July 19, 2024




If you ever find yourself wandering around Texas and happen to be near Amarillo, I have good news for you. They have a restaurant there that is giving away free steak dinners. That’s right – “free”, as in “zero dollars”, “nada”, “put your wallet away big fella cuz this one is on the house.” In case you missed it – the steak dinner is FREE!

My regular readers will know that “free” is one of my favorite words in the entire English language. (We won’t go into my other favorites – that’s for another day.). So, when I saw this big highway sign advertising a “free steak dinner” at The Big Texan Restaurant as I was cruising westwardly on I-40 (that’s Interstate Highway Number 40 to those unacquainted with U.S. Road Jargon) coming out of Oklahoma City, well I just had to stop and see what this was all about.

Ms. Jennifer Maeder is on the Management Team at The Big Texan. It was about 3:00 PM and although the restaurant was  rather busy she was kind enough to take a few minutes and tell me the story of The Big Texan.

The Big Texan has been serving food to the good folks of Amarillo, as well as traveler’s on I-40, since 1960. Business got so good they moved to their current, larger location in 1970. The place has a bit of that “over the top” Texas feeling to it. Texas flags fly proudly outside. The decor has a heavy Country-Texas quality with dark wood and lots of wall art emphasizing the glory of Texas. Stuffed animal heads, mostly elk, add to the distinctive Texan ambiance. Staff wear cowboy attire including the obligatory cowboy hat. There is a small bar area and also a gift shop where you can get all your Big Texan gear. But the serious stuff – the eating – takes place in the spacious dinning room.

72 oz Steak and all the Trimmings
72 oz Steak and all the Trimmings

The Big Texan serves a full menu but it’s big claim to fame is the Free Steak. Intrigued, I asked Ms. Maeder for the details on this great deal. Turns out it is a bit complicated and just might not be for the feint of heart or those with a small appetite.

She explained that the Free Steak Dinner is a full dinner which includes a salad, a dinner roll, a large baked potato, 3 fried shrimp, and – are you ready for this – a 72 ounce steak! Yes, that is a big steak my friends. Four and one half pounds of sirloin steak to be exact. But still, anyone can have this entire dinner for “FREE” (my favorite word) “IF” (one of my less favorite words, by the way) they eat THE ENTIRE MEAL within one hour! Now mind you, Ms. Maeder said this with a very straight face. She was NOT joking. So, I asked, what if you can’t get that rather large job done in a hour. Ms. Maeder’s eyes twinkled a bit, saying “why then the dinner will cost you $79.00.”

72 ounces - That's a Big Steak!
72 ounces – That’s a Big Steak!

By this time my visions of a free steak dinner had totally vanished. I had previously heard that old saying, “There is no free lunch.” Well, I thought, apparently there is no free steak dinner either! (At least for me, that is.)

I apologized to Ms. Maeder, saying that I had just eaten a rather large lunch a few hours previous so I was going to have to take a pass on the 79 ounce steak dinner. She was kind enough to understand. But, I had to ask, “does anyone ever really do that – eat all that food within one hour – and get it for free?” She seemed shocked at the question. “Of course they do!”

As it turns out, between five and ten brave, and hopefully very hungry people take the 72 ounce steak challenge every day. And believe it or not, Ms. Maeder reports that about 3 out of every 5 people who make the attempt are successful. (OK, I have to admit – I was astounded!). All types of people succeed it seems. The oldest was a 90 year old woman. The youngest to make the attempt was an 8 year old boy. Note the word “attempt.” The brave lad failed the first time but will likely return when he’s a bit older. ( I must say I wondered what this kid’s parents were thinking. ) There is one lady that stands out in Ms. Maeder’s memory. Seems this woman, about 35 years of age, actually ate 3 of these entire meals within the same one hour time frame. Astoundingly, and I’m taking Ms. Maeder’s word on this, the lady ate the first entire meal in 4 minutes and 18 seconds. She completed all three meals within 20 minutes total. How can you eat that fast let alone that much? Perhaps the second most noteworthy dinner guest according to Ms. Maeder, is the Siberian Tiger that took the challenge. Although to me, at least, it seems that wouldn’t be much of a challenge. The tiger had no trouble whatsoever wolfing down (or would that be tigering down?) the meal and then likely looked around for more.

The Big Texan is no secret in the city of Amarillo. While most locals avoid the 72 ounce challenge, many come by for the other good Texas food. In fact the fame of The Big Texan has grown well beyond the borders of Amarillo and indeed those of all of Texas. The television show “Man versus Food” recorded an episode here. And recently The Travel Channel wrapped up shooting a segment which has yet to be aired.

Bottom line: Steak lovers – the next time you are wandering around Texas and find yourself near Amarillo, stop in to The Big Texan. They have a free 72 ounce steak waiting for you. Just be sure you bring your appetite – your really, really big appetite.

Have A Free Steak ……… And Enjoy The Adventure!


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