Perini Ranch Steakhouse Celebrates 40 Years

Tom Perini was selling real estate in Dallas when he went back to the family ranch in Buffalo Gap and discovered a passion for cooking

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A restaurant that prides itself on a menu of "Real Texas Food" kicked off celebrations for its 40th anniversary. It's quite an accomplishment considering the restaurant is on a ranch off a two-lane road in a town of about 500 in West Texas.

What was once a hay barn, now hosts a James Beard award-winning steakhouse on the Perini Ranch.

"The nice thing is what was a negative to start with being out on a ranch, not on a corner in a big city and you know, not a lot of traffic that was a negative has turned out to be a positive because that's now what people like," said Tom Perini, the owner of Perini Ranch Steakhouse in Buffalo Gap.

The restaurant serves presidents, celebrities and anyone willing to make the drive to the small town.

"We can consider local a 150-mile radius. And so with that 150-mile radius, that touches on the edge of Fort Worth, Lubbock, Midland, San Angelo. So, we have a tremendous amount of Dallas-Fort Worth customers.

Tom Perini was born in Fort Worth and was selling real estate near White Rock Lake in Dallas when his dad died in 1965. His mother called him asking him to return to the family's ranch southwest of Abilene. Tom Perini raised cattle and then took on a side hustle in 1973.

He took a chuckwagon across Texas to cater ranch events. Ten years later in 1983, he opened the restaurant on his family's ranch.

"I had a payroll each week and I thought, 'Oh my God.' That shocked me that I had to pay somebody every week," Tom Perini said. "So, it took a little while and, you know, the first 10 or 12 years; (but) it got better every year."

For four decades now, folks have come from all over for Perini's mesquite-smoked meats - such as the famous peppered beef tenderloin selected as the mail-order gift of the year by The New York Times in 1995.

"To have 40 years in the restaurant business is a big deal," Tom Perini said. "It's been hard and it's been fun and we're delighted to be here 40 years later."

Tom Perini credits five things for the restaurant's smokin' success: "Quality, consistency, experience, enjoying what you do, and liking people."

As part of the milestone year, the cowboy cook and his wife Lisa released a 40th-anniversary celebration book. The Perinis pulled out private photos that share the story of a restaurant that's become a Texas icon.

"We dug through boxes and boxes and files and files of photographs and memorabilia and we have put together sort of a yearbook, a story of the brand. It's the best brand book ever," Lisa Perini said.

The Perini brand of quality and consistency served with Texas hospitality has earned national acclaim. There was temptation and talk about expanding the brand, but those ideas quickly went up in smoke.

"It was 20 years ago, when we got first got married, the big question was, were we going to franchise this business? And we both decided, no, We said we wanna have one restaurant as good as it can be," Tom Perini said.

A simple menu is done to perfection and everyone including the Perinis has their favorites.

"We typically split a rib eye and, Tom loves the green beans. He loves pot liquor, which is the green bean juice with all the good seasonings and a little bacon drippings and strawberry shortcake for sure. And Lisa's wine list is always part of the story," Lisa Perini said.

The story of the Perini Ranch Steakhouse started with a passion to just cook good food. It worked. And, the Perinis hope for years to come, people keep making the drive west for a seat at the table and a stay at The Perini Ranch Guest Quarters that opened in 2007.

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