By Larry Stalcup Contributing Editor
Charles Stephens tries to keep his undeniably delicious ribeye dining experience simple. That may be more difficult after being mentioned twice in Texas Monthly.
He runs the XXL Ranch and Steak House in the northern Texas Panhandle, about half way between Dumas and Stinnett on Texas Highway 152. It’s a dinner destination that has folks making reservations from a dozen or more counties away. The meal is more than worth an hour or more drive that takes you down a rough ranch road on what has been a working cow-calf operation for decades.
Several friends, my wife and I made the drive from Amarillo with a hunger for the Prime ribeye we’d heard about. We knew relying on GPS was hopeless, so we attempted to follow directions for a scenic route across the Lake Meredith Sanford Dam.
A wrong turn or two later (for which no one took responsibility) saw us circling a cotton field under a center pivot. After finally taking the right trail, we arrived and were greeted by Stephens’ daughter, Jamie. She seated us at a table for nine.
Ordering was easy. It was nine 16-ounce ribeyes, the only menu item. Hence the name, Steak House. Requests for salmon or pork must be made several days before Friday or Saturday night reservations, the only times XXL is open.
One expects a Wagyu steak to be tender and tasty. And ours were savory. The baked potato, hot link, a warm yeast roll and a jalapeno added to the enjoyment.
“We don’t do chicken at all,” boasts Stephens, who opened the XXL with his wife, Linda, in 2008. “Customers want a good steak and we provide it.”
Stephens had previously run Whataburger and Jack in the Box restaurants. The corporate atmosphere burned him out. He also did construction work.
“While working on an I-40 stretch of road near Vega, I got a call from a friend in Dumas to speak to a group on substance abuse,” says Stephens, who had faced a few demons of his own. “I got offered a job at the Refuge Center in Dumas. That was 16 years ago. Two years later, I had an opportunity to buy this ranch and took it.”
He ran cattle several years before selling the grazing land.
“I kept about 40 acres, which houses a bunkhouse we converted to the restaurant,” he says, noting it made for a perfect setting for about 25 customers. “We can now seat about 60 and are full nearly every Friday and Saturday.”
Early on, the menu offered a choice of a ribeye, T-bone or New York strip. “I decided to simplify things and go only with ribeyes,” he says. “I try to get bone-in ribeyes when they’re available.
“For people who don’t eat steak, I do salmon or pork. I try to accommodate them, but they have to request it several days ahead of time.”
More than half of the diners are regulars from nearby Dumas, Borger, Stinnett, Gruver or Pampa. The XXL’s popularity rose after Texas Monthly ran a piece last July. And in October, the magazine mentioned it as a top spot to visit in Texas.
“Many of our customers are now out of Amarillo and Canyon,” Stephens says.
Diners can order iced tea or soft drinks. They’re invited to bring their own wine or other beverage. And when nature calls, there’s a unique “lounge” formerly used by working cowboys.
“The bathroom has a shower,” Stephens says. “Cowboys got pretty dirty out on the range.”
Stephens still runs the Refuge Center, a ministry he cherishes. But he loves his time on the XXL’s 60-year-old grill from the ranch’s olden days. “Our restaurant was a God’s deal all the way through,” he grins.
Reservations can be made through the XXL Ranch and Steak House website at xxlsteakhouse.yolasite.com. The ribeye dinner is a straight $50 with all the trimmings. You won’t need a credit card number; they only take cash or checks.
And, it will be the best $50 bill you’ll ever spend on a steak – if you can just find the place.