In March of 1960, RJ Lee of Amarillo, TX opened up what would become one of the most esteemed, western themed restaurants in the state. The Big Texan Steak Ranch & Brewery (originally The Big Texan Steakhouse) was opened on Route 66 and featured a giant neon sign resembling a cowboy standing at 60 feet tall. A cowboy on horseback would greet guests at the entrance and western decore flooded the interior. Lee really began stirring up buzz about his restaurant when he hosted a 1-hour steak challenge in November of the same year.
Today, The Big Texan is massively famous for its 72 oz steak challenge which requires challengers to consume a salad, dinner roll, shrimp cocktail, baked potato, and, of course, a 72 oz steak cooked the way he or she prefers. The winner of the original challenge in 1960 kept the $5 entry fee that was charged. When someone wins the challenge today, they get their picture on the wall of fame where past winners’ photos are displayed and don’t have to pay the $72 charge for the meal.
Some of the most notable people who have completed the challenge include Klondike Bill, a professional wrestler in the 1960s, and the Travel Channel’s Adam Richman of Man vs Food. While many have attempted this challenge, the most impressive, by far, was by a woman named Molly Schuyler, a 20-year-old housewife weighing only 128 pounds. Not only did Molly eat three entire 72 oz steak dinners (and insisted on eating a fourth), but she did it in under 20 minutes and only stopped after the owners, now Bobby and Danny Lee, refused to serve her another.
When RJ Lee passed in 1990, his sons, Bobby and Danny Lee (mentioned above), took over operations. After undergoing a relocation in 1970, suffering a fire in 1976, and opening the Big Texan Motel, the restaurant began gaining Hollywood fame when movies and television shows were featuring the 72 oz Steak Challenge. In addition to Man vs Food, a movie featuring Billy Bob Thorton and Charlize Theron called Waking up in Reno showcases the challenge. During the scene, Billy Bob Thorton’s character chows down on the meal before choking on a bite of steak. While it might be an uninspired scene and just not a great movie in general, it is one of the most notable scenes featuring the steakhouse.
In 2010, the Lee brothers opened a brewery on-site at The Big Texan Steakhouse. The brother’s efforts were recognized in Draft Magazine when their brewery was named one of the world’s top ten. Following lengthy negotiations in 2016, Amarillo RV Ranch was bought by The Big Texan and The Big Texan Steak Ranch & Brewery was named such to accurately represent its newly acquired features. Starlight Ranch Music Venue was opened in 2017 when the brothers decided to see what more they could do.
The Big Texan Steakhouse is located at 7701 I-40 East, Amarillo, TX 79118.
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