Monday, March 31, 2008

I Found the Beef - My Town Monday

I like to travel, and I've been to a fair amount of places here in the United States. And when I travel, or anytime for that matter, I like to talk and meet new people. Invariably the question, where are you from will come up since apparently (unbeknownst to me) I have a fairly thick twang to my voice. I think all those people are crazy, myself but what can I do.

Anyway, once I tell them I'm from Amarillo, Texas they either nod politely and say, I'd have guessed Alabama, or they say, "Hey, I've driven through there." And then they mention one of two things. Cadillac Ranch which I talked about in an earlier My Town Monday post, or The Big Texan Steak Ranch.

The two actually have a good many things in common. Both are on Interstate 40. Cadillac Ranch on the western end of Amarillo and The Big Texan on the eastern. Depending on your direction of travel, they are either one of the first or last impressions you have of the city.

They are both listed in various roadside attraction books and magazines, both have been used as movie sets and both revel in their kitschy - ness.

And since I've covered one, I'm going to give you a detailed look at other this week. The following is directly from The Big Texan's website ...

In 1960, the Big Texan Steak Ranch opened its doors alongside old Route 66 in Amarillo, Texas. On evening a hungry cowboy ventured in bragging that he was so hungry that he could "eat the whole, darned cow." Big Texan founder, R.J. "Bob" Lee started cooking him steaks. When the cowpoke finally hollered "calf rope," he had consumed 4 1/2 pounds of tasty Texas beef. Bob vowed from that day forward the dinner would be served "FREE" to anyone who could consume it in one hour.

The FREE 72oz. STEAK dinner is still flourishing at the Big Texan. More than 40,000 people have attempted to consume the Free 72oz. Steak dinner since 1960. About 7,000 have succeeded. People from all over the world continue to visit us to take the challenge and claim the bragging rights.

Interstate 40 is one of, if not the longest interstate highways in the United States. The road runs from Wilmington, North Carolina in the East all the way to Barstow, California in the West. If you travel anywhere on it's length you might spy a billboard advertising The Big Texan and their

*FREE 72oz Steak. Free being the case only of you consume the entire dinner in one hour or less. Otherwise you meal will set you back a dollar for ever once of Texas beef you are served. That's right fail to eat everything on under an hour and the bill will say $72.00.

No, I've never attempted the feat. To be honest I am fairly confident I could eat that much steak, but the rules say you must eat the entire meal which consists of 72oz of top sirloin steak, shrimp cocktail, baked potato, a dinner roll and the very devil itself -- salad. (For those new to the blog I do not eat anything green, especially lettuce as in my view it is the spawn of Satan) And I ain't all that crazy about crustaceans floating in tomato sauce either. Fried or grilled shrimp I like but you can keep the Shrimp cocktail.

If you want to read some interesting facts about the history of the challenge, click here.

Along with the restaurant there is a motel for people and one for horses . Inside the decor is splashed with every conceivable stereotype of Texas and the Old west. There is a small arcade shooting range, hundreds upon hundred of animal mounts, a giant ricking chair. The female wait staff is decked out in the attire of 1880's saloon girl and the men wear boots, jeans and cowboy hats. a three piece western band moves around the table playing old cowboy classics and the kids meals are sered in a straw hat.

Many times they have live music, including a Texas Opry and in the summer they have a live band and dancing in the outdoor facilities.

And of course there is a gift shop stacked with every thing a drugstore cowboy would ever need. There is also a pen full of live rattlesnakes in the shop[ as well as many forms of Texas souvenirs.

The place is frequented by more tourists than locals and is priced along with similar establishments, but I have had many a good steak there over the years as part of our local writing conference out organization normally takes visiting agents, editors, and authors to The Big Texan for dinner.

Stay at any I-40 hotel and The Big Texan will gladly send a limo to pick you up and fetch you out to their establishment. In one of these ...

The limo that is, not the giant cow.

Or, if you are dying to try a a bit of The Big Texan's beef, but you aren't going to be passing this way, you can mail order order their seasoned steaks via But only at the holidays so you'll have to wait a while.

In 2007 Maxim magazine listed The Big Texan as one of America's top ten steakhouses and the travel channel listed it as a top ten destination to make a glutton of yourself.

No it is not my favorite restaurant in town, or even my preferred place to eat a steak but The Big Texan is a unique part of Amarillo and a place that will give you a good meal and a bit of a show while you dine. And The Lee family which still own it today are generous supporters of the city who give back to the community so I don't mind overpaying every now and then. And I certainly recommend it over the other chain restaurant that dominate I-40 through town.

Any of y'all ever eaten there? Seen the billboards? heard of the place?

Links to other blogger's, My Town Monday Posts will be included below as I become aware of them, so let me know in the comments of you decide to join in this week.

Alex Keto reconts a story that got away, while he was a journalist in Bonn, Germany.

Debbie Lou tells us about one of Bishops Stortford, England's famous residents.

Lyzzydee gives us a royal look at England's Hatfield House.

Josephine Damian teaches us a bit of history about her dad, George Washington and her town of New Rochelle, New York.

Sex Scenes at Starbucks takes us down the slopes of Winter Park, Colorado.

Clair Dickson meets us at the crossroads of Livingston County, Michigan.

Ello takes us on a nighttime tour of Washington D.C.'s monuments.

Cameron Williams guest blogs about San Diego, California over at Barrie Summy's site.

Lana Gramlich blogs about some plants near Abita springs, Louisiana that even I can appreciate.

Pattie Abbott puts a bit of Detroit, Michigan's street art on display.

Laura Kramarsky dives in with some interestign signs on the island of St. Martin.

The Anti-Wife introduces us to her college hometown, Carbondale, Illinois.

Merry Monteleone takes us out the the ballgame with a post about Chicago, Illinois's Wrigley Field.


Anonymous said...

I have eaten there many times and I even know one fella who is a member of the I-ate-the-whole-thing-free club. Funny note, they say most winners aren't the big ol' boys, but the slender guys who can down the entire dinner. Always had a hankering for one of those slim cowboys. Guess that's why I married one.

alex keto said...

I'm back with MTM

Jenster said...

Oh yeah. I've been waiting for you to post about this place.

I've driving by it about a bajillion times, but we never stopped there. Been tempted to, but just never did. :o)

Anonymous said...

Note to self: Never take Hubby near Amarillo, as he will definitely feel the need to try this challenge and the children will never sit still that long.

But very cool post!

Debbielou said...

Sounds fantastic! - I seem to remember a film with John Candy in it ( I think it was called the Great Outdoors where he had to eat the steak and the gristle too !!??)

I've done my MTM early this week -all about Cecil Rhodes

JasonScottAdams said...

The steaks are obviously good there. But so are what I always called 'calf fries' as a kid. Good eatin'. Having grown up there with Travis, I just got a hankerin' for a big ol' juicy steak. I'll fire up the grill. Oprah's invited.

Lyzzydee said...

I am not a vegetarian but I am sure I couldn't eat that much meat in one hit. Like you I am severely allergic to salads of all kinds, and can't abide the taste of lettuce, puke!!!
I'd love to visit down your way, who knows, one day perhaps!!
Mine is also posted, I have gone Royal this week.

Terrie Farley Moran said...


All I can say is that MTM sure makes me want to put on my traveling shoes!

Laura will be carrying the MTM torch over at women of mystery this week.

And ~TA DA~ I will be doing Two Sentence Tuesday on April Fools Day, no less.


WordVixen said...

Hm... so if I go to the writer's conference, I get to go to The Big Texan in a limo? Now there's a perk that I doubt is in the brochure!

Not sure if I'm doing MTM this week. I felt like poop all weekend.

Anonymous said...

I have never been to TX. I would love to see it some day. I am from Iowa and have been told I talk funny by people in Indiana. Weird.

Josephine Damian said...

TE: I have finally figured out how to change the date on my posts! Thanks to you!

You can read all about George Washington coming to New Rochelle, and a dad-style history lesson on the way to McDonald's here:

Now that I've got my post up a day early, I can spend Monday visiting all the other My Towners- See ya tomorrow!

Unknown said...

Hey there! I don't have time to read everyone's blog right now, but I wanted to answer your question.

My son is in Kerr County (Kerrville). From what I've been told, it's about 30 minutes from San Antonio. His dad has lived in Kerrville since we got divorced, which was in .... I think 93 or 94!

Aaron said...

I've heard of those places in travel publications or on television. Never visited the great state of Texas, but I can imagine I'd be a sucker for a tourist trap that served steak. Thanks for the write-up. ;)

Road trip, anyone?

ssas said...

I posted one. :)

TX is so crazy.

Jess said...

Passed by it a few times on a few occasions where I drove back to college in Tennessee from California. Always wanted to stop... should there be a next time to pass by I certainly will!

Clair D. said...

I have another MTM over at This is fun!

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

OK - mine is up!

Barrie said...

72 ounces! That would more than feed my entire family!

I have a MTM post by GUEST BLOGGER (Cameron Williams)! Woohoo!

Lana Gramlich said...

One of my friends is also among the "I ate the whole thing free club" (& he's skinny as a rail.) I couldn't even dream of attempting it!

BTW, my MTM post is up at

Shauna said...

I've never even heard of this place. Sounds fascinating in a very touristy way. 72 oz. steak? Oy! I can barely tolerate a normal size one.

Claire said...

72 ounces of beef???

Oh my.


pattinase (abbott) said...

You sold me on it--next time I get to Amarillo, it's my first stop.
I did street art in Detroit today.

pattinase (abbott) said...

You sold me on it--next time I get to Amarillo, it's my first stop.
I did street art in Detroit today.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Hi Travis,

Laura's MTM post is up over at women of mystery. Now she's got a town I'd like to see.


Michele said...

Ugh. I love steak, but I can't even think about eating 72oz of it in an hour. I have heard of that restaurant,'s pretty famous.

Unknown said...

I really like this post! I've never heard of it so obviously, I've never been there! LOL

But my God, I can't imagine even TRYING to eat 72 ounces of steak! I have a hard time finishing a 9 oz! LOL

Love the big cow there though.

Laura K. Curtis said...

72 ouces of meat...I just can't imagine how all those people managed it. I lived in TX for 8 years, and I remember when my younger brother came to visit me once we went to a bbq place that was "all you can eat." My younger brother is not known for being quiet, but he ate without a word for quite some time. When I asked him about it, he told me he was trying to "eat fast, so my stomach doesn't realize it's full." OY!

Josephine Damian said...

Travis, I would happily eat the salad for you, and leave the steak to you. At the risk of starting an Oprah-sized brouhaha - I just don't think the beef industry is being honest with us about beef safety, and because of mad cow, my steak eating days have been longer over.

Bet the kids love those big steers they have outside, though.

BTW, I have a variation-on-the-my-town-theme idea to run past you. Will send you an email.

Clare2e said...

Even in Big D, we'd heard of the Big Texan. My dad once said he won the 72 oz challenge. I'm not saying he couldn't have- he was a world-class eater in the day- but I would've liked to have seen a picture of him with the empty plate or a certificate or something.

Even though I'm a native, I just love stuff like that. The kitschy-er, the better. Do they have praline patties at the cash register?

The Anti-Wife said...

Im in with my college town of Carbondale, IL

Charles Gramlich said...

I think I could handle the 72 ounce challenge. I've got to get over there and get r done.

Monnik said...

I love My Town Mondays...

Someday I'll do a post of my own. I should start working on it now... That way it'll be ready on a Monday in 2014.

Merry Monteleone said...

I'm not partial to steak (don't ask, I do eat red meat I'm just not partial to steak for some reason... but veal, I love, go figure)

I have never been there, but it sounds like a lot of fun even if it is for the tourists- you paint a great picture, Travis.

I did get up a My Town Monday this week at my place. In honor of opening day, it's on Wrigley Field.

B.E. Sanderson said...

Funny. This place was just featured on the Travel Channel. I think the show was Food Paradise and they were talking about 'steak paradise', so of course, your restaurant was on there. I thought about you while I was watching it. (Cuz you're the only person I know in Amarillo.)

Britta Coleman said...

The Big Texan actually serves up a pretty good breakfast, too. Never tried the steak challenge, never want to!

Cicily Janus said...

Yep, had my first Big Texan Experience with you and Hilary and a bunch of other people, other than Jen, that I can't quite recall their names. And I AM SORELY disappointed you didn't try to go for the 72oz thing. That's the only reason I drove all that way to see you...

Oh, and the traveling string men were my favorite.


Bubblewench said...

It's 640am now I want steak and eggs. Damn why did I pick NOW and TODAY to catch up on you? I'm hungry. How far is Amarillo from here? Can I make it by lunch?

Have I mentioned how much I love this Monday thing? It's really cool. Thanks!