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Big Tex Bar-B-Que

As many of you know, recently my friend Gerry and I drove from San Francisco to New Orleans. When you drive across the US on the freeway system – in our case the I 10 – the major exits are much the same. You will find a few gas stations, almost always including a Chevron and Shell station. There will be motels and you can pretty much count on a Motel 6, a Days Inn and a Comfort Inn – Gerry and I preferred Motel 6 simply because it’s cheaper. (When the Motel 6 franchise started it cost $6.00 per night per person. Those days are gone, of course, but the name lingers. Can’t really call it Motel $39.99.) And, of course, you will find restaurants, usually including a MacDonald’s and a Denny’s.

On one particular day we set our sights on the exit to Willcox, Arizona because it was near a national park where we planned a short hike. Exiting the I 10 we headed straight for the Motel 6 and checked in. We dropped our bags and headed out for the park. On the way we passed a restaurant called Big Tex Bar-B-Que (In The Old Railroad Car Historic Downtown Willcox) which looked interesting and bragged of  having the best ribs in the world. I’m not a ribs man. Too labour intensive and messy for the reward. But Gerry loves ribs. The restaurant itself is an old railroad car attached to a back building which looked interesting. Downtown Willcox consisted of a block of restored buildings: Big Tex, a nice bar, and various shops. It actually did look nice, but it wouldn’t take but five minutes to see the whole damn thing.

After our hike we stopped back at Big Tex to check out the menu before heading to the motel. A very confident (in that good American way) and rather attractive waitress asked if she could help. I explained we were interested in coming for dinner after we went back to the motel to clean up and could we see a couple of menus. She handed us menus saying we could take them with us and then, with a teasing smile, also said that we had plenty of time before dinner to take a shower. It was clear that showering before having dinner at Big Tex was not obligatory. I thanked her and then we headed back to the I 10 and the exit to our motel.

After showering we went to reception to ask if there was a way to Big Tex that avoided heading back to the freeway. I young heavily tattooed guy, who called us sir (still getting used to that), looking bored but not unfriendly, drew us a map as he gave us directions: “Turn right at the light and left at the second light. You’ll see Big Tex on your right.” He looked up with both a sad and comradery smile and said: “It’s no problem. We’ve only got two lights.” I thanked him and then asked if the food was any good. He said it was great, loved the burgers, and the beer was good too. That was good enough for us.

When we got to Big Tex it was packed, but we found a table in the railroad car which was ideal. The same waitress we met early remembered us and we had a good laugh as she explained the menu and what beer was on tap. She wasn’t’ exactly flirting, but nonetheless she lifted our spirits. The guy at Motel 6 was right. The food and the beer were great, especially Bit Tex’s special beer batter French fries. We revelled in the not-Denny’s-or-Macdonald’s-atmosphere. Big Tex was local. No matter where you go, Denny’s and Macdonald’s re never, and can never be, local.

So, if you ever pass through Willcox, Arizona do stop at Big Tex. It’s an oasis of authenticity on a American freeway road trip.  

Copyright © 2014 Dale Rominger

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