Day Trips

Mary's Cafe makes chicken-fried steak so thin and tender it can be cut with a fork

Day Trips
Photo by Gerald E. McLeod

Mary's Cafe in Strawn makes chicken-fried steak so thin and tender that the plate-size pieces of meat smothered in gravy can be cut with a fork. The thin breading absorbs the meat's juices and flavor as it sizzles on the grill, rather than drowning in a deep-fat fryer. It's a work of culinary art.

On weekends, the parking lot around the cafe is full of pickup trucks, fancy motorcycles, and classic cars as motoring clubs make the scenic journey to Strawn, halfway between Eastland and Mineral Wells. The food is the stuff of legend with locals and Sunday drivers.

The decor is modern-American beer joint – low ceilings, big-screen TVs, neon beer signs, and a gift shop. Business has been so good that owner Mary Tretter replaced the one-room diner she started at as a waitress 27 years ago with a multiroom temple to chicken-fried steak. For good luck, she installed the original diner's door on the new building.

I'm not sure why you would eat anything but chicken-fried steak at Mary's, but the menu includes Mexican food, seafood, calf fries (bull testicles), great mashed potatoes, and the biggest hamburger you've ever seen.

Mary's Cafe is off TX 16 on the south side of Strawn, four miles north of I-20. The cafe is open seven days a week from 11am to 11pm.

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Mary's Cafe, Strawn, chicken-fried steak, Mary Tretter

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