LEONA, Texas – When it comes to featuring Texas beef here on The Texas Bucket List, burgers are usually our forte. But a big steak in the middle of nowhere got us to pull off the road to try something a little different at a hole in the wall in Leona.
Smack dab in between Dallas and Houston, you’ll find the little town of Leona. Not much happens in this small community about a mile off Interstate 45 but every Friday and Saturday afternoon people start lining up outside the old Leona General Store.
Conversation usually revolves around food, because that’s what people are here for, steaks to be precise.
Jerry House bought the Leona General Store in 1998 and he was very familiar with what he was getting into. Jerry’s family has some lineage in Leona, going all the way back to his great, great grandparents.
“Leona was so important to our dad growing up and to the House family,” Jerry explained. “So this is how we look upon our contribution to making Leona a little bit better place than perhaps it was.”
Jerry and his family turned the old general store, that was built in 1921, into a must stop steak spot that only serves up ridiculous sized rib-eyes on Friday and Saturday nights.
“We don’t have linen table cloths, we don’t have the best salad bar in the world, but it’s a place that if you want a steak and a good rib-eye steak cooked on charcoal outside like you would at home this is the place to come,” Jerry says.
Being in the business of beef was a new endeavor for Jerry. Prior to his pursuit of the perfect steak, his place in the world was on a pulpit.
“Its kind of like being a minister of a church,” Jerry informed us. “You work hard to prepare your sermon. So, you get up and you go to church Sunday and you say to yourself, ‘I wonder if anybody’s going to show up today, because nobody has to.’ I feel the same way here. What if nobody shows up?”
But people do, and when they arrive they are greeted by just about the whole House family.
“I couldn’t do this without my wife,” Jerry says. “It is a family thing. Cynthia runs the cash register, our daughter Laura is a cook, our son-in-law Don runs the cook shack, and then we have a daughter Emily who comes in every other week and is a waitress. Then we have a son who is the senior minister at Christ United Methodist Church in College Station, and he prays for us. So that’s his contribution. It’s a family deal.”
Even the Mayor of Leona comes to the General Store, but not to eat. He works here.
Mayor Bubba Oden has been cooking rib-eye on these oak pits for 19 years.
“You can’t go anywhere and get the mayor to cook your steaks,” Mayor Bubba says.
Now when it comes to ordering your steak in Leona, first you select your size.
“We don’t have a menu,” Jerry explained. “Our philosophy, really when we started, is to do something like we would do at home if we had guests at our home.”
Basically, you order by the ounce and trust me, it’ll be bigger than you think thanks to the steak houses unique method of measuring.
“We never weigh them,” Jerry says. “We just hand cut them, and we cut them about that thick. As a matter of fact, we finally weighed one about a year ago, and our 10 ounce steaks are actually 16 ounces.”
Keeping that in mind, we ordered a nice big cut of beef, asked that it be prepared medium rare, and headed back to the grill to watch this meaty Texas sized treat heat up to perfection.
“Over the course of the year it comes out to something like 46,500 pounds of rib eye,” Jerry informed us. “We’re doing our part to help the cattle industry, I guess.”
After just a few minutes, it was time this beef to get in my belly. We ordered a 12, but it looks like we got about 20 ounces of a true Texas treasure. When we cut into it, we found that the steak was cooked just like it should be here in the Lone-Star State, and the smell was absolutely amazing as it came straight off the oak charcoal.
“It’s the country,” Frances, a regular here, says. “It’s what country folks love to eat, and it’s done well. It is fantastic.”
If you happen to be driving between Dallas and Houston and looking for a big ole steak, Leona is well worth a stop on the Texas Bucket List.
“Texans eat steak, and if you want a good steak you better come here to get you one,” Leona Steak House regular, Joe says.