The Panhandle of Texas is an interesting dichotomy, you can find both cheap glitz and glamour, although the glitz is the easiet to find. Dinner at The Big Texan is about as touristy as it gets, it reminds me of any of the surviving Route 66 travel stops, or the worst of Knott’s Berry Farm or Las Vegas in its’ darker days. Everything at the Big Texan is designed for profit and ease. The place is Hollywood cowboy décor from the costumes of the servers to the animal heads on the wall. It is known for its 72 ounce steak challenge, A one-hour challenge to eat 4 ½ lbs of beef and all the fixins’. The record holder did it in less than 9 minutes back in 2008. There is a table set up at the front for six people with a timer for each for anyone who wants to compete for the title. If you manage it, the meal is free, if you falter, the price is $1 an ounce. None of our group wanted to take the
challenge. The place is full of people passing by, I don’t think any locals frequent the place, as truly, the food isn’t that good, but man, have they made a name for themselves, the place was packed. It was a fun stop, just to watch all the people and be able to say that we’ve been. Next time, if there is a next time, it will be for one of us to take the challenge.
Another classic Amarillo glitz stop is the Cadillac Ranch, this isn’t like the Mustang Ranch in Nevada, not a bordello here, but rather a place where Cadillacs (that’s right, the car) are planted in the ground. You can see it from the freeway, just to the south of I-40 on the West side of Amarillo. The story goes, Stanley Marsh, owner of the land and patron of Art Farm allowed the Cadillacs to be planted as part of a public art installation project. The cars are oft painted and graffitied, and this is encouraged, Maybe one day, we’ll take some spray paint with us on the trip.
The glamour in the area is a little harder to find, it happens in a one-horse town, on the south-west corner of the blinking light, west of Amarillo called Vega, population 881. Our first stop there was entirely by accident, this time, we made the choice. There is a little restaurant there called the Boothill Saloon that is worth the stop every time. The Boothill is a new place, although it’s built to resemble an old time saloon with swinging doors and a tin ceiling, a gorgeous long bar in front and classic red swag throughout the rest of the restaurant. You can see it in any colorized Hollywood western movie. This one has something spcial though, along the wall to the restroom, you’ll find a front cover from Bon Appetit that shows the ribs that helped make Rori Schpesi a Food Network Star. The food
is incredible, the place is well-lit and shiny clean. Since it was lunch, we all just opted for the Boothill Burger, the first on the menu prepared with much care from the chef inspired kitchen. The Boothill is a gem among imposters, hidden away to be treasured by those who travel off the beaten path.
One of the best parts of our daily travel is the food we get to eat, the restaurants we stop at and the meals we share with others. We’ve got favorites all over, and I would bet we will stop at all of them over the next 350 days – where would you recommend we stop?