Best Unexpected Chicken-Fried Steak - 2004
The chicken-fried steak at Lola comes as a double surprise. First, who'd even imagine that this upscale coastal-Mexican restaurant would be open for Sunday brunch? Given how packed the place is on weekend nights, you'd think that the staff would want to sleep in -- while their customers sleep it off. Instead, Lola opens its doors at 10 a.m. on Sundays, and while the Bloody Mary cart services the walking wounded, the kitchen cooks up a half-dozen brunch items, from exotic omelets to Mexican-style French toast to an incredibly good chicken-fried steak. Chef Jamey Fader pounds the hell out of a New York strip, coats it in a lightly spiced batter, fries it up and then smothers the whole thing with a sausage gravy made even better because it's based on Lola's homemade chorizo. Rise and shine!