earthiness and spiciness in the chili (e.g., from cumin and dried chiles) would've made it a better match for the CFS, it was still a fairly successful pairing. The breading held up remarkably well, remaining crisp all the way to the last bite. Unless the cowboy treatment strikes your fancy, though, you're probably better off sticking with the straight CFS.

AllGood Café scores highly with a consistently enjoyable CFS and refreshing quality and breadth of selection of sides. Though priced slightly above market ($10 for lunch, $11 for dinner), portion sizes are generous and quality is even more above market, making it a reasonable value. Highly recommended. Grade: B+.

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