The Garfield Public Library is the unlikely source of the best chicken-fried steak and onion rings I've eaten in the last 30 years or so. Tucked inside, the Hit the Spot Cafe is run by Jessie and Jennifer Solis; Jessie has 39 years of restaurant experience, starting with the old Magic Time Machine. The cafe has been open for four years right on the north frontage road of Highway 71, 6 miles east of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. It's a mystery how I haven't heard about it before, since the food is so delicious and well-crafted. "We just want to make simple food that makes people happy," says Jessie. We are very happy indeed.
The first visit we had an amazing chicken-fried steak ($7.99, with two sides) that was ethereal: a fork-tender, beefy-tasting fresh steak hand-breaded with a thin, crispy crust, and a rich, creamy gravy. It came with garlicky Texas toast, real fried okra, and mac and cheese like Grandma's. The huge basket of onion rings ($4.99) may have been even better, with sweet, moist onions surrounded by a perfect crispy batter – not too thin, not too thick, and not falling off. The bacon cheeseburger ($7.69) is magnificent, with a medium-rare 8-ounce Angus patty and smoked bacon slices, on a bun that tastes home-baked (with crispy fries). A peach cobbler with Blue Bell was so good it rivaled that of the legendary Southern Dinette on East 11th.
On subsequent trips I've tasted the unctuous carne guisada ($9.24), an ample portion of stewed beef cubes that melt in your mouth, and the Tex-Mex enchiladas ($8.99), three picadillo-filled enchiladas in a gravylicious lake of goodness. I've had the Angus hamburger steak ($8.99), smothered in brown onion gravy, with peas and fried corn, and loved it. They do breakfast, which I've heard raves about (their biscuits are flaky and buttery). The catfish looks amazing, and the corn dog appears to be hand-dipped. They do meat-and-two-sides specials during the week, and Friday night is steak night (a work buddy had the 12-ounce rib eye last week and gushed about it). It's a roadside bookworm's delight with fresh food that's simply prepared, and served with a big smile.
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