The Big Texan is a ranch and restaurant in Amarillo, Texas. It was founded in 1960 on Route 66, serving the finest Texas barbecue, but moved to its current location just off Route 40 in Amarillo in April, 1971. The owner originated the 72-ounce Steak Challenge, and when the new facility opened, the Challenge became famous.
It wasn’t long before this ranch became an iconic destination. Many customers have tried their appetites on the 72-ounce Steak Challenge, but only about 10% succeed.
The 72-ounce Steak Challenge is very simple. The customer must consume a 72-ounce steak in one hour. If he does, he gets the meal for free. If he fails to finish it, he must pay the full price.
On a warm but dry Texas evening, Bob Schlemozzel and his friend Jimbo strode into the Big Texan and proudly announced their intention to take on the 72-ounce Steak Challenge. Both were large men, well over 200 pounds, and good eaters as well.
The manager arrived quickly, appearing very accommodating but serious. He complimented the two hungry patrons for their bravery, but said, “Men, before you actually put in your order, I’d like you to accompany me to the lobby. We have all our steaks on ice for viewing. I want you to be absolutely sure what you’re getting yourselves into. Just remember, the contest does not include just the steak. In order to succeed, you have to eat a salad, a shrimp cocktail, a baked potato, the 72-ounce steak and a roll with butter. You must eat the entire meal within one hour, and you cannot get up from the table or go to the bathroom during that hour. You may cut away a small amount of fat from the steak but we will judge whether it’s too much trimming. If you get ill during the meal, you lose. You are provided a barf bag on the table for any emergencies. If anyone helps you in any way, even helping to cut the meat, you lose. You have to pay for the meal up front, which is $72.00, but that is refunded if you finish everything. If you don’t finish, you lose the Challenge, but you are permitted to take home the leftovers. A manager will be present during the hour to supervise your activity at the table.”
The manager then said, “So, come, fellows. Let’s have a look at our steaks.”
With that, Bob and Jimbo followed the manager to the lobby, where a line of steaks sat in glass cases, resting on ice, with a light shining directly on each one. They started at the small end, which was represented by an 18-ounce Top Sirloin. In the next case was a slightly larger steak, their 22-ounce T-bone. Following that was their 28-ounce Ribeye. Next was their 36-ounce Texas Strip. Moving on, the subsequent case contained their 40-ounce Prime Rib. After that came their 52-ounce Porterhouse. And then, in the last case, rested the special prize, the 72-ounce Steak. Interestingly, the type of steak was not specified. It was simply: a Steak.
To say the 72-ounce Steak was impressive would not quite transmit an accurate image. One would have to use better descriptive elements, such as Brobdingnagian, ponderous, pharaonic, or terrifying. Think a small attaché case or Manhattan phone book and you might be getting close.
On the other hand, the manager was proud to inform Bob and Jimbo that in September 1963 the 445-pound professional wrestler Klondike Bill ate TWO 72-ounce steaks in one hour (that’s 9 pounds of meat). During that event, the manager at the time jokingly “warned observing patrons to keep arms, legs, and children back away from the table.”
The two men, mouths watering, stood there and gaped at the giant slabs of meat before them. After looking at one another and discussing strategy, they each decided to order the 22-ounce T-bone, along with a salad, baked potato, and roll. It was more than enough. They decided to leave the mammoth 72-ounce slab for the more gastronomically endowed customers who might arrive.
Many years later, with lingering thoughts of the Big Texan in mind, Bob and Jimbo decided to open their own restaurant, loosely based on the Texas model. They engaged an excellent advertising agency to generate anticipation and excitement for the opening of the new place, known as the Gizzard Grille.
There was intense hoopla and excitement about the new place, located just off the strip in Las Vegas. With opening day coming up, Bob and Jimbo finalized their menu. Rather than a 72-ounce Steak Challenge, their plan was a bit easier and more flexible. If a customer can consume 5 pounds of food in one hour, chosen from an open menu, he gets the meal for free. If he fails, he must pay $100.00. The weight of the food was to be determined by a large scale positioned in the center of the dining room. The rules were similar to those at the Big Texan. A barf bag was supplied at the table for emergencies.
The Gizzard Grille opened its doors at exactly 6 PM on a Saturday night, and the place was packed in no time. There was a line out the door of excited, hungry patrons looking forward to trying the new place.
After surveying the surging, happy crowd of eaters, and taking in the electricity of the moment, Bob strolled back to the administrative office to relax and review finances. He thought to himself, “Finally, I hit the jackpot.” With that satisfying realization, Bob leaned back in his leather office chair and let his mind wander and drift off into a light dream.
His pleasant dream state was wrenched back to reality when Jimbo burst through the door. “Bob, something’s terribly wrong. Everyone is ordering the 5-pound challenge, and every single customer is winning.”
Bob exclaimed, “What? That’s impossible! How could every customer consume 5 pounds of food in one hour?”
Jimbo, with panic in his voice, said, “Bob, I don’t know, but that’s what’s happening. We’ve already had 30 customers win the Challenge, and there are many more underway right now. Not a single customer didn’t finish. We’re getting wiped out!”
Bob sprung out of his chair and rushed into the dining room. With a quick sweep across the room, he noticed that almost every table was taken by huge Japanese men, each and every one weighing at least 400 pounds.
“Jimbo, what the hell is this? Where did all these gigantic Japanese men come from? Is this some type of weird joke?”
Jimbo screamed, “I don’t know! It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen!”
Bob ran out to the front of the restaurant. There was a line of huge Japanese men 25 deep out the door, waiting for their opportunity to get 5 pounds of food for free. He dashed to the end of the line and saw another gigantic Japanese man just arriving, perhaps a 500-pounder. With desperation in his voice, he asked the man, “What’s going on? Who are you? Where are you all coming from?”
The Japanese man looked at Bob and casually rocked his thumb over his shoulder, pointing to the large sign over the contiguous property. The sign read, in bold capital letters, “LAS VEGAS SUMO WRESTLER TRAINING CENTER.”