Lunch at Odessa's Barn Door Steakhouse means business.
According to the restaurant's website, "The 'Legendary Barndoor' is a meeting place where many business deals are done. Someone said the other day we can always tell how well the oil and gas business is by the business at the Barndoor" (www.odessabarndoor.com). When I pulled into the parking lot shortly before 12noon, I was stunned to see every parking spot in the entire front lot filled with large pickup trucks. While large pickups covered in dirt are a familiar site in oil boom Odessa, I was still impressed with the sheer number of vehicles filling the lot. Stepping inside the door, I immediately smelled the smoky charbroil grill where steaks are cooked at a blistering pace. The Barn Door has their grill in the center of the restaurant't front dining room, so one can watch their steak being cooked. Sure enough, the place was packed with oil men and women - big people wearing big coats, who probably drove those big trucks I saw parked outside. As I was seated in a back dining room near a music stage, I could hear chatter about the oil industry all around me, whispers about "settling prices" swirled about.
Before ordering my meal I was served a delicious cup of chicken soup and white bread. I then ordered the lunch 7 oz. ribeye (a lite plate) with peppercorn to top it off, southern style green beans, and a baked potato loaded with butter, shredded cheese, and sour cream. This was a delicious steak, a thin ribeye cut stewing in its own juices complimented nicely by the side dishes. After eating I had a chance to talk with restaurant owner Roy Gillean, a prominent and longtime figure in the Odessa / Midland restaurant industry. He told me about his recently completed mobile food trailer, which Gillean puts to work for private events, serving food for disaster relief in Texas, and educating students from schools in the area about the culinary arts.
There's so much demand for Barn Door steaks amongst the oil and gas industry workers that some energy companies have asked Gillean to serve steaks to their workers out of his mobile food trailer. Gillean invited me to ride along with Gillean on one of his upcoming oil and gas industry mobile trailer runs. Hopefully I'll have a chance to return, because I have to see this. During my three days in the Odessa / Midland area, every conversation I've had with people about food and the culture that surrounds it is at some point puncuated with comments about the oil boom. After the painful oil bust of the early 1980's, the industry is booming again. This area has been transformed over the last several years by technological advances in hydraulic fracking and horizontal drilling techniques. Recent rapid population growth and a large influx of energy industry workers has raised many issues for residents of the Permian Basin, many of which simply will not be resolved as long as the boom lasts. For now, if you plan on enjoying a delicious steak at Barn Door Steakhouse, expect to walk into a full house.
(also pictured: The Pecos Depot, which served as a railway station in Pecos from 1893-1972, then moved to Odessa in 1972 as an addition to the Barn Door Steakhouse).