Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Nelson's: It Really Is (Still) All That!

My mouth had been watering for 2+ weeks thinking about having a Nelsons chicken-fried steak (CFS) again. With the dreamy gravy on top of real mashed potatoes...... So it was with much anticipation that I picked up my friend and drove just barely under the speed limit to get to the new location of Nelson's Ranch House at 1547 E. 3rd. We purposely left to get there before noon (which we did) only to find the parking lot already jammed. Fortunately, several people were leaving as well as coming, so I felt lucky to get a parking spot quickly.

I loved the welcoming sign painted on the glass door: Hello Chicken Fried! Woohoo! When we walked into the crowded restaurant, I looked around, saw a waitress writing up a guest check, then saw the familiar line and quickly ran over to get in it. It all came back to me how it's done at Nelsons: you go through the line, get your plate of food, find a seat then the waitress will bring you your silverware, drink and later check to see whether or not you want any of their divine pie, made by Rogers mother (if there is any left).

My eating companion had never eaten at the old Nelsons. Not only that, she'd never even had a chicken fried steak before. Shocking as it is, I couldn't think of a better place to introduce her to this fabulous meal. As we stood in line, we saw a sign on the wall that issued the warning: be ready to order! I'd forgotten about that rule. It can produce a little anxiety to the first-timer, so to help you out a little, here is a run-down of the menu:
These entrees come with 2 sides and your choice of roll or cornbread:
Chicken Fried Steak
Pan Fried Steak
Chicken Fried Chicken
Grilled Chicken Breast

Sandwiches - Served with one side
French Dip
Pan Fried Steak
Chicken Fried Steak
Chicken Fried Chicken
Grilled Chicken Breast
Brown Bag Special - Egg or Ham Salad with Chips

Mashed Potato, Green Beans, Fried Okra, Mac N Cheese, Baked Beans, Spinach
Coleslaw, Pasta Salad, Broccoli Salad, Tossed Salad

The special of the day when we went was Meat Loaf. I'm told that the Chicken & Dressing made on Thursdays is beyond wonderful. On this day, the man in front of me wanted what I (and 99% of everyone else) wanted, and I watched with fond remembrance: cream gravy is spread on the plate, the CFS goes on top, then mashed potatoes, then more gravy. Then the plate is passed on for your bread and other side. When it was my turn, I blurted out "Do it again!" like I had done many times before, years ago, when I worked downtown.
The line moved fast. The food all looked and smelled divine. But, because this was my first time in 5 years to eat at Nelsons again, I simply had to have what I had been craving. Owner Nelson Rogers (who was working the food line)

pointed out to the seemingly non-stop orders of CFS that "people were missing out" on the other dishes on the line. Not to worry, I plan on returning again n the very near future. I think we all needed our fix first.

Since you cannot have CFS without mashed potatoes and cream gravy, that left me 1 other side choice, so I chose the fried okra (figured why not just be bad all the way around). My companion is a macaroni and cheese fanatic so I knew what she was getting. Both of us got our wheat roll and set out to find a place to sit. We ended up in a very interesting location next to the line and close to where we could hear the unique way that more food was requested from the kitchen: "Hello green beans!" "Hello gravy!!" The okra I got was made from fresh, not frozen, okra. You can just taste the difference. I could have eaten a plate of that alone. Everything was as I remembered. So immersed was I in my delirious food-haze, I almost completely forgot to get a photo of our food. Thankfully, my friend is a much slower eater than I am (OK she was talking while I was devouring):
Here is my plate:
As you can see, I was not disappointed. When our waitress came around the final time, she informed us that there wasn't much pie left and did we want any? We politely declined (this time) and my friend asked me if their pie was good. Um, yeah. It is.

On the way out, we stopped and looked at the newspaper clippings and old photos of days gone by. They have the sign that used to be out front:
Right now they are open for breakfast and lunch M-F however they will soon open for dinner on Fridays. We were told to call ahead (551-7601) to see, as it could happen any day.

It may not be downtown anymore, but I'm so very happy that it's back.

Hello Nelsons! Gosh, I've missed you.


Unknown said...

A bunch of us used to slip down to Nelson's for lunch when I worked for American Airlines. I'm sure it was all good but the only thing I ever ate there was CFS. It was as good as you described it. The only other place that can match it is Ollie's Station out on SW blvd.

Jill of All Trades said...

Can't wait. The Hubby took me once when it was downtown...ONCE and never back again so looking forward. Our office is just blocks away!!!

Nancy said...

Run, don't walk!

Cindy said...

I worked for many years downtown, directly across the street from Nelson's. I ate many a CFS. I remember when they put CFS on the daily menu, not just on Thursday's menu. I also always LOVED their Goulash. Their breakfasts were also fantastic. They used to have the biggest fried donuts and the best cinnamon rolls. I'll have to conduct breakfast research at the new Nelson's location!

Nancy said...

It's almost getting to where I can't even look at this particular blog anymore without getting hungry. Cindy, please come back and give me a report on how breakfast is!