Though many are eager to travel again after the lockdown, a crowded destination is probably the last place to visit given COVID-19 safety concerns. On top of that, travelers may not be so enthusiastic about having to hop on a plane right now.
Located in Buffalo Gap, a small town just south of Abilene, Perini Ranch is a relaxed, rural, and secluded getaway less than three hours from Dallas. The expansive property gives cooped-up Dallasites the chance to enjoy fresh air and wide-open West Texas skies.
Perini Ranch is most famous for its steakhouse, a restaurant that earned an America’s Classic award from the James Beard Foundation in 2014 and ranked No. 3 on Texas Monthly’s list of best steakhouses in the state in 2007. What many don’t know is that the ranch also has rustic guest quarters with their Main House and Camp House.
“What sets Perini Ranch apart from other local resorts and destinations in West Texas is that we’re not a resort at all,” says Lisa Perini of Perini Ranch. “We are a working ranch that has featured a destination restaurant since 1983. We do offer lodging in our Perini Ranch Guest Quarters to extend the experience and hospitality of the steakhouse. Guests have the option to stay in the ‘Main House’ or the ‘Camp House,’ and can relax while enjoying the rustic scenery and natural wildlife that is all around.”
The Main House is a renovated farmhouse from 1885 that’s original to the ranch. Able to sleep five, it features two bedrooms each with a private bathroom, a large living area, a dining room, a full kitchen, and a deck. The Camp House is a newer addition and sleeps three. It has a bathroom, small kitchenette, and porch.
A stay at Perini Ranch wouldn’t be complete without a meal from its famous steakhouse. While it was closed briefly for dine-in during the shelter-in-place order, they were able to switch to dinner to-go orders and recently reopened at limited capacity under Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s guidelines.
“Since we are primarily a restaurant, every employee at Perini Ranch has food and health safety certifications and are following the Texas Restaurant Association’s Promise to Our Customers to offer a healthy, clean and safe dining environment. Our customer’s safety is first and foremost,” says Perini. “We have a large, beautiful patio, and guests have really enjoyed this outdoor space where they can relax and enjoy a dining experience at a safe distance from other guests.”
Reservations are recommended for the steakhouse and available online from the Perini Ranch website. Patrons can either dine-in or take a to-go order back to the cabin.
“All of our food is very traditional, based on common ingredients and cooked the old-fashioned way — with a lot of seasoning and love” says Perini. “When we started our catering business, we were catering from a chuck wagon, and those foods have now evolved into the steakhouse. We like to say it’s simple food — it looks good, it tastes good, and you can recognize it.”
As it’s a steakhouse, beef is the star, but diners hungry for something else should try the Southern-fried catfish. And don't miss the signature side dishes: green chile hominy and the Zucchini Perini, which is sliced zucchini baked in a meat sauce and topped with grated Parmesan cheese. To end the meal on a sweet note, Perini says the strawberry shortcake, a family recipe, is a fan favorite.
Visitors can also grab a bite at the Perini Ranch Gap Cafe, which serves breakfast, lunch, and pastries. Among the homemade items on menu, the cinnamon rolls, chicken-fried steak, quiche, and pomme frites with fried jalapeño chips are Perini's recommendations.
For another nearby attraction, head across the street from the cafe to the Perini Ranch Country Market, stocked with seasonal produce, gourmet foods, kitchen and gardening supplies, and more. Abilene State Park is also less than 10 minutes down the road from the ranch.
“For those who are not comfortable traveling right now, by all means, don’t. It’s important for everyone to feel safe and do what they can to stay healthy so our family, friends, and neighbors stay healthy, too,” says Perini. “But when you do feel like you are ready to venture out, rural Texas is ready for you.”