G/M Steakhouse, San Antonio, TX
December 16, 2007
Having barely slept the night before (due to a combination of very bad stomach cramps and being stuck in a room right next to the elevator shafts on one side and some aggressively loud French people on the other), Richard and I blearily stumbled out of the St. Anthony Hotel on Sunday morning in search of a cheap yet hearty breakfast. He was insistent on going to the McDonald’s next to the Rivercenter Mall, but my stomach and the dimly-lit parts of my brain protested. I simply couldn’t tolerate the insipidness or the grease of an Egg McMuffin after the night that I’d had. Besides, eating at McDonald’s just feels like giving up. I needed real food.
We walked, semi-aimlessly, towards the Alamo. And within five minutes, we stumbled across this, directly across from the Alamo itself:
Richard was sold on the $3.50 breakfast special; I was sold simply on the word “breakfast.”
I’m not an expert on San Antonio restaurants or culinary heritage. I barely know my way around downtown and the Riverwalk. So for all I know, this could be a landmark restaurant — a piece of breakfast history — that’s been lauded throughout the decades which would make my two cents both pointless and superfluous. My Google searches don’t seem to indicate this, however, so I’ll continue with my brief review.
G/M Steakhouse was immediately awesome to me for a few reasons:
- Everything is fried up right in front of you as you make your way through the Luby’s-style food line. I love an open kitchen, even if it’s technically just a large griddle and some questionably sweaty men tending to it. It gives me at least some level of comfort that they aren’t spitting in your food or picking items up off the floor and claiming that the heat from the grill “kills the bacteria.” I’m not being paranoid; I used to work in a restaurant whose cooks might as well have had that motto on a giant banner in the kitchen.
- They serve chicken-fried steak for breakfast. This isn’t really a novelty item for me anymore, but it still is for Richard and he giddily ordered his CFS and eggs like a starved man.
- The place is old as hell. This goes back to the comfort level thing: if it’s been around this long, without changing even the ancient sugar canisters on the table, I guess they’re doing something right. I loved that you could see the even, consistent darkened wood beneath the tables and chairs, indicating that while the chairs have moved back and forth from the table over the years, the tables themselves have remained stoically in place, as if stuck in time.
Richard’s CFS took a little while to cook, so we seated ourselves and peered around at the Texas-themed tchotchkes that coated the walls and the customers whose gimme hats and beer bellies screamed, “I’m a regular! Go take a picture of something else, tourist!” And so I did.
When the CFS arrived, it came on a plate bursting with an amount of food that belied its $6.50 price. There was a good-sized portion of CFS, two eggs, two pieces of toast, some potatoes (“hashbrowns”) and — no breakfast would be complete without it! — a giant scoop of refried beans. My $3.00 stack of pancakes was fluffy and topped with a mound of whipped butter. We wouldn’t be hungry again for at least a week.
Being Texan, I tend to be a discriminating connoiseur of chicken-fried steak. And when everyone in your giant Texas family — mom, dad, grandmothers, aunts and uncles — all make their own, mean versions of a particular dish, you tend to be even more critical of that dish than you otherwise would be. So I don’t go very easy on CFS in restaurants, needless to say.
But the chicken-fried steak at G/M Steakhouse was a revelation. I never would have expected that something so cheap that came out of such a hole-in-the-wall (it may be across from the #1 tourist attraction in the state, but the place is a qualified hole-in-the-wall, nevertheless) would be so good. The crust was perfectly seasoned and crisp. Not soggy, not greasy — just fresh and crunchy. The white cream gravy tasted homemade. And the steak itself was actually tender and flavorful, not the tough, stringy piece of meat I had envisioned. I was able to grab exactly two bites before Richard devoured it, but those two bites were fantastic.
I have to wonder if our man Robb Walsh, the self-proclaimed chicken-fried steak fanatic, has ever tried the CFS at G/M Steakhouse before. He might never leave.
The rest of the meal was good. Not as good as the CFS, but filling and decent — typical diner breakfast fare. We cleaned our plates and waddled back into the sunlight, just as the crowds were starting to fill out Alamo Street. And, as expected, we were full for the rest of the day and had no real use for lunch or dinner. Not bad for $12.00.
So, the next time you’re in San Antonio and you’re wandering aimlessly early one morning, wondering where your breakfast will come from, wander over towards the Alamo and fill yourself up with the delicious chicken-friend steak at G/M Steakhouse. It beats a crappy Egg McMuffin any day.