Okay, I win this round. Maybe if I’d given you guys a few more clues (or a freakin’ map), you might have guessed Ranchman’s Café as the restaurant that serves the chicken fried steak pictured below. (Anywhoo, congrats to Shelbyg75 for being commenter #67.)
Ranchman’s Café has been a figure on what remains of the Texas Blackland Prairie around Ponder (east of Denton) since 1948. (Or 14 years after Bonnie and Clyde attempted to rob the Ponder State Bank just down the street.) The spirit of long-time owner and founder Grace “Pete” Jackson lives on under the ownership of Dave Ross who worked as a cook for Pete in the 70s while he attended UNT.
I discovered Ranchman’s in 1970 when I was a freshman at UNT (them NTSU). My friends and I used to rent horses in Denton, ride across the land, and tie our fillies to the railing at the old post office across the street from Ranchman’s. We feasted on hand-cut steaks that Pete chicken-fried in a pan and homemade pie and napped under the big pecan tree down the road.
Fast forward to last Sunday when my mom, her friend Ann, and I drove up for a nostalgic dinner. The place looks the same: the linoleum on the original tables has been worn down to the wood. Instead of pan-fried T-bones, the kitchen tenderizes round steak, dips it in flour, and milk tosses it in a deep fryer. Almost everything on the side is fried: green tomatoes, squash, and most of the vegetables-of-the-day. Ranchman’s Café make Blythe Beck’s naughty food look like spa cuisine. Enough reading, watch the video for a tour of the restaurant and a chicken fried steak cooking demonstration. Reservations: 940-479-2221 (pre-order baked potatoes.)