Thursday, January 1, 2009
Whoa!Totally #9: Chopped Steak
I rediscovered the wonders of the disappearing phenomenon that is chopped steak (or, "chop't" steak) this afternoon when Adam & I decided to go to Threadgill's for New Year's day lunch. Despite my initial qualms when ordering, the chop't steak turned out to be a panacea for all my hangover-related ills. Hallelujah! ...or maybe that was the Tito's bloody mary working its magic...
In any case, the steak (which I paired with fried okra and black-eyed peas for luck) was wickedly delicious! That's why chopped steak is my New Year's Day whoa!totally.
The chopped steak is one of those weird 50s foods (like Van Camp's Beanee Weenees, or carrot slaw with raisins) that time unfortunately forgot. I don't think the chopped steak is purely regional, but it does seem to hold more sway in Texas because of its connection with the famous Nighthawk Diners. If you were a kid or a bachelor living in Texas in the mid-60s through the mid-80s, the "steak n' taters" t.v. dinner pictured above (sans cooking tray) is probably intimately familiar to you. And don't you miss it? It doesn't look very appetizing, but boy did it hit the spot! Nothing else tastes quite like it.
On Threadgill's menu the desciption of the steak isn't much more than a tribute to the Night Hawk/Frisco Shop's Top Chop't Steak. Which is weird considering the Frisco Shop is right down the street. Shouldn't it be considered competition? Wouldn't Threadgill's attempt to stake a claim (heh heh) in the chopped steak territory instead of advertising for their nearest competitor? Perhaps they were losing business from people who just really wanted Night Hawk chopped steak, but I'm guessing that both restaurants feel pretty solid in their historic-Austin-institution status (Threadgill's opened in 1933, Nighthawk in 1932) that they're not overly worried about being generous with one another.
Once I was reacquainted with the steak, I remembered that it used to be everywhere. It was a diner staple: chopped steak, a scoop of cottage cheese in a lettuce leaf with a maraschino cherry on top, and a peach half. Um, yum much? What do you say, people: holla if you wanna bring back the chop't steak!