A few weeks ago we were on a family road trip and stopped for dinner at a quaint, little restaurant in Amarillo, Texas. And by “quaint” I mean “the exact opposite of quaint” because this particular restaurant was The Big Texan where you get a 72 oz. steak for free if you can choke it down in less than an hour. It’s pretty much the perfect meal if you’re a cheap bastard who doesn’t mind clogged arteries and a slight, lingering numbness in your left arm while you drive yourself to the nearest Urgent Care facility.
The Big Texan is a very well known place located right on the old Route 66 and it’s been on TV and in movies numerous times. Barbra Streisand even shot a scene there for “The Guilt Trip,” which I didn’t see because who wants to pay $12.00 to watch Barbra yell at Seth Rogan for two hours? Certainly not me. Not when there are reeking litter boxes to clean instead.
Upon driving up to the restaurant, you’re greeted by a giant bull statue, which is basically just a giant “F You” to the bovine community, in my opinion. Also, I’d bet money that drunk fraternity boys by the thousands have posed for R-rated pictures with the impressive underside of Mr. Bull. “Bro! Check it! I’m being attacked by a beef penis! Ahhhhh! My eye! Did you post that to my Insta?”
After we walked inside the crowded restaurant and left our name with the hostess, we had a few minutes to enjoy the LIVE RATTLESNAKE in the gift shop and the Decor by Taxidermy. I still think I should alert Pixar about this disturbing little tableau—I don’t know where Buzz was, but I’m guessing he was probably inside the tent dying from internal organ failure after being attacked by a rabid armadillo or the bear above him who seems to be wearing—a fur coat? So very, very wrong.
We were soon seated at a table on the upstairs balcony and I was delighted to see that we had a bird’s eye view of some poor sucker in the middle of the 72 oz. challenge. In case you’re wondering how much meat that is, it’s about the size of a four-door Fiat. Mmmmm, just imagine this sitting in your gut.
“Oh, no problem! I could gobble that slab up faster than a starving bikini model!” you may be thinking. But wait! Because the challenge also requires that you eat a baked potato, a salad (for health), a roll and butter. And just to make sure your digestive track never again functions properly—you have to cap it all off with a shrimp cocktail.
Question: When is a shrimp cocktail a good idea?
Answer: Trick question because A SHRIMP COCKTAIL IS NEVER A GOOD IDEA.
–Wendi Aarons, Vegas buffet, 1995
Here’s the poor chump who was midway through his challenge when we sat down. Note the digital clock, the garbage can by his feet and the sunglasses on top of his head that he couldn’t be bothered to take off:
I have to say that watching the meat challenge wasn’t quite as inspiring as watching someone see how far they can run, but it was still more exciting than watching my neighbor see how many different floral patterns she can wear at the same time. (Five, after the last big sale at Chico’s.)
Unfortunately, this weakling didn’t finish his steak and then had to pay the full amount of the meal and get helped off the Meat Stage by his traumatized wife and children. I assume he’s okay, though, because I didn’t hear any LifeFlight helicopters chop in to lift him out of there. I also assume he’s now a vegan.
Here are some of the strolling musicians at The Big Texan who help you digest your red meat. They collect dollars in their arm bands like some kind of male fiddle stripper.
(Note: The dinner music didn’t quite work with the digestion. That 5 oz. of steak was like a rock in my stomach for three solid days.) (Second Note: The meat probably wasn’t helped by the box of Red Vines I inhaled later that night to “cleanse my palate.”)
After we ate our meals—two of them served in cowboy hats instead of on plates— we made our way to the back of the restaurant so the kids could run through the Big Texan maze. The maze looks kind of like what cattle trudge through on their way to the slaughterhouse, so I’m assuming it wasn’t designed by a member of PETA. Or by a cow.
The boys zipped through the entire maze, then told the maze manager, Ethan (yes, Ethans are everywhere, even West Texas) that they’d finished it in the fastest time of the day and were therefore owed the special prize. “Are y’all sure?” Ethan drawled. “Because I think I saw one of y’all sneaking underneath a couple of partitions. Did you do that?”
My 11-year-old son Sam then looked down at his feet, his face turned red and he muttered, “Yes, sir.” And then they were both disqualified from the Big Texan Maze challenge, raining shame upon the Aarons family. We were the worst people in a restaurant that has a Horse Hotel attached to it. It really doesn’t get more awful than that, does it? That’s about when my left arm started tingling.
But at least we got to see another guy start the 72 oz. challenge before we left. Again, he couldn’t be bothered to take his sunglasses off his head. I’m wondering if that’s in case the meat gets too shiny? Or because of all the paparazzi who are waiting outside yelling, “Sir! Give us a smile and let us see all the gristle in your teeth!”?
I actually called the restaurant once we got back to our hotel to find out if he’d made it. “Y’all talkin’ about the young guy?” the hostess said over a span of five minutes. “No, he was fixin’ to crack with about 20 ounces left.”
Yep. I know the feeling, darlin’.