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I've got my binoculars tucked away in my bag and am preparing myself for an encounter with the beast they call country-fried, or chicken-fried, steak. But it's not just any country-fried steak, its the BEST country-fried steak that I want. There is no space on my mantle piece for it, or empty area on my wall for it, but there is definitely room in my belly for it.

Keep in mind though, there are criteria that need be heeded when deciding who is dubbed the best. Here are a few "musts" that I've included in the guidelines of my hunt for the best country-fried steak, which I've set based off my experiences eating at different places.

A crispy coating – It must have a coating that will not only pair well with the steak, but also stay crisp after being deep-fried, then smothered with cream gravy. Of course, after a while the crunchy exterior will sop up the gravy, but at least in the beginning, it should be able to stand its ground.

A good cut of meat – The meat is an obvious criteria for country-fried steak, especially since its in the name. I had a country-fried steak recently, and was disappointed when discovered that it was a chopped steak versus a premium cut of meat marbled with fat and tender under the pressure of my knife.

Cream gravy should be creamy – Don't get me wrong, a nice stick-to-your-ribs cream gravy is nice, but I don't want to have it compete with the steak for room on the fork. If I can can jab hunks of gravy with my fork, it's far to thick. Also, the flavor should be noted. Just the right amount of salt and pepper can go a long way.

Do the mashed potato – Mashed taters are a staple when it comes to country-fried steak. If you sub out a backed potato or French fries and you still have potatoes, so let's make it easy and keep it simple. I know I like my mashed potatoes with a some chunks of potato still intact, but if the consistency is smooth and works, I'll take that scoop of smooth mashed potatoes also.

And there you have it. That's what I am basing my hunt off: crust, steak, gravy and mashed potatoes. I want to hear your suggestions. I am open to them all. I will try my best to visit each one and will not stop until I have found it.

Send me an email, at jrodrigo@vicad.com, or comment on this post. The hunt is on.