Located in Buffalo Gap, a tiny town three hours from Dallas, Fort Worth, Tom Perini’s Perini Ranch Steakhouse had all odds stacked against it. Even so, “in an empty barn, behind some trees so you can’t even see it from the road,” the restaurant is celebrating its 40th year anniversary with impressive success.
Initially, Tom used to work from his chuckwagon for almost 12 years. Chuckwagons were basically prototypes of the now-popularized food trucks. Getting the meat and wood from the cowboys, they’d prepare sumptuous meals. Requiring food that would give sufficient energy, their clientele, the cowboys, would give harsh yet effective reviews and call out any mistake effectively so that you wouldn’t repeat it ever again. Over time, they developed their cooking merit and became popular.
A Simple Yet Sustainable Way Out
As they gained in demand, it was clear to Perini that the chuckwagon was not a financially sustainable venture. Wanting to remain close to his roots, he, with his wife, Lisa, opened a steakhouse. With a proper ranch atmosphere, their food joint is authentically Texan, with a simple menu and the main quarters in the original barn with extended seating outdoors. Having beef as the main star of the menu, along with delectable burgers and signature roasted cowboy potatoes that are served skin-on, seasoned with an abundance of butter and garlic, the meals are prepared over mesquite wood.
A Grounded and Acclaimed Joint
In spite of a simple menu, limited press, and remote location, the smoked peppered beef tenderloin by Perini’s Ranch was named the mail-order gift of the year by the New York Times in 1995. While they weren’t prepared for it, the restaurant quickly set up a system that works to date to deliver their dishes. In the same year, they started cooking for and with prominent figures and food joints across the country. They were also invited to the James Beard House, where they won the James Beard Foundation’s American Classics Award in 2014. When Jacques Pepin visited their town as a guest chef in 2011, they cooked together at their very own Buffalo Gap Wine & Food Summit.
Over the years, the Perinis have focused on retaining the quality that made their steakhouse influential, also giving them merit in American beef diplomacy. Helping other independent restaurants protect themselves across the country, the Perini couple has also been president of the Texas Restaurant Association while also traveling across the globe on behalf of the United States Meat Export Federation and the Texas Beef Council.