Donna Cooks


Ski Trip Excursion 2 – Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, TX
January 23, 2007, 2:07 pm
Filed under: Food Travelogues

The roads on our drive back from Angel Fire to Dallas were in much better condition than driving there.  We drove through the panhandle and arrived in Amarillo for a late lunch.  If you’ve ever driven through Amarillo, you know that all the roads have billboards advertising The Big Texan Steak Ranch, home of the free 72 oz steak (if you finish it in an hour).  Not exactly a chowhound-ish joint, but I still wanted to stop by to witness the madness in person.

Arriving at the Big Texan, you could tell this place wasn’t just a restaurant.  It was a mini theme park with the old-timey inn next door, the arcade games, the gift shop… even the color scheme of the exterior has a circus-like quality to it.

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Upon entry, we face a podium that has an issue of Maxim magazine with the page flipped to “Top 10 Steak Houses in the US” under the glass.  Apparently the Big Texan made the list.  I had no idea that Maxim was such a definitive authority on steak, but I guess it is a magazine well acquainted with assessing the quality of meat in its own way.

Walk a little further and you see the full 72 oz steak meal (complete with salad, roll, and baked potato) in its shrink wrap on proud display.  One look made my stomach hurt.  Why does EVERYTHING have to be bigger in Texas?

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Once seated, our glib and cheeky waiter (think Dick’s Last Resort staff, in full cowboy gear complete with country twang) took our drink orders.  He recommended the peach sweet tea, which I got in a souvenir boot mug.  As it turns out, cowgirls get red boot mugs and cowboys blue boot mugs (one of our boys got a boot full of Shiner Bock and swears that it tastes the best on tap out of a boot). 

I decided on the chicken fried steak lunch platter (all lunch specials are $13). 

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I know I know, I got a chicken fried steak at a steak house.  I was just in the mood for one.  This rendition was pretty decent, not quite as good as Babe’s or Kelly’s Eastside, but better than Barbec’s.  The steak was a bit thin, but the batter stuck onto the meat well and had a pleasant crunch to it.  Gravy and mashed potatoes had a nice texture and good flavor.  Okra was crunchy and not too greasy.  A little pricey for a chicken fried steak, but it filled my craving.

Other entrees among the group include the 9 oz ribeye and the 8 oz Big Texan strip.

Ribeye with okra and baked potatoes:

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Big Texan strip with cowboy beans and steak fries (corny but well-suited boot mug also featured in this photo)

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I did get a bite of the Big Texan strip which was surprisingly good, cooked to the perfect medium doneness and seasoned well.  I’m starting to wonder whether Maxim is really onto something here.  The steak lunches are also $13, a much better deal than the chicken fried steak.

For dessert, we ordered the one (can’t remember the name) with three scoops of ice cream between two giant chocolate chip cookies, completely shielded in whipped cream, and topped with chocolate syrup.  It was big enough to serve all 5 of us.  Portion size is out of control at this restaurant.

If you’ve never been to the Big Texan, it’s worth it for the novelty.  You’re not going for the food (although the Big Texan strip was actually very good), but all the wacky decor, the comic relief (waiters), and larger than life quality of the place makes it worth the show.  Approach it like a theme park, not a restaurant.  And like one of my companions noted, where else can you test out the Das Boot theory from Beerfest?  And maybe if you’re lucky, on your visit you’ll get to witness someone take the 72 oz steak challenge.

Big Texan Steak Ranch
7701 East I-40
Amarillo, TX 79118

You really don’t need to map it.  There are literally billboards all over town and the place is hard to miss.

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