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Tucumcari's Best Chicken Fried Steak
That may not seem like much of a claim if we consider that Tucumcari, New Mexico is not a very large town so how many restaurants there are going to specialize in that Southern favorite? Let's go beyond that and clarify the statement or question to say that Del's Restaurant in Tucumcari is probably not claiming to either specialize in this menu item nor make the claim of having the best Chicken Fried Steak around. For the benefit of "Northern" or more sophisticated readers it's more often called "Country Fried Steak". That's ok, to many of us, it's still Chicken Fried Steak, so have your pick.
I had intended to make this post right after our eating experience there last year (June 2009) but it slipped away from me until I once again came across the photograph I had made of the place. We were on our way home from a very enjoyable holiday trip to the National Parks in Utah and the Grand Canyon and stopped for the night in Tucumcari. What better place to stop, actually as it is an often missed gem along the old historic Route 66? Our close friends and often traveling companions Dean and Charlotte were with us and after settling on the hotel to spend the night, it's time to find a place to eat.
Right off of Interstate 40, yes their address lists them on Route 66. We drove up and down the street before returning to Del's simply because we did not know what we were looking for nor did we upon seeing the restaurant find ourselves instantly saying "this is it!" Nothing distracting or turnoffish, just really not sure what to make of a place we were not familiar with. It is a "family restaurant" so that will give you an idea of the facade, the decor and the type of service to expect. No alcohol drinks available and no white tablecloth formality. If your preference is white tablecloth formality, which mine is not, this is not the place for you.
We settled on the chicken fried steak. As I recall, all four of us ordered the same. They also offered Mexican style dishes but most of the menu items fell into the category of traditional American. For that matter, as we love Mexican food, generally to enjoy that we will go to a specifically Mexican food restaurant. We were more than surprised at the goodness of the chicken fried steak. Without a doubt, it was the best that I have ever tasted. Anywhere. Now to qualify that claim, I have not been to every place in the country serving chicken fried steak (or country fried steak if that's the preferred label) but this was the best I have had. That conclusion was unanimous among the four of us that evening. The size of the helping was more than enough. The meat was tender, tasty and lacking in that often tough, gristly texture common in lesser steaks. I will put this chicken fried steak at the top of my list of favorites and look forward to the next time to pass through Tucumcari and hope that I do so at dinner time.