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The Big Texan's title photo. Horses and stagecoach

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 exterior
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.)


stgagecoach at The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo , Texas
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 at The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo , Texas
Blues musician plays in the back patio

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.

small steak meal at The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo , Texas
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.

interior at The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo , Texas
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."

musicians at The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo , Texas
"Amarillo by Morning"

 A very talented group of musicians in cowboy dress wander between the tables playing requests. It's a scene right out of Gunsmoke.  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."

griller charring 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 its inception,  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.

72 oz steak at The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo , Texas
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 stands 5'7''.

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.

Limo with bull horns at The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo , Texas
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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