Dining at The Big Texan Steak Ranch

Approaching Amarillo from any direction you see signs for a “Free” 72-ounce Steak Dinner. They are not as far-reaching as Wall Drugs billboards but still impressive. Seeing billboards over and over makes you think it must be an excellent place to check out. And this place is. We had already heard of Big Texan Steak Ranch from a few friends that told us that we must stop there.

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Route 66 Landmark Legend

Founder R.J. (Bob) Lee sought to create the ultimate Texas experience for travels along America’s Mother Road. In March 1960 Lee opened Big Texan near the Amarillo Stockyards on Route 66 touting “huge, Texas-size steaks.” The steakhouse featured a western atmosphere, a horseback mounted cowboy greeting guests and a towering 60-foot neon cowboy sign.

72-ounce steak challenge!

Bob was amazed at how many of his regular customers were REAL Texas Cowboys who came for his “Huge Texas Size Steaks” after working in a nearby stockyard. He noticed that out-of-town visitors were fascinated while watching these Texans try to “outeat” each other. One Friday, he put several tables together in the center of the dining room, sat all the cowboys together, and told them he wanted to see who could eat the most one-pound steaks in an hour. The entrants tossed $5 each into a Stetson Hat and whoever ate the most in one hour got to keep the money.

The rules were simple; you could not get up during the contest or have anyone help you eat, you did not have to eat the fat & if you got sick, you were out. The cowboys put in their money took a seat & the contest was on, steaks were flying.

One of the eaters took the lead by swallowing two steaks in ten minutes. Next, he politely requested a salad & a shrimp cocktail be served with his third steak. He consumed the extras, then this soft-spoken giant called for his fourth steak & ask for a baked potato & a bread roll. He wasted little time devouring those items & called for his fifth steak.

As the hour contest ended, this gastronomic superman had eaten: 4½ pounds of steak, (72 oz) a baked potato, a shrimp cocktail, a side salad, and a bread roll.

In his amazement & delight of the crowd, Owner Bob Lee stood up on a chair in the middle of the dining room to proclaim: “From this day forward, anyone who could eat the entire 72 oz dinner in one hour – gets it for FREE.”

On that date in 1962, the legendary 72oz Steak Challenge was born & to this date, the contest stands strong.

Is anyone currently taking the 72-ounce Steak Challenge? See the Live Stream here!

Believe it or not, a 120 lb woman holds the 72-ounce Steak Challenge record! Mom of four Molly Schuyler previously completed the challenge in 4 minutes 58 seconds, she upped her game and scarfed down three full 72-ounce Steak Challenge Dinners in 20 minutes!

72-ounce Attempts and Completions

Over 90,200 people have attempted to complete the 72-ounce Steak Challenge, and slightly more than 10,110 have successfully completed it getting their meal for free. If you don’t finish the challenge in the allotted 60 minutes it’ll cost you $72 for the meal.

Three people from Australia attempted the challenge the night we had dinner there. None were successful in completing the challenge.

Most Big Texan visitors, including us, are satisfied to pay and eat, smaller portions.

Our Visit

Big Texan Steak Ranch is a truly impressive place and a bonafide tourist attraction. Before you are even inside, you know this place is going to be good. The building is painted bright yellow. Texas flags flap like pennants and the front porch creaks under your feet. A huge steer, “Big Moo” stands in the parking lot near the stretch limo with Texas Longhorn hood ornament. A 27-foot-long goofy towering statue of a boot-wearing dinosaur “Big Tex Rex” propped in two-story tall sticks of fireworks. And a painted wooden photo op that lets you put your head on the body of someone about to dig in on the 72-ounce Steak Challenge.

There’s a shooting gallery, a wooden rocking chair big enough to hold several 72-ounce Steak Challenge contestants, and a large gift shop with a live rattlesnake. Next to the check-in desk, on a bed of ice, is a sample cut of meat, lying there, juicy with grill lines.

When you venture inside, be prepared to wait for your table at this popular restaurant. You’re asked to scan the QR code to join the waitlist. The 45-minute wait time when we arrived was actually closer to 25 minutes. While you wait try one of the beers from their brewery.

Once a text on my phone alerted us it was time to chow down, the hostess lead us into an immense, two-story dining room where chandeliers of antlers and wagon wheels hang from the ceiling. We felt like we were walking onto a saloon set soundstage of Bonanza or Gunsmoke, complete with swinging doors, taxidermy mounts, spindle railings, and the cowboy-hat-wearing waitstaff.

If you take the steak-eating challenge, you are seated at a table on a stage platform in the restaurant, so everyone can watch your progress as the large digital clock above you counts down the hour allowed.

Lisa order the Chicken Fried Chicken hold the gravy, with a loaded baked potato, macaroni and cheese, and dinner roll. I had the 12-ounce Ribeye, it was plenty, there is no way I could eat the 72-ounce steak! My dinner also came with a loaded baked potato, the macaroni and cheese, and dinner roll. Portions were large, food was great and reasonably priced. Our dinners, my beer, Lisa’s peach tea, and a slice of lemon cake came to $75.

I loved the plate my steak came on. If I didn’t live in an RV I’d have some of them.

While we waited for our food we enjoyed the two gentlemen who strolled the dining room playing western classics tableside for the diners. Hoping they would come our way, and lucky for us they did after we were done eating. We chatted with them a bit and they asked for requests. Lisa had been debating between Rocky Tonk and Sweet Home Alabama. I told her she shouldn’t ask for those since they aren’t Texas songs. When the guys got to our table she asked for Rocky Tonk, come to find out it was the owner’s wife’s favorite song and one they were required to know.

Other Things at the Big Texan

Motel

The 54-unit, AAA-rated property is conveniently located adjacent to the Big Texan Steak Ranch on Interstate 40. Designed to resemble a main street in an old west town, the Big Texan Motel combines the comforts and conveniences of today with the ambiance and decor of the late 1800s.

RV Ranch

One of the Top Rated RV Parks in Amarillo. Located east of Amarillo on the north side of I-40 at Exit 74. Big Texan RV Ranch offers long, spacious pull-thru sites.

Horse Hotel

The horsemen and horsewomen who visit the Big Texan Steak Ranch and Motel can relax knowing that their equine friends have the opportunity to stretch their legs in a safe, secure and well maintained environment. The entire area is fenced with chain-link and each stall can be locked. There is a 60-foot round-pen and gated runs that are available free while you eat at the Big Texan.

Conclusion

If you’re passing through Amarillo and looking for a steak dinner, I highly suggest putting the Big Texan Steak Ranch at the top of your to-do list. Just be sure to bring your appetite! The food is great and the atmosphere is amazing! Such a fun time even if you don’t go for the 72-ounce Steak Challenge.

What interesting places have you been to and can recommend? We’re always looking for neat out-of-the-way places to put on our list of must-sees. Thank you for reading our article. If you have any comments or questions we’d love to hear from you below.

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