Meat and Veggies
I’ve been going to Taste of Texas with my grandparents since I was a kid. They’re friends with the owners so we can get a table anytime. It’s one of my favorite places to eat. The salad bar is legendary. Keep that in mind.
We went there a few days ago for my grandma’s birthday. We got some wine going before the food came and my grandma told us how the restaurant has changed over the years.
She said that back in the eighties and nineties Taste of Texas had one of those steak challenges where if you eat a dangerously large slab of beef you don’t have to pay for it. Most places that did these things had a fixed portion of steak, often seventy-two ounces, but Taste of Texas ran theirs differently. In order to conquer the challenge and become the new champ you had to beat the last guy’s record, in an ever-increasing display of grotesque one-upmanship. She said the people taking part were mostly guys in college looking for a free week’s worth of protein. She made it clear these young men usually didn’t wear nice clothes. She’s always had a tough time tolerating riffraff.
It all started at seventy-two ounces and went up from there. Guys would come in and people would watch them gorge in the name of competition and frugality. The record got up to six pounds. Ninety-six ounces. I asked her if the owners of the restaurant had these guys sign waivers releasing them from liability in the occurrence of a death. She said she didn’t think so.
One day an old man wearing a white suit walked in and said he wanted to give it a go. This well-dressed, distinguished gentleman was a welcome change from the dudes in ripped jeans and T-shirts. Taste of Texas is a respectable establishment after all. So this old man sat down at a table, gave the wine list a long look, decided on a Cabernet Sauvignon, and ate seven-and-a-half pounds of meat. One hundred and twenty ounces.
She said she’d heard the old man was very charismatic and had a distinct look. The owners must have been quite taken with him because that same day they decided to take a picture of him so they could print new menus with his face on them, including a description of his courageous feat. He quickly became a mascot of sorts. I guess the owners wanted everybody, especially the upper-class, to feel free to partake in the gluttonous contest.
A few days later, after thousands of dollars had been spent on printing menus and whatnot, the owners saw the man’s face on the front page of the Houston Chronicle. I thought she was going to say the man had died. I pictured a headline reading:
TASTE OF TEXAS KILLS FASHIONABLE MAN BY IRRESPONSIBLY OVERSERVING HIM BEEF
But no. It turned out he was a pimp with two hookers working for him that called themselves the Salad Sisters. Apparently they did dirty stuff with vegetables.
The owners, being conservative Christians, naturally freaked out and called their pastor. I don’t remember how the story ended, but I’m guessing everything worked itself out. I was distracted by a storm of questions popping into my head. Who were these so-called sisters? How and why did salad come into play? Did they tell their johns about the benefits of veganism during sex? As they undressed after a long day of undressing did they bathe in dressing? I’m sad to say I’ll probably never know.
more by S.P. REILLY
photograph by Alex Munsell