Amarillo by morning!

Michael Bushnell
Northeast News

Westward Ho! We’re pressing on to Amarillo, Texas on America’s Main Street for a taste of “Texas hospitality at its best” where steaks the size of a hubcap have been serving hungry diners for goin’ on sixty years.

We’re stopping by the Big Texan Steak House, right on Route 66 in the heart of Amarillo.

According to the description on the back of this chrome postcard, it dates back to roughly 1965 or so, given the vehicles parked in front.

Established in 1960 at 455 East Amarillo Boulevard by none other than R. J. “Bob” Lee, a former Kansas Citian whose family owned and operated the storied Savoy Grill downtown. The old Savoy, not the new incarnation that’s devoid of any history, but that’s another opinion piece. That’s ol’ R.J. on the postcard pointing to his likeness on the sign.

The iconic steakhouse moved from its original location in 1970 to its present digs along Interstate 40.

The forty-foot sign, Lee’s likeness, was moved by helicopter to the new location as well, lighting the way for hungry steak-lovers from all over the Texas panhandle.

The description on the back of the postcard reads “Texas’ most unusual steak house, where you can select your own steaks, salad, potato and homemade pastires. Watch your steak being charcoal-broiled.”

One of the keynotes of the Big Texan is the 72 oz. steak contest. Lee was amazed at what the diners, cowboys that worked at the nearby stockyards operation, could put away in terms of food.

Lee’s marketing prowess struck and a new eating competition was born. One Friday evening, he put a number of tables together in the dining room and sat all the cowboys together.

He told them whoever could eat the most 16 oz. steaks would win a pot of money made up of entry fees into the contest.

At the end of the contest, one cowboy had eaten four-and-a-half pounds of steak, equating to 72 ounces of beef.

The legend of the old 72-ouncer was born. If you can eat it all inside of sixty minutes, your meal is free of charge.

The restaurant still operates today and has added a brewpub, an RV park, a concert venue, motel, and gift shop.

The restaurant’s founder, Bob Lee, passed away in 1990 of a heart attack. His wife Mary Ann, who helped start and operate the burgeoning restaurant, died in 2010 at the age of 86. The restaurant is still family owned by Lee’s sons, Bobby and Danny.

We’re a little over halfway to our destination at the Santa Monica Pier. Stick with us as we head off toward Gallup, New Mexico, getting our kicks on Route 66.

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