A visit to the Texas panhandle, and especially a visit to the City of Amarillo is complete without a visit to The Big Texas Steak Ranch, located in Amarillo, along Interstate 40. Not only is the restaurant considered among experts and "foodies" to be the best steak house in Texas, it's more than a restaurant... it's a destination! AND... the restaurant is home to the FREE 72-oz steak dinner challenge...
As with all of reviews that I publish, I have no affiliation with the restaurant reviewed, and there is no monetary gain on my part, as I am simply a person who likes to eat, and I love to write-up, and publish my dining experiences.
Photo: The Big Texan Steak Ranch - I'll be abbreviating the full name to simply "Big Texan" - is located along Interstate-40 on the east side of Amarillo, Texas. The restaurant is a must-visit dining experience when you're visiting the Texas panhandle, and Amarillo.
It's 6 o'clock in the evening on Friday, September 07, 2018, and the parking lot is full, the restaurant is super busy, but I'm in the mood for the best steak dinner in Texas. Yes, the critics say that Big Texan cooks the best steak in Texas, and I'm not in a mood to disagree.
Photo: The Big Texan Steak Ranch was founded back in 1960, along Route 66, and was an attraction even then, as the restaurant advertised their "free" 72-oz steak. Yes, the steak dinner, complete with shrimp, baked potato, salad and rolls is free, but the catch is that you have to eat ALL OF IT in an hour. If you plan to take the challenge, you have to pony up $75.00 to pay for your meal; if you finish it within the hour, your money will be refunded to you, and you'll get your name posted on the wall, and receive everlasting fame. Many people try, many people fail, but according to the restaurant's web site, over 9000 people have finished.
This photo shows the motel, which is located on the "ranch," the "Big Texan" mascot sign, and of course, the famous dinosaur.
Originally Big Texan was located on Route 66, but when '66 was bypassed by I-40 in 1970, Big Texan pulled up roots, and moved to it's present location, along I-40. The "Big Texan" mascot sign was flown by helicopter to where it is today.
Photo: The major mascot, "Big Texan," resides in front of the restaurant on a trailer, but considering the flat tires, I don't think he's going anywhere soon. Don't forget that The Big Texan Steak Ranch also features a micro brewery - I'm a sucker for micro brews - which produces some of the best beer in the Texas panhandle.
Photo: As you walk in the front door, you'll get to meet the super friendly "howdy gal," Sharlene. Most patrons want to eat in the main dining room, and although the dining room is GIGANTIC - Read: Las Vegas casino size - there can be a line, and a few logistics will be in order. In Texas, a "howdy gal" translates into a meet/greet person, and with Sharlene's bubbly personality, she's a great gal for the job.
Photo: If you want to enjoy your meal in the dining room - as most people do - Sharlene will direct you to a "Disneyland-style" line-up, while you wait your turn. Sharlene told me the wait time, even during busy times, is usually under 10 minutes, unless a tour bus arrives. Yes, to the left of the photo, that's a bakery that sells coffee, pastries and candy.
I was by myself, so I preferred to sit at the bar and not have to wait for a table. However, before enjoying my meal, I truly wanted to explore this amazing, destination restaurant, which combines elements of the best steak restaurant in Texas, Disneyland and "Gilley's Club" into The Big Texan Steak Ranch.
Photo: Before really exploring the restaurant, I asked Sharlene to snap a photo of me, with two dudes, who always stand watch outside the "howdy" booth.
If you're a "photo junkie" like I am, there is no problem taking photos at Big Texan, as the staff are super friendly, and photos are encouraged. The only caveat is when the place is busy, such as it was on this early Friday evening, watch out for staff, doing their job, and other guests, and don't get in anybody's way.
Photo: Before visiting the main dining room, I took a left turn and hit the gift shop, which sells souvenirs of all kinds, with heavy emphasis on Route 66 and Texas in general. I wished I'd picked up a pair of Texas bull horns, but the price tag, and the hassle of taking them home with me made me pass on them.
Photo: Just outside the gift shop, and just past the entrance, and the "howdy" gal's booth, is the bakery/candy store, THE bar, and the shooting gallery. The bar, where I eventually enjoyed my meal, and a "flight" of beer, is to the left of the photo.
Photo: Saddle up and shoot at the shooting gallery, located across from the bar. If you run out of cash, there's a handy-dandy ATM to help you out.
Photo: Looking at the targets, I'm sure the vintage television family, "The Adams Family" would be proud of these targets. I didn't try my hand on this faux range, as I was more interested in a steak dinner and a flight of beer.
Photo: The bar is to the left of the photo, with the shooting gallery to the right. Despite the fact the dining room was really busy, with a few minutes wait time to get a table, the bar was nearly empty. d
Photo: After touring the bar, the shooting gallery and the gift shop, I made my way to the main dining room. It is simply enormous! It's as big, or bigger than any dining room that I've seen in any Las Vegas Casino. The open kitchen is directly in the middle of the photo.
You can't see it in the photo, but if you choose to enter the "72-Oz Steak Challenge," you'll be seated at an elevated table, just in front of the dining room, and you'll receive your one hour of fame as you attempt the challenge. During my visit I hoped there would be a challenger, but it didn't happen.
Photo: On this early Friday evening the dining room is packed. Note the staircase that leads to the second story, as there is actually a second story built around the perimeter of the huge dining room. I really admire the waiter to the right of the photo who is able to balance and carry the tray of food using only one hand.
Staff and management encourage photography, but when you're taking photos, you need to watch out for the busy staff, and fellow guests.
Photo: As I entered the dining room, I was pleased to meet this beautiful gal carrying a tray of dessert.
Photo: I decided to take a stroll up the stairs and see what things look like from up above. The walls are decorated with paintings, mounted animals and even a teepee. Staff have to carry trays of food up the stairs, and most of them wear cowboy boots.
Photo: Looking down at the kitchen, to the left of the photo, from the second story. The second story is actually quite narrow, as it hugs the perimeter on three sides of the gigantic dining room, and offers diners a bird's eye view of fellow guests dining, "down below."
Photo: View of the main dining room from "up above" gives an idea of how enormous this dining room actually is.
Photo: On this early Friday evening, this fiddle player, along with a guitar guy, were serenading diners with traditional country music. Note the gal taking photos using her iPhone, as she actually knows how to hold an iPhone the correct way to take photos.
Photo: The main dining room is packed on this early Friday evening. Photo gives a good idea of the second story that hugs the perimeter of the dining room.
Photo: And the showcase of the dining room... the open kitchen, where you can watch the chefs cook your steak, and "plate" your food. Steaks are cooked on the open grill, while other food is made in the kitchen behind the grill, but all "plates" are made up before the steak is ready. When your meal is brought to you, your steak will still be sizzling.
Photo: All staff members at The Big Texan Steak Ranch are extremely friendly, but the chef holding up the steak was exceptionally friendly, and seemed to like me taking his photo.
Photo: I took a peek into the bar, behind the kitchen, and the friendly staff "clowned" it up for me, as I took the photo.
Photo: Meet Allison, my friendly bartendress, who was more than happy to pour me a flight of beer. Since I was dining by myself, and didn't want to wait for a table, I sat at the bar, which made things easy, as I wanted to order a flight of beer to go along with my dinner.
Big Texan has an on-site micro brewery, with beer on tap at the bar, but if you want to take some home with you, there is bottled beer from the brewery, which can be seen in the cooler in this photo.
Photo: Long before I arrived in Amarillo, I'd surfed Big Texan's web site, where their menu is posted, and decided on the "Man vs. Food Tribute," from the "Steak and Prime Rib" section of the menu, which features everything the "72-Oz Steak Challenge" has, except the steak is a quarter the size. I truly was interested in an appetizer - from a separate section of the menu - of "Rocky Mountain Oysters," but I knew I couldn't eat the appetizer, along with the steak dinner the steak dinner at the same time, so I decided to pass on the appetizer.
The "72-Oz Steak Challenge" includes shrimp, salad, baked potato, a couple of rolls, and, naturally, a 72-oz steak. Believe me, I was tempted to take the "challenge," and 20 years ago I would have taken it, and most likely enjoyed a free meal, but I'm not the man I used to be, so I 'wimped out" and went with the "Man vs. Food Tribute."
Photo: Meet Kinsey, my friendly server, as she brings my salad to me, which is the first course in the "Man vs. Food Tribute" dinner. I certainly wanted to attempt the "72-oz Steak Challenge," but in the words of Clint Eastwood, "A man got to know his limitations..."
Photo: My super delicious, fresh salad, came with dressing - Ranch by my choice - on the side, which is what I prefer, as I like to dip my salad into the dressing as I eat it. That way, you can "portion control" the dressing and the salad doesn't get smothered in the dressing.
Photo: I had only nibbled on my salad, and only taken a few sips from my flight of beer before my dinner arrived. I have to admit that I was both surprised and pleased by the lightning-fast service, and I especially enjoyed chatting with friendly Kinsey. With all this goodness in front of me, I settled into an early evening of enjoying the best steak in Texas, along with the rest of the meal, any my flight of beer.
Photo: Thanks, Kinsey, for snapping my photo, as I prepare to indulge myself with the "Man vs. Food Tribute," and a flight of in-house brewed beer.
Photo: My complete "Man vs. Food Tribute" meal, and my fight of craft beer, brewed in-house at Big Texan's micro brewery.
Big Texan's micro brewery offers 12 varieties of in-house brewed beer, and their fine brew of course is sold by the pint and larger sizes - even in gallon and half gallon for take-home - and all beer on the menu looked great to me, since I love beer. But since I was driving, and I wanted to sample several varieties of the beer, a flight was the answer. So, just to make things easy, I chose the first four beers listed on the menu, Honey Blonde Lager, Whoop Your Donkey, Tres Hombres and Palo Duro Pale Ale. Each sample refreshingly delicious, but by far, I preferred the Tres Hombres, as it's definitely a lager beer, and tastes like it was made in Mexico.
During the course of my meal, I found out that The Big Texan Steak Ranch offers a complimentary limousine service, which would have picked me up at my motel room, and taken me home. Had I known that, I definitely would have enjoyed multiple fights, which would have included every beer on the menu.
Photo: And... the main course of my amazing meal. I ordered my 18-oz steak cooked medium, and that's exactly the way it arrived; pink and tender on the inside, nicely done on the outside, and perfectly seared. Quite a steak!
As part of the meal, three shrimp were included, a baked potato, along with a couple of rolls, and a jalapeno pepper on the side, just for looks. For a dollar extra, I ordered my baked potato "loaded," which included a cup of sour cream, cheese and bacon bits. The potato came wrapped in aluminum foil and I removed the foil for this photo. After I "loaded" my potato, I cut up the jalapeno pepper into small pieces and ate it with the potato. Yummy!
This meal was amazing! Everything was cooked perfectly, and the steak was so tender it practically melted in my mouth. After enjoying this delicious meal, I can understand why many food critics write that The Big Texan Steak Ranch serves the best steak dinner in Texas.
It's good I didn't attempt the "72-oz Steak Challenge" as I would have been bringing much of it back to the motel with me, as I was extremely full after eating this delicious, and massive steak dinner!
As I stated in the opening paragraph of this article, if you're visiting the Texas panhandle, or Amarillo, you MUST stop at The Big Texas Steak Ranch. Sure, it's a kitschy, faux cowboy, old west-style saloon steakhouse, and to complete the 72-oz FREE steak is a pipe dream for nearly everybody, but it's a "destination" restaurant, a lot of fun, and the beer and steak are "Texas-style" delicious.
The Big Texan Steak Ranch
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