One shouldn't need a reason to stop in at Frank's Chop House, the quietly solid steakhouse on Westheimer. But I had three: A changeover in the kitchen after the departure of chef Frank Butera, a revamped lunch menu and the impending departure of a co-worker to snowy Minnesota.
I could talk about the room (warm and open, with a few endearing stable touches still visible), the service (excellent) or even the pre-meal bread (sweet, yeasty and extremely difficult to resist), but I'm going to get straight to the point.
The chicken fried steak is the best I have ever eaten.
I know I once declared Barbecue Inn home to the best version in Houston, in a misguided belief that CFS is truly best and true to its origins when it's not overly fancy, but I take it all back. At eight ounces, the portion size at Frank's is large but not oppressively or comically so. The addition of a steakhouse-quality cut doesn't go unnoticed, the gravy is creamy, not too thick and certainly not bland.
While it might sound like blasphemy, the Frank's lunch menu is big and varied enough that no one even ordered a traditional steak. I was also impressed by the Gulf shrimp and white cheddar grits. Cheese grits are a gimme people-pleaser, I'll admit, but the shrimps were big and cooked and seasoned perfectly so they seemed to burst in my mouth.
The Chop House burger came on a great pretzel bun, but it came out cooked about medium when it was ordered rare. Frank's Big Frank lived up to the hype, with 12-inches of all-beef dog smothered in caramelized onion, cheese and chili.
The only true disappointment was on the side order of macaroni, which was overly breaded, thick and generally bland enough not to warrant a third bite. And when I won't eat macaroni and cheese, something has gone seriously awry.
Overall, the meal was a phenomenal reminder that lunch can be the best (and most affordable) time to hit a steakhouse. And when it comes to chicken fried steak, as far as I'm concerned it's Frank's or bust.