I’m deciding how to order my steak when a man at the next table leans over and taps me on the shoulder.
Like most other people in the buzzy Texas restaurant, he’s wearing a Stetson, pulled low over a lined, weather-beaten face, and his shirt is done up to the neck; the silver clasp on his bolo tie is shaped like a buffalo skull, complete with horns. “If I can give you some advice,” he drawls over the chatter and chargrilled smells coming from the kitchen, “here in Texas, we eat our steaks one way: De-horn it, wipe its ass and stick it on the plate.”
I am sure rare steak has been expressed in politer terms, but this is Texas – where bigger is better and where people have a direct, no-bullshit way of getting to the point. If it sounds clichéd, maybe it is, but clichés are clichés for a good reason: because they’re true. And there are few places that suits “bigger and better” than here at Cattleman’s Steakhouse, just outside El Paso, deep in the Rio Grande and so close to Mexico you can touch it. The steakhouse – once voted the “manliest” restaurant in the US – sits on the Indian Cliffs ranch, 33,000 acres of harsh Chihuahuan Desert that you can only approach by dirt road.
It is the kind of place that plays country and western and where ‘family’ style main courses don’t feed the whole family but easily could. The signature dish is a 2lb (1kg) chargrilled Cowboy Steak that comes with baked potato, ranch beans, coleslaw, sour cream and bread. I take the advice of my new friend on the neighboring table and order it rare – but despite fighting for an hour I finally admit defeat.
Let's have that steak – take me to Texas!