Like everything in Texas, the legends of the Lone Star State are supersized. But, The Big Texan, home of the 72 ounce steak, is no tall tale. It’s the real deal, a steakhouse and motel located in Amarillo, TX. The original location was on old Route 66, but it moved to its present location on I-40 in 1970. The unmistakable bright yellow building with blue trim boasts a giant cow and an even bigger dinosaur on chopsticks in the parking lot. The kitschy mascots invite passersby to test the theory that everything is bigger in Texas, and prove the premise to be absolutely true. Not only is the restaurant a great place to get a meal, it’s also tourist attraction and place to entertain the kids all rolled up in the biggest yee-haw you can find in the state.
The Texas King-The 72 Ounce Steak Challenge
Whether you serve it still moo-ing or chop it up for sandwiches, 72 ounces is a lot of meat. It’s 4 ½ pounds, and about the size of a catcher’s mitt, and if you can eat it, in an hour while the whole restaurant watches, it’s free. The legend goes-and it’s probably true- that a cowboy wandered into the Big Texan in 1962, saying that he was so hungry he could eat a whole cow. The owner of the Big Texan, R.J. “Bob” Lee, was willing to oblige the hungry stranger, but the cowboy was only able to eat 72 ounces before he threw in the towel. That was enough to impress Bob Lee, and he announced that anyone who could do the same would get his meal for free.
Of course, there’s a catch. It’s not just the steak, but the entire dinner that must be consumed in under an hour. That includes a shrimp cocktail, baked potato, salad, and roll with butter. Anyone brave enough to try will be prominently displayed at a spotlighted table elevated at the center of the restaurant. Texas and American flags flank the table, and a pair of trash cans lurk under the table, ready if the participants should lose their lunch and be immediately disqualified. In the background, a set of timers click down the time, while the smell of grilling meat wafts from the open grills. Above the table, an enormous cow skull with red light glowing from his nostrils and eye sockets presides over the entire procedure. It is a scene that is not for the faint of heart (or stomach).
Anyone who triumphs over the Texas King is given a certificate of completion and a chance to sign their name to the Wall of Fame. Over 9,000 of the 50,000 brave attempters have made it to the Wall and signed their name into the legends of the Big Texan.
More than Steak, a Tourist Attraction
Ideas like “go big or go home” and “you can’t have too much of a good thing” seem to be the holy text of The Big Texan. “Big Moo,” the cow and “Big Tex Rex,” the dinosaur who sit in the parking lot merely scratch the surface of the lengths to which the owners will go to make the restaurant memorable. It’s almost too much to describe, but imagine everything big about Texas and combine it with everything gaudy about Vegas and might begin to have an idea of what waits inside.
Inside the dark restaurant, stuffed bears and other unlucky animals preside over the saloon style restaurant. The décor is so authentic; you almost expect a can-can line of dancing girls to swoop down from the balcony to entertain the crowd. Instead, traveling musicians, some who are old enough to have a oxygen tank in one hand and a fiddle in the other, roam through the restaurant playing cowboy tunes. Outside the restaurant, there are more entertaining options, including a shooting gallery, slot machines, and a candy counter with Texas sized treats. Out back, there is a Beer Garden that serves a variety of designer beers under the constant mist that keeps the patio cool and inviting. Photo ops in the giant Texas sized rocking chair or an antique stagecoach are also available back here. To entertain the little buckaroos, there is sluice mining and a cattle pen maze.
Sit a Spell and Stay a While
Even if you choose a less heroic sized steak, you might be too full to wander too far. And you are in luck! You can rent a room at the Big Texan Motel next door, a decent motel designed like the main street of an Old West Town. There’s also an adjacent horse motel, if your steed needs a place for the night. If the weather is warm (and there is a good chance it is) you can cool off in the motel swimming pool, which is, of course, shaped like Texas.