It's fun and food wrapped in one gaudy
package. If Miss Kitty had a dinner date with Marshal Dillon,
The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo is where they would dine.
|The Big Texan's personality
starts out front
Before you even enter, the quirky decor
yells "fun." The building is Western Movie Set, bright yellow
with a blue and red sign informing you that you have arrived at
The Big Texan. Lots of Texas Style folk art decorate the wide
porch and parking lot; a life sized windmill, cowboy
paraphernalia, wooden swings and benches. A huge plastic bull
sits out front with a sign proclaiming "Free 72 Ounce Steak."
(more about that steak later.)
|Just some of the quirky decor at
the Big Texan
Step in the door and you are surrounded by
even more of the same as you wander towards the back patio area
you pass fake slot machines, a party of the undead gathered
around a table, a Texas jail, a red full sized stagecoach, a
ring toss game along the back fence and lots of other fun items.
Midway on a stage area between the main building and the back
patio a Bluesman dressed in western dress serenades you. Pretty
much everyone is dressed in Western duds, either cowboys or bar
girls so if you want to blend in wear jeans and a Stetson and,
of course, boots.
|Blues musician plays in the back
Owners, Danny and Bobby Lee chatted with us
over drinks and some tasty appetizers. The Fried Mozzarella
Cheese Stix and the Baby Back Rib Sampler were my favorites but
the Howlers AKA Blazin' Saddles (deep fried jalapenos) and the
Fried Mushrooms were nothing to pass up either.
However, since this is a steak restaurant,
and a darn good one in spite of–or because of all the fake
doodads–let's talk about that free steak and steak in general. I
had an eight ounce Big Texan Top Sirloin with sides of baked
potato and salad. It was cooked exactly as I ordered it and
delicious. When our server, Mack, brought our order, he had us
all cut into and test our steak to be sure it was right. The Big
Texan wants everybody to be happy with their food. They must be
doing something right since they have been in business for the
past 55 years. Back in 1960, R. J, Bob Lee opened his steak
house on the Mother Road, Route 66, and began the tradition two
of his sons carry on today.
|I had just a small meal compared
to some of the orders
In 1970, he realized that the new highway,
Interstate 40, was going to divert much of the traffic on
historic Route 66. He moved the restaurant with all its gaudy
signs and decorations there and continued to prosper.
|A scene right out of Gunsmoke
The dining room decor is more classic Old
West, wagon wheels, mounted animal heads, revolvers, imitation
gas lights, a mural of mountains with an Indian teepee in the
middle. The upstairs balcony tables have red drapes at every
post. It is a really big room and was packed the night we
visited. I asked Bobby what an average night was and he replied
"About 500." When I pressed about the maximum his answer was "I
have no idea but we serve about 28,000 meals a year."
|"Amarillo by Morning"
very talented group of musicians in cowboy dress wander between
the tables playing requests. It's a scene right out of
Naturally I had to hear
"Amarillo by Morning."
We sat up front downstairs two tables away
from the massive grill where two grillers are turning out steaks
at the speed of light. Between us and the grill sat a raised
stage set with a table prepared for any challengers who are
ready to take on "the free 72 ounce steak."
|One of the grillers making sure
someone's steak is charred just right.
This gimmick is what really put The Big
Texan on the map. Bob Lee began it
soon after opening the
original restaurant. He offered a 72 oz steak with all the
trimmings for free if you could eat it all in one hour. Since
around 30,000 people have taken the Big Texan's 72 ounce steak
challenge but only 4,800 people have succeeded. The age range on
those who got their steak for free goes from an 11 year old boy
to a 69 year old grandmother.
|The Big Texan's 72 ounce steak
But the most spectacular win was just a few
months ago when competitive eater, Molly Schuyler, wolfed down
three of the 72 ounce steaks accompanied by salads, baked
potatoes, shrimp cocktails, and rolls in 20 minutes. She broke
all records and won a grand prize of $5000.
Bobby told us he was amazed watching her.
"She didn't chew: just tore off a piece and swallowed. I started
wondering about insurance if she choked herself."
As all the You Tube evidence shows, Molly
not only did not choke but stood and raised her hand in victory
after swallowing the last bite of her baked potato. You might
think she would be a huge woman but she weighs only 125 and
As if the restaurant isn't spectacular
enough, Bobby and Danny also have an onsite brewery where Danny
and brewmaster Tom Money brew up 11 unique beers. And then
there is the motel just across the street. It is designed
to look like an old western town. Again look for Miss Kitty and
Marshal Dillon to check in after dinner. If they have enough
energy left after their meal, they can take a dip in the motel
poll shaped like the state of Texas. They even have a "Horse
Motel" where Dillon can stable Old Buck.
|The Big Texan's limo
If you have at least four in your party and
are staying at pretty much any local lodgings or RV park, The
Big Texan will send a shiny black limo complete with bull horns
on the hood to pick you up and return you home. Perfect if you
plan to party hearty.
Like they say down there, "Everything's
bigger in Texas."
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