We visited Amarillo in December 2023 as part of our Tucson for Christmas trip.
From Tulsa, we were back on the interstate for five hours, pushing west west west to Amarillo. We’d hoped to spend the night and do some hiking in gorgeous Palo Duro Canyon State Park just outside Amarillo, but with the forecast of cold rain we weren’t going to be enjoying nature anyway, so decided to save the extra driving and stay in town near the highway.
Driving on I-40 is the absolute worst, but we did learn something neat along the way to spice up our travel a bit: Indian restaurants have started springing up at truck stops along the interstates. Noticing multiple billboards advertising Indian food in surprisingly rural roadside locales, we did some digging and found that as more and more Punjabi long-haul drivers move to the US, small restaurants called Punjabi dhabas are springing up to support them along major routes. We finally stopped at our first one today–in January, in East Texas between Austin and Lafayette, and it exceeded our expectations!
We camped at Big Texan RV Ranch, part of the Big Texan Steak Ranch family. It’s a huge park, with spacious campsites and lots of amenities, but because of the rain we didn’t do much exploring. The location is super convenient to the interstate, but with that convenience you get lots of truck and train noise. Overall, Big Texan was a pleasant place to spend the night. And how’s this for a campground amenity: there’s a free shuttle from the campground to the steakhouse, in the form of a limo with giant bull horns on the hood.
Eating and drinking
The only Amarillo food we ate was fried pickles at Big Texan in their “brewery.” They were delicious, of course, because they were fried pickles. The order size, like everything at Big Texan, was ENORMOUS.
Otherwise, we ate breakfast burritos from Foolish Things in Tulsa on the drive…
and leftover peanut stew from Global Cafe in Memphis for dinner.
Breweries, by J
There are four breweries in Amarillo, assuming you include Big Texan, which is really a massive steakhouse/tourist attraction that seems to brew some beer. One of the four, Old Tascosa Brewery, seems brand new and didn’t show up on our web research ahead of our visit.
We started the evening at Pondaseta Brewing Co, which is housed in a former service station. Oddly, the brewery is split in two, with the tasting room bar and seating area split from the brewing area seating area by a glass door and large glass window, presumably for temperature reasons (?). We would prefer something more open, but it was still a nice enough setting, particularly the brewery area with its large bay doors. As for the beers, they had 17 beers on tap, with two hazy IPAs for J, but no sours for L. They also had 3 can pours, including a traditional (non-fruited) gose for L. L didn’t love her beer whereas J found his hazy IPA good enough.
From Pondaseta, we drove along historic Route 66 (our verdict: some nice storefronts and neat architecture, but overall the stretch seemed pretty vacant) to get to Six Car Pub & Brewery, which was annoyingly closed for a private event. We weren’t too disappointed, however, given Six Car really seems like more of a restaurant that also brews five German-style beers; had we been able to go we likely would have found more enjoyment in their guest taps.
Finally, we went to Big Texan Brewery at the famous Big Texan Steak Ranch. The “brewery” area / bar is in sort of a wide open hallway between the gift shop and the dining room. While we sipped our drinks (lager for J, a festive(?) apple cidermosa for L) and snacked on fried pickles we were assaulted by a cacophony of the house music, separate employee music from the workstation behind the bar and the occasional hokey song from the shooting game behind us (see pic).
We didn’t love the beer or the scene of Big Texan “Brewery,” but the wildly-decorated dining room was another matter…. competitors in the free 72oz steak meal challenge sit at the elevated table in the middle of the room, with barf buckets handy and timers for spectators to monitor. It’s very much worth reading the rules of the 72oz Steak Challenge! It’s not just a 72oz steak… it’s that, plus shrimp cocktail, a salad, a baked potato, and a roll with butter. This woman ate THREE of the entire challenge meals in TWENTY MINUTES in 2015. Absolutely wild. She’s featured in the display at Big Texan in the photo at the top of this post.
If we return, here are things on our list that we didn’t get to since we were so briefly in Amarillo:
- American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum
- RV Museum, temporarily closed
- Yellow City Street Food for tacos/salads/burgers/local beer
- Ichiban for ramen in a strip mall
- Marhaba for Eritrean and Ethiopian food
- Spicy Mike’s for some of the best BBQ in the country, per Travel + Leisure
In the morning, we continued our westward migration, from rainy Amarillo to snowy Albuquerque!