13651 Interstate 27, at McCormick
It's just a simple metal building, plopped down between the frontage road and a horse farm. Inside the decor is typical of many Texas restaurants: framed, autographed pictures of local celebrities, some western impedimenta, some old sepia-toned photos. Not a very large place. In fact, not nearly large enough for the crowds it attracts. We got there just in time: we were seated immediately; fifteen minutes later, all the seats in the waiting area were taken.
The menu is as simple as the architecture: fried chicken; chicken fried steak; burgers; and side dishes like fried corn and baked potatoes. I went for the Jalapeño Jack chicken fried steak; my friend Rick opted for the chicken fried chicken.
Our waitress, the title character of this post, greeted us as though we were old friends come to call, but with a degree of sincerity that is hard to fake. When Rick asked for sweet tea, she told him they only had unsweetened, "But can you stick your finger in it?" An old line, but delivered with such unforced charm that it still works. She was attentive throughout our meal, but without hovering. She struck just the right balance between visiting with her customers and getting her work done, and we could see that no one in the place felt any lack of attention from any of the staff.
Both our meals were priced at $11.25, though the menu did claim that all the chicken fried steaks were "Texas sized," and both meals included a salad and one side order. Still, I thought the price a little on the high side. My initial dissatisfaction with that aspect of the visit increased when I found that Texas is not as big in the Panhandle as it is in the rest of the state. I expected a CFS that draped over the sides of a respectable platter; I got one about the size of a dessert plate. Big enough to satisfy the stomach, but not the eyes. I know, I'm better off not having gotten some gigantic slab of breaded meat, but I had kind of been hoping for leftovers for tomorrow's lunch.
|See my comment, below,|
re the "value" rating
I certainly didn't leave with any sense of dissatisfaction, however. It may not have been the absolute best CFS I've ever had, but it's up there. The breading was a little crunchy, as it should be, and well seasoned; the meat was good quality, and the cream gravy was excellent. The best part of it, though, were the added ingredients of jalapeños and shredded Monterrey Jack cheese, which were present in just great enough quantity to add their flavours to the mix with clarity, not intruding on the simple pleasure of CFS with cream gravy, but augmenting it. Rick's chicken fried chicken had the same combination of ingredients, and was equally tasty.
The side dishes were done with a precise hand. Simple foods like these are hard to screw up, but also hard to excel at. Yet the kitchen at Green Chile Willy's Grill has excelled. The green beans I had were fresh, cooked long enough to be tender but not so long as to get mushy, and seasoned with a tangy mixture of spices that does not appear to include bacon or fatback. They were delicious. And Rick's baked potato was large but perfectly baked, with plenty of the toppings that make a baked potato so heart-clogging good.
The kitchen at Green Chile Willy's is geared toward speed. Salads, condiments, toppings and such are packaged in the slow times for quick delivery when the crowds start pouring in, but they achieve that speed without sacrificing appreciably on quality. It's a good thing, because the lines are out the door.