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Small Business: At 70, Cattlemen’s keeps core focus on steak

Cattlemen’s Fort Worth Steak House

Owners: Marti Taylor and Larry Heppe

Established: 1947

2458 North Main St.

Fort Worth 76164

Phone: 817-624-3945

steak@cattlemenssteakhouse.com

www.CattlemensSteakhouse.com

Hours of Operation: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 9 p.m.

“We will put up our meat against anybody’s, but you can get basically what type of steak you want at a reasonable price.” – Larry Heppe, Cattlemen’s Steak House co-owner

At Cattlemen’s Steak House in the heart of the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District, the formula for cooking up a succulent piece of beef is simple.

“Salt and pepper and there’s oil to keep it from sticking on the grill,” said manager/chef Omar Valles. “It’s really great meat. We cook it right on the charcoal grill. That’s about it. People like the flavor, the tenderness. We have rib-eyes, fillets that are really, really tender. Everybody likes to come because they know what they’re going to get. They come back and it’s the steak they’ve been having here forever.”

Steak lovers have been patronizing Cattlemen’s since the late 1940s. This year, the iconic Fort Worth establishment is celebrating its 70th anniversary.

The restaurant was established by Jesse and Mozelle Roach in 1947. Today, it’s owned by Marti Taylor and Larry Heppe, who are adamant about staying with the core business of high-qualify steaks, but also about adding other dishes to form a well-rounded menu.

“It is iconic and it’s been here since 1947, but the core business has not changed,” Heppe said. “But we’ve added more modern dishes and a better wine list. We’ve put in fish and desserts. You have to move with the times.”

Considering that the restaurant is a Fort Worth landmark and that there are a number of steakhouses in Cowtown that charge hefty prices for a great piece of meat, Cattlemen’s has committed itself to offering reasonable prices. They range from an $11.95 chicken-fried steak on the lunch menu to a 24-ounce Porterhouse for $49.95 on the dinner menu.

But side dishes come with it.

“It’s a great bang for the buck,” Heppe said. “We will put up our meat against anybody’s, but you can get basically what type of steak you want at a reasonable price. Our steaks include a baked potato, a salad and homemade yeast rolls that are baked several times a day. It’s not all a la carte. It’s not where you buy a steak, and then $8 for a baked potato and then a salad for another $8 or $10. It’s all inclusive. We also have about 12 or 14 different desserts and about 12 or 14 different appetizers. It’s hard to find something you don’t like.”

One popular item is calf fries – the fried testicles that come from bulls as they are castrated and converted into steers. Cattlemen’s serves the cowboy delicacy in a tasty batter and they’re a big hit with ranchers and cattle punchers. The calf fries and cream gravy are $8.50 as an appetizer on the dinner menu.

The staff has been known to become creative with ways of serving up the calf fries. They’ve gone as far as producing a “calf fry pizza.”

“You won’t find that at Pizza Hut!” Heppe joked.

Cattlemen’s has its regular customers, who include the staff from neighboring Cowtown Coliseum. The staff congregates at Cattlemen’s on Friday and Saturday evenings, shortly before producing a weekly two-hour rodeo performance in the coliseum called the Stockyards Championship Rodeo.

“They’ve been very hospitable to all of the rodeo contestants and the arena staff,” coliseum manager Hub Baker said of Cattlemen’s. “The quality of the food is good and reasonably priced. The people who own the place — Marti Taylor and Larry Heppe — spend a lot of time in Stockyards.”

George Westby, who manages parking lots in Fort Worth’s North Side and is the leader of a Cowboy Church service on Sunday in the Stockyards, said Cattlemen’s is a first-class steakhouse.

“They love their customers,” Westby said. “They want to make their customers feel like it’s their own special place. They want to make it right no matter what. Their customers are number one.”

Cattlemen’s also thrives on atmosphere. There’s photo after photo of champion show cattle, pictures of winners of the Fort Worth Livestock Show from the days that it was fondly called the Fat Stock Show. There’s a collection of painted murals, scenes from days of the Old West when cattle barons congregated in saloons and tied their horses in front of an array of wooden buildings with boardwalk fronts.

“People like to see the restaurant the way it was 50 or 60 years ago,” Taylor said. “People will make remarks such as, ‘We sat at that table 50 years ago when we got engaged’ or ‘We come back for all of our anniversaries.’”

“We have a great staff and our food is delicious and consistent,” Taylor added. “Visitors want to see a true Western theme and that’s why they like coming in here. It’s their entertainment for the evening. We try our best and our customers leave happy.”

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