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Eating the Obvious: Chicken-Fried Steak in Tulsa at Tally's Cafe

When it comes to online dining publications and food blogs across the interwebs, there is a premium on discovery and obscurity. There's nothing inherently wrong with this. Everyone loves a challenge and the satisfaction that comes with announcing that they've found surprisingly decent sushi in a landlocked state, the best soul food in Salt Lake City, or an amazing bagel south of the Mason-Dixon Line. But when visiting somewhere for the first time, I've often found the best way to become acclimated is to start with foods most indigenous to the area and the most iconic restaurants. In previous installments of Eating the Obvious, I've examined deep-dish at Pequod's in Chicago, po' boys at Mother's in New Orleans and more. Today's entry recalls a visit to Tally's Good Food Cafe in Tulsa for a chicken-fried steak sandwich.

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Located on historic Route 66, Tally's Cafe replicates the feel of a 50's diner. All of the familiar symptoms of a classic diner are present: plenty of chrome and neon outside, counter stools with shiny red leather upholstery, a ton of old Route 66 bric-a-brac, and no lack of red and white tile. But Tally's does not exist to be kitschy tribute to the 50's. There are no hula hoop contests or waiters dressed as Buddy Holly. The décor is certainly something to behold, but Tally's excels most with straightforward diner fare in large portions, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner.

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While in Tulsa, I was determined to get my hands on a quality chicken-fried steak. Though many would most closely associate this foodstuff with Texas, the chicken-fried steak is widely loved in the region and actually part of the official state meal of Oklahoma -  this "meal" also consists of barbecue pork, sausage and gravy, pecan pie and about 5 more items. Tally's book of a menu runs the gamut from fruit pancakes and three-egg omelets to barbecue, chili, and spaghetti and meatballs. But on this day, I had tunnel vision, and "Tally's Famous Chicken Fried Steak Sandwich" had me at chicken-fried steak sandwich. When committing to an order like this, you're generally prepared for the fact that this is no mere "light lunch" and will in all likelihood shape the course of your day (if not weekend). Nonetheless, I was still somewhat shocked by the sheer size of behemoth sandwich which appeared before me 10 minutes later. The breading was a spectacle in itself, and the bun only covered about 60% of the meat, with a knife stuck through the top to hold it all together. A ramekin of white pepper gravy accompanied the sandwich, presumably on the side to uphold the integrity of the breading. Keeping it all together proved to be a slight challenge - a failed attempt to cut the filet in half resulted in some loss of breading (amateur mistake).  All in all though, a fantastic sandwich it was, especially with just a touch of the peppery gravy. Other highlights at the table included a giant basket of fried okra (also part of the official meal of Oklahoma), great French fries, and a perfect BLT - getting this just right is a sign of a quality diner. 

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