Route 66 Amarillo, Texas ~ The Big Texan Steak Ranch!

Route 66 Amarillo, Texas ~ The Big Texan Steak Ranch!

In recent years, millions of people snap photos of food or something odd while on vacation, then upload the pictures to internet social networks, travel blogs or photo sharing websites.  This social medium has spawned a new breed of tourist that eagerly seeks places that offer out of the ordinary photo opportunities.  Oddly enough, these folks are attracted to good old fashioned tourist traps and there is no better road for finding roadside oddities than good old Route 66!  

Any senior citizen in America that remembers the golden age of Route 66 tourism can vouch to the fact that some of the weirdest tourist traps in the world were located along Route 66.  The modern smart phone “photo image up-loaders” actually have helped to bring many of the old cheesy Route 66 tourist traps back to life, which is like a blessing for fans of corny roadside attractions.  

The entire 2,448 mile length of Route 66 definitely is smart phone camera “foodie” haven! There are more weird, strange and nostalgic restaurant themes along this long road than one can possibly count. Route 66 hosts some of the best classic diners, old fashioned burger stands, malt shops and steakhouses that one can imagine and each has a unique theme that is designed to lure tourists in. Dining value and customer satisfaction are the keys to success for businesses on the Mother Road. Most of the old fashioned tourist trap restaurants still serve up great big portions of classic American food, just like back in the good old days when drive-in movies and malt shops were king.  Classic Route 66 food sure does have a way of putting a smile on any serious “foodie’s” face!  

One of the greatest “foodie” destinations in the entire Southwest, or the entire world for that matter, is located on old Route 66 in Amarillo, Texas.  When driving on Interstate Highway 40 or Route 66 through the Texas panhandle, one simply cannot ignore the gigantic roadside billboard advertisements that say, “Finish The 72 Ounce Steak … And Its Free!”  In a way, the old Route 66 style big billboard advertising scheme actually is ingenious!  Upon seeing the first big steak billboard along the highway, most people only focus on the 72 Ounce Steak part of the advertisement.  After seeing the billboard, the first words usually heard in the car go something like, “A 72 Ounce Steak? … Boy, I sure am hungry! … There is no way I could possibly eat that much beef, but I am willing to die trying!”

Next thing you know, the conversation of the passengers shifts to “What was the name of that place?  …  You know, the place on that billboard that advertised the 72 Ounce Steak For Free?”  Then everybody in the car realizes that their attention was fixated only on the thought of a huge free steak! From that point on, the entire mission of everybody in the car turns to keeping an eye out for the next billboard ad along the highway, just to get the name of the place.  The road through the Texas Panhandle seemingly stretches out nearly forever and it can take quite a spell for the next little dot of a billboard to appear on the horizon, so of course the hopes are all built up, Then of course, the next billboard turns out to be a real let down, because it advertises some kind of a wax museum or a kid’s petting zoo.  The billboard spotting game only increases the dining anticipation, which helps to wet the appetite for a big eating challenge.  

Finally after picking up the pace, another billboard ad for the giant 72 Ounce Steak For Free goes zipping by.  Then the big eyed driver says, “The Big Texan Steak Ranch!  Wow!  …  That sure does sound like a place that serves up a great steak and its on old historic Route 66!”  Then one of the kids in the car says, “I already looked it up on my smart phone and got the address on the GPS!”  Of course the parents look at each other with agreement and say, “A 72 Ounce Steak Dinner For Free? … Its on!” 

There is nothing better than a great Route 66 tourist trap restaurant when driving across the country while on vacation.  This is especially true if there are kids in the car.  Parents can rest assured that every family member in the car will be thoroughly entertained and everybody will eagerly finish every last bit of food on their plate. This can help to keep peace in a crowded car.  

On the other hand, the thought of attempting a monumental eating challenge while on the road is enough to snap a dreamer back into reality. The trip to the next big city is a mighty long way from Amarillo and just the thought of stuffing the belly with 72 ounces of beef with all the fixin’s is enough to cause a person to slip into a meat intoxication coma! The Big Texan Steak Ranch 72 Ounce Steak Challenge is a monumental feat that only a few have conquered, while countless others who fell short of the goal ended up paying full price after the failed attempt.  

Like the old saying goes, “Everything is big in Texas!”  This saying definitely holds true at The Big Texan Steak Ranch.  This Route 66 landmark has been in business since 1960 and this is a hallmark achievement in itself.  The Big Texan Steak Ranch is a great steakhouse and gigantic old west tourist trap all wrapped up in one.  Visitors can get primed at the saloon long bar, while looking at countless old west antiques, oddities and trophy wall hangers.  There are one arm bandit slot machines for the grown ups and a super creepy hall of horrors shooting gallery for kids of all ages.  Plenty of old classic pinball games and carnival tests of skill are located in the waiting area, so nobody becomes bored.  

The gift shop is loaded with everything Texas and plenty of one of a kind collectible items.  Everything from cowboy hats to haunted old portraits that change into a creepy image when walking by, can be found in the Big Texan Steak Ranch Gift Shop.  In my opinion, this Texas style tourist trap gift shop is one of the best in the west!  

The dining room at the Big Texan Steak Ranch is big enough to seat busloads of hungry customers.  There is picnic table seating for large families and strolling musicians provide entertainment while strumming the guitar and singing old west cowboy tunes. This grandiose old fashioned western dining hall sure does have some character and the raised center table is reserved for those who take on the 72 Ounce Steak Challenge.  

The Big Texan Steak Ranch menu is awesome to gaze upon.  This steakhouse offers a long list of Texas Beef Steaks, classic Texas BBQ and plenty of traditional western cattle ranch side dishes.  What impressed me the most was The Big Texan Steak Ranch Children’s Menu.  All of the kids menu items are served in a parchment paper lined straw cowboy hat!  The cowboy hats are a keeper, so the kids can put them on after dinner and join in on the fun!  

In the big dining room, the eating challenge tables are on a stage in front of the open view chargrill pit.  These special tables have several stadium style 60 minute timers overhead, so the countdown for each individual challenger can be seen by all. In a sense, each contestant is a star that becomes part of the entertainment in this old Route 66 hot spot.  

Yes, there is a catch that comes along with the 72 Ounce Free Steak offer at The Big Texan Steak Ranch.  In order for the price to be free of charge, a customer has to eat the entire 72 Ounce Steak meal with all the fixin’s in less than 60 minutes.  If there is anything leftover, the customer loses the challenge and has to pay full price.  The entire list of rules are spelled out at The Big Texan Steak Ranch website and the staff will make sure the rules are understood before you are seated at the big table.

All I can say is that eating a 72 Ounce Steak with all the fixin’s in less than one hour is no easy feat to accomplish, but amazingly enough, there are a few winners each year.  One of the most famous people that won 72 Ounce Steak Challenge was a big professional wrestler that actually ate two of the 72 Ounce Steak dinners in one sitting!  Now that is a lot of almighty Texas beef in the belly!

Personally, I chickened out of the 72 Ounce Free Steak Challenge and I still regret the decision.  I figured that 72 ounces of beef with all the fixin’s would surely stuff my belly so full, that I would have to pull off on the side of the road and sleep it off for the rest of the day.  At that time, I was in a hurry to get to a job in Arizona and I could not afford any down time, so I settled for ordering something a little lighter on the tummy. The 30 Ounce T-Bone Steak was my choice for a slightly lighter lunch while on the road.  

It had been nearly a day since I ate anything with substance and I actually was still hungry shortly after finishing the 30 Ounce T-Bone Steak. Thoughts of how I could have conquered the 72 Ounce Steak Challenge raced through my mind and I actually started thinking of not making the mistake of chickening out the next time I passed through.  It was not till I was about 50 miles down the road, when reality started to set in.  My belly starting feeling so full that I knew that I would have burst a seam if I would have taken on the Big Texan 72 Ounce Steak Challenge.  Even so, all I could think about was the fame that was denied by my decision to accept defeat without giving the steak challenge an honest try.  

The Big Texan Steak Ranch is a classic tourist trap that is a steakhouse, saloon, brewery, casino, shooting gallery and western trading post all wrapped up one one big bundle! Not to mention, the western style entertainment is free. There is no better place on earth to attempt a big steak eating challenge and the rest of the food is pretty darn good too. After a long day of driving through the Texas panhandle, the Big Texan Steak Ranch is the place to go to get the belly loaded full to the brim on good old nostalgic Route 66!          

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Author: wildwestdestinations

I worked as a chef in remote resorts and National Parks, which provided the time to explore western travel destinations. I have a BA Degree in Culinary Management with high honors and currently I am working on a Masters Degree in Adult Education. My food and travel blog writing began as a means to generate income during college and now photo journalism has become my lifestyle.

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