Mary's Cafe: A Guide to Getting Fat(ter) on Spring Break

Marys Cafe Sign.jpg
Spring break season is here. Even if you're an adult with a real job and you say things like "demographic" and, "my HMO is such an asshole," you can still pretend like you're granted that magic week in March sans responsibility.

Because I've decided to accumulate degrees instead of typing up TPS reports and owning real pants, I still get to bask in the glory of spring break. So I got wild last week and headed west with one thing on my agenda: chicken-fried steak. Obviously, the first step to looking terrible in a bathing suit come June is chicken-fried steak. If you really want to ensure your buoyancy whilst bobbing in the murky waters of the Gulf of Mexico this summer, make sure several mountains of mashed potatoes accompany your CFS. Gravy is required. Apparently the best place in the state of Texas to accomplish this task is at Mary's Café in Strawn, so I went to there. I'm just now writing about it because I've been asleep ever since.

Disclaimer: I was unaware of this chicken-fried steak oasis until our own Lauren Drewes Daniels dropped the knowledge a while back on Texas Chicken Fried Steak Day. Bless her. It was quite the experience, so I offer to you dear Aters a comprehensive guide to gaining weight right before summer.

Step 1: Go to Strawn
It's rather easy to find, even if you have that clusterfuck version of Google Maps. Here, let me help: get on Interstate 20. It's long and kind of looks like I-30 but it's not because 30 is not the same as 20. Once you pull your shit together and find I-20, go west. If you go to Abilene because you're too busy texting LDD about your impromptu trip to Mary's, you've gone too far. You've also just gone to Abilene, which sucks. So turn around and find exit 361. Go north for 3 or 4 miles; Mary's is on the right. Put your car in their parking lot. Go inside and put your ass in one of their chairs. Pay no attention to the woman with gravy on her shirt taking pictures of her food, it was my first time.There's a Virgin Mary joke around here somewhere.

Marys Cafe CFS.jpg
Insert phallic steak joke here
Step 2: Order Chicken-Fried Steak
There's a bunch of other stuff on the menu that I'm sure is fine, but there's only one thing that would make me drive all over the state of Texas in one day. They offer a small, medium and large cut of the famous steak, a rather considerate notion to those of us who want to go nuts but always tap out and end up taking 80 percent of it home. The waitress offered a rough size approximation with her hands, which was helpful but pretty inaccurate. My "small" portion was still about the size of the mildly obese cat that lives in my house. It comes with a generous hill of mashed potatoes, a trough of gravy and the winner of the non-sequitur award: a salad.

Step 3: Eat
You know that feeling when you find a duffel bag full of money and the police are all, "Nah, just keep it" and then world peace happens and then J.K. Rowling holds a press release announcing a 10-book extension of the Harry Potter series? That's the same as eating at Mary's Café. Eat as much as you possibly can. The pain in your gut is just your body's way of thanking you for not eating Taco Bueno for dinner again. Work through the pain. Hum quietly to yourself and find a way to choke down just one more bite of perfectly fried, perfectly tender steak. Wonder why you've never been here before and shame yourself for the decisions you've made that have kept you from this moment. Text LDD "OH MY GOD" in all caps. Briefly fight off a quick nap at the table. Embrace the weight gain and get a to-go cup for your sweet tea.

Step 4: Take it Home
Don't be a hero. Even though the waitress is silently judging you for eating as much as you did, you shouldn't let that stop you from taking the rest home. She knows you're going to pop it in the microwave when you get home. After all, what helps food settle better than a 3-hour drive back to your house? Nothing. She knows this. She knows you. So pile all that leftover food into a Styrofoam box, waddle to the counter and pay your bill. Tell them thank you, tell them you love them, tell them you'll be back. Ignore the fear in their eyes.

Marys in my fridge.jpg
You can't see the warning written on the top of the box.
Step 5: Store Your Leftovers Carefully
Handle the box gently because the influx of gravy into your bloodstream will affect your dexterity and you might drop the fucking thing in the driveway, leaving a splatter of mashed potatoes on the gravel, much to the delight of your German Shepherd. Once inside, apologize to your box of glorious food and make it a nice home in your fridge. As you can see, I have ensured my inventory of Mary's chicken-fried steak has a high profile location in my fridge. There, it will feel important and be ready to go when it's 1 a.m. and you're actually hungry again, you disgusting glutton.

Follow these five simple steps and you, too, could be on your way to tighter jeans and less flexibility. You're welcome.

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Waitresses in places like Strawn, Texas, don't "silently judge you for eating as much as you did." That'd be as silly as judging you for being the ruddy-cheeked, Protestant owner of a dually.  


Once you "pull your shit together" you might realize 30 turns into 20 so it's pretty hard to get lost on either when heading west. In fact, it's quicker for most of DFW and even aligns the original route (Highway 80). Either way, I'm a big CFS fan and have been to Mary's twice. Next time I'm going to try the burger as the CFS is mediocre, at best. Gennie's Bishop Grill was hands down the best in Texas.  Does anyone know where to find a proper chicken fried steak along the lines of Gennies?


Mary's is greatness, and it's far enough out there that y'all can write all you want about it! The wifey loves their gizzards, and the mescun food is pretty dang good as well.  Hamburgers bigger than your head, draft beer has ice in the mug...I love Mary and Mary's!


I grew up out west (near Abilene!), and this used to be a regular detour on trips back home.

I don't go anymore, and I'm back down to the pant size I wore in HS. Coincidence? Maybe...


@packetmonkey I've been on a years-long quest to find a CFS that equals Gennies (short of cooking it myself) and have yet to find it.  If Garden Cafe does a good one, they would do well to add it as a daily lunch entree.  Speaking of Garden Cafe, I've walked in on two separate occasions, looked at the lunch menu and then left without ordering because it's not interesting.  Wouldn't it be great if Garden Cafe would morph into Gennies???!?!?! That would be perfect.



The Garden Cafe in East Dallas says they use the same recipe as Gennie's.  On a good day, it's almost there and certainly closer than anybody's else's.  They don't serve it every day, so be sure to call ahead ...

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