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Hill Country Cupboard

Highway 281, Johnson City, TX - (830) 868-4625
Posted By Michael Stern on 12/24/2012 1:08:00 PM
Like Diogenes searching for an honest man, we are always on the lookout for the perfect chicken-fried steak. We’ve found many excellent ones (and too many mediocre ones), but one of the finest anywhere is served at the Hill Country Cupboard in Johnson City, Texas. This big barn of a restaurant by the side of the highway claims to serve “The World’s Best Chicken Fried Steak,” backing up that claim with the humorous parenthesis, “(NEARLY 3 DOZEN SOLD).”

Texas Hill Country is where some of the best chicken-fried steaks are made and served (most likely where the chicken-fried steak was invented decades ago by European immigrants who used American beef to make a cutlet similar to wiener schnitzel); so to make such a claim of primacy in this neighborhood is quite a boast. But we would put the Cupboard’s steak right up there among the very best. (Two sizes are available: regular and large, the latter as big as a Frisbee.) No need for a knife here; your fork will crack through a golden brown crust that is rich and well-spiced, a perfect complement to the ribbon of tender beef inside. Alongside the slab of crusty protein comes a great glob of skin-on mashed potatoes; and of course, there is thick white gravy to blanket the whole shebang. It is possible to get a “Mexican chicken-fried steak,” which is covered with spicy sauce and melting cheddar cheese: not a terrible idea, but neither is it an improvement on the excellent simplicity of the basic formula.

The Cupboard is a place where locals eat. Two airy dining rooms are crowned with circulating fans, illumination provided by fluorescent tubes shaded by what appears to be burlap feed-sack material. Service is no-nonsense; checks are put down on the table along with the meal.

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
chicken fried steak
German Sausage Dinner
barbecued sausage
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Carol Bayer





The portion of mashed potatoes looks small only because the steak is so huge.  This is an unusual photo because there is no gravy on the steak or on the potatoes.  We asked for gravy on the side, so as to study the crust before pouring it on.  It is a lovely, crunchy, delicious crust!
"The portion of mashed potatoes looks small only because the steak is so huge. This is an unusual photo because there is no gravy on the steak or on the potatoes. We asked for gravy on the side, so as to study the crust before pouring it on. It is a lovely, crunchy, delicious crust!"
Michael Stern


If you enjoy custard pies, Hill Country Cupboard's slightly tart buttermilk pie is worth seeking out.
"If you enjoy custard pies, Hill Country Cupboard's slightly tart buttermilk pie is worth seeking out."
Cliff Strutz


Sausage, beef brisket, and turkey, sided by beans on the left and sauce on the right, with pickles and onion to refresh the palate.
"Sausage, beef brisket, and turkey, sided by beans on the left and sauce on the right, with pickles and onion to refresh the palate."
Michael Stern


This is not a trick photo.  Hill Country Cupboard serves its tea in giant-size glasses.
"This is not a trick photo. Hill Country Cupboard serves its tea in giant-size glasses."
Michael Stern


Nearly 3 dozen sold!
"Nearly 3 dozen sold!"
Carol Bayer


The Hill Country Cupboard is in Johnson City, named not for its famous son, L.B.J., but for James Polk Johnson some time late in the 19th century. It is said that LBJ preferred chili to chicken-fried steak.
"The Hill Country Cupboard is in Johnson City, named not for its famous son, L.B.J., but for James Polk Johnson some time late in the 19th century. It is said that LBJ preferred chili to chicken-fried steak."
Michael Stern


This is the large CFS with their special Mexican sauce on the side.
"This is the large CFS with their special Mexican sauce on the side."
Bob Dale



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