Home-cooked Southern Goodness at TEXAZ Grill
You know what they say: You can take the boy out of Texas, but you can’t take Texas out of the boy.
Which, in this case, is very lucky for us, because proud Texan Steve Freidkin’s delicious, southern-inspired comfort food has now been feeding happy bellies in the Valley for more than three decades.
Yes, three decades, which is why I couldn’t believe that this place was literally a half mile away from my house, and I’d never even noticed it. Maybe it’s because the façade is so unassuming, sitting back a bit from the northeast corner of 16th Street and Bethany Home Road, surrounded by trendy places like Luci’s, The Garage, and The Vig. Walking in, I immediately felt welcome and relaxed in the cozy—much decorated—interior. Neon signs, kitschy memorabilia, Texas décor, dollar bills, hats, vintage pieces and much more cover every inch of both walls and ceilings.
“I have a room in back that’s full of stuff,” says Steve. “I’d say half the stuff I put up, and half the stuff people brought me.”
Steve says he basically developed a love for southern cooking when he was in the womb. Both of his parents were good cooks, and he was brought up on beef, biscuits, buttermilk, and all that other southern goodness. When he was 10 years old, Steve’s family moved from Dallas to Louisiana and opened a kosher delicatessen in Shreveport—then in Alexandria two years later. “I was cutting corned beef when I was 10,” he recalls.
Completely self-taught, Steve moved on from his parents’ delicatessen to work at a few different restaurants. “Then I went to work for steak restaurants specifically. I worked at the original Steak and Ale in Dallas after we moved back to Texas; then at a chain called Victoria Station—a national prime rib restaurant.”
“Then I moved here and opened up Pointe of View at the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort, and I ran that restaurant for three years. I’ve taken some classes here and there, but I was never in a culinary program, per se”.
After years of working at other people’s restaurants, Steve wanted to branch out on his own, so in the early 80s he opened a seafood restaurant called Café 44, at the corner of 44th Street and Camelback Road. To Steve’s disappointment, the venture didn’t last long, but he wanted to give it another go—and this time, really focus on the cuisine that he knew and loved best.
In 1985 Steve partnered with Jim Mitchell, a graduate of Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, whom he’d met at Victoria Station. “Jim had a really good business sense about him. We both wanted to make something on our own—something small, because we’d both come from large restaurant situations, and it just gets to the point where they manage you instead of you managing them. We were looking for something with about 100 seats and this came open and we jumped on it.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Well, not quite. There was a bit of hubbub when they first opened, because the name they’d originally chosen, Lone Star Steaks, was too similar to the large, well-known chain, Lone Star Steak House, who held the federal patent for that moniker.
“We decided that instead of spending a lot of money on attorneys we’d just change the name, so we had a big contest. We had 1,500 different names out of 1,800 entries—27 of those suggested spelling Texas with AZ at the end, so we picked that. We had a big party and unveiled the name, then took the 27 names of those who’d said Texaz, and put them in a hat. First prize was dinner for two at Threadgill’s in Austin, which is a very well-known, classic place. We included airfare and hotel too.”
After more than 32 years in business, the restaurant’s signature chicken fried steak continues to be their biggest seller—in fact, they keep count of how many of those they serve. Any guesses? Thousands? Tens of thousands? Try nearly 1,000,000. That’s some GOOD chicken fried steak, y’all.
Probably the greatest indicator of how beloved TEXAZ Grill has become is the abundance of repeat customers it sees. “Easily 80% of our clientele is regular,” says Steve.
I’m happy to say that you can now count me in with that percentage. During my visit with Steve, I indulged in the beef ribs (huge, meaty grips of barbecued deliciousness), and bread pudding, topped by vanilla Blue Bell ice cream. Steve had the Frito bowl—a Frito bag, opened at the top, and filled with beef, cheese, onions, and of course, Fritos. The very next day I went back for that chicken fried steak, and it did not disappoint.
The restaurant offers multiple menus, including ones for children, brunch and Happy Hour, as well as daily lunch, early dinner, and supper specials. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, and they open at 10 a.m. on Sundays for brunch—which includes hearty dishes like paris texas toast (their playful, sweet version of French toast), catfish, omelets, and biscuits and gravy; as well as both classic and craft cocktails (try the cowboy coffee or bourbon milk punch).
The next time you’re hankering for a fun, comfortable environment, friendly service, and delicious comfort food, try TEXAZ Grill—you’ll spot it by the Texas flag flying proudly out front. (Let’s help them reach one million chicken fried steaks!)
eat | drink | share | and be comfy