This is one of a full series of articles about interesting food locations along Route 66. See “related articles” or search “Route 66” for the full series.
Talk about a theme—this Texan’s got one. Everything in this restaurant really is big. Exaggerated big. Big buildings. Big limos in the parking lot. Big food. Big show of support for those who eat the big food in a contest that is nothing short of legendary.
Because at the Big Texan in Amarillo, it’s all about eating a 72 oz. steak, with all the trimmings, in less than an hour.
The wait staff are in cowboy boots and hats, with big smiles. Their patrons sit in a mix of booths and family style tables—passing a gift shop on the way in, and trays of fudge and other goodies on the way out.
You get the picture, so you might as well go on in and have some fun. It’s the pure campiness of the place that makes it such, well, big fun.
Inside, a microphoned circus-style barker counts down the progress of those who have accepted the challenge and have a 72 oz. steak in front of them. Plus salad, sides, bread and a whole, roasted jalapeno, all to be eaten without standing up or leaving the table for that hour. People snap photos, cheer and offer catcalls, and mourn with them when—most of the time—their eyes were bigger than their stomachs. (The restaurant, in fact, actually holds a credit card just in case.)
The tablecloths are plastic cowhide and the atmosphere is pure carnival. The walls are lined with antlered animal mounts, gamely watching the adventures below where they hang. Strolling guitarists will sing songs by request, and one of the seven managers is likely to stop by your table to make sure your experience is larger than life.
David Johnson, one of those managers, told us that the most popular steak is the filet, and the second is the Dallas strip, with the T-bones and prime rib “neck and neck.” But the draw continues to be around the challenge of earning a free steak, which, incidentally, takes a full 45 minutes to cook. Johnson says they get a lot of people from other countries, and that “90% of the time they come in just to do that.”
He adds, “You can always tell when people are headed for the big steak. They have a gleam in their eye.”
It’s bound to be a big one.