I see that other posters have found Amarillo a challenge as well, and I thought I'd just share my experiences after being unexpectedly stuck there for a day in the middle of a trip.
Generally: From what I observed by driving around with a lot of time to kill, local specialties seem to include BBQ and catfish. A difficult challenge if you're a coffee snob--- I didn't see a single Starbucks and precious few non-chain places to get espresso or good coffee. Several potentially interesting eating places along SW 6th street west of Georgia, which seems to be an arty neighborhood. There doesn't seem to be much in the downtown business district.
First dinner: Celia's mexican, 6th street west of Georgia: I had a really quite good pork chop, my partner had a combination plate with tamale, taco and chile relleno. The style was unfamiliar to me--- mildly spiced and more tomato-based than, say, New Mexico or most other Tex-Mex I've had. Not sure if it was a local style or just that restaurant. The people were friendly.
Lunch: Ribs and More, 6th and Georgia. A small, friendly place with good beef BBQ and pecan and sweet potato pies that both looked and smelled amazing. I only tried the sweet potato pie.
Dinner again: Excellent takeout from Catfish Shack, SW 45th between Western and Teckla. A tiny little takeout place that somehow looked right. I got catfish, hush puppies and fried okra. Really good if that's the kind of un-fancy, non-health food you're looking for.
Breakfast: Donut Stop. They have pretty good donuts and, importantly, an espresso machine. They seem to be a local chain that has bought up pre-existing buildings, because each location looks different. They all seem to be very attractive 40's-50's-style buildings, though. Several are visible from I-40, including one at Bell.
I had a very good meal in Amarillo from a guy selling tamales out of the back of his pickup truck in the parking lot of a strip shopping center. Otherwise... not such good experiences.
There are some good local coffee shops in Amarillo. One local place, Roasters, has a few locations around town now.
Donut Stop is in fact a local operation that controls the donut market in town for the most part. Pretty solid.
And about a block NE of the Catfish Shack is a place called Scott's Oyster Bar which I generally prefer over the Catfish Shack.
re: sarah galvin
Sorry, keep searching, Amarillo has several Starbucks.
There is a fairly wide spread range of dinning choices. I see your a wine drinker so you might try the downtown area for either OHMS or Crush Wine Bar. If it is a more regional experience you seek maybe try Coyote Bluff Cafe for one of there many burgers or the steak.
Got other suggestions too if you are looking for something else.
Hope you had a little fun in Amarillo, you did seem to get around town a bit. We do have several Starbucks and a local coffee shop chain with at least 4 locations, Roasters. Also several other individual ones, surprised you missed the 806 coffee shop on 6th.
Enough of that though. What I wanted to respond to was the Dounut Stop buildings. The couple who started the chain (with one store in an old gas station I think) about 35 years ago have a son who is now an architect. As I understand, he has designed the last 3 or 4 locations. All new and made to look reto, guess i worked.
re: sarah galvin
Both of the places I mentioned I would call New American with regional influences. Web sights with the menus are, http://www.ohmscafe.com/ & http://crushdeli.com/menu.php. These are upscale (for Amarillo) places and have good wine lists.
If you are driving with a night stop over, one other suggestion I would have is Calico County (http://www.calicocounty.net/). Very average crowd, with a whole menu of foods we in the area grew up eating. Not a 5 star dinning experience but comfortable.
If your looking for the top tourist spot in town, that is the Big Texan. Some people love it some hate it. Great gift shop!
Been a while since I was in Taos or Santa Fe, great food there. One interesting difference in that area and Texas Panhandle is the differences in the Tex-Mex and New Mexican-Mex cuisines. If your not one to eat that style food several times a week wait till you get to New Mexico.
Thank you, SailorWes (you must be by the sea now?). I might be doing an over night. I would like to try the Calico County, sounds fun. I like local food. Not touristy. I would love to try both Tex-Mex and NM-Mex. I have actually been to Santa Fe and their food seemed just like what I am used to. So will be nice to try Tex-Mex.
re: sarah galvin
Taos has an abundance of excellent restaurants. We happen to like Orlando's and Antonio's, The onion rings at the Alley Cantina are outstanding, as are the pastries at Michael's Kitchen.. Pick up the dining guide (available at Albertson's) and check out Gil Garduno's website - (http://www.nmgastronome.com/) for more info. Enjoy!
You found some good places, but I think you missed a lot in Amarillo. For coffee, in addition to the already mentioned Roasters, Ground Café on the ground floor of the Chase Tower is also quite good. Downtown does house several good local eateries, including Acapulco’s Mexican Restaurant (7th at Polk), Eddie’s Napoli’s Italian Restaurant (7th at Taylor) and Zen 721 (6th at Polk).
For Mexican food, I like La Frontera 1401 Arthur St., Jorge’s Mexican Bar & Grill 6051 S. Bell, El Bracero 3303 block of S. Bell, El Tejavan which has 2 locations, both on I-40, Leal’s at I-40 & Georgia and Joe Taco, just off Coulter at Wallace in the Medical Center.
Next time you're "stuck" in Amarillo, give one of these a try.
We had a hard time finding great food when we lived in Amarillo, but -
Best hamburger in town.....Coyote Bluff. Great little greasy spoon.
Great newer place for chicken fried anything and hamburgers.....Green Chili Willy's. My kids are in Amarillo this weekend and they've gone to Willy's two nights in a row. Lengthy waiting line both nights.
I visited Amarillo in Oct 2011, here is what we tried:
Indian Oven (based on review in Texas monthly)- When we walked in, there were diners at two other tables. One table had food, they had plates and plates of meats and veggies in thick sauces. It looked great and we were looking forward to getting our own food. When we got our menus, almost one third of the items on the 6 page menu were crossed out. (A smaller selection of well cooked food is fine, but it might be time to print new menus.) We ordered veggie samosas to start. I ordered a vegetable dish of potatoes and cauliflower, unfortunately I can't remember the name. My SO ordered a lamb dish, it was described as being in a sauce and having veggies. We also ordered some plain naan. It took a little bit of time for the samosas to come out and the waitress stopped by our table to apologize for the wait and to emphasize that the samosas were being made fresh. This type of comment always makes me wonder about everything else on the menu. When they did arrive, they were okay not great. I think mine was slightly undercooked as the shell was slightly doughy.
The waitress then came out to tell my SO that they were out of the lamb that he ordered, but they could substitute a different type of lamb. He agreed to the change.
My entree was great - cauliflower and potatoes were tender but not over cooked, the sauce was delicious. The naan was also really good, fresh and hot.
Unfortunately the lamb dish was a complete disappointment. What came out looked sort of like fajitas at a mexican restaurant. There were chunks of lamb on top of strips of onions and green peppers on an iron skillet. The lamb was the type of lamb that is sometimes put in gyros- processed lamb stuff, not actual cuts of meat. The onions and green peppers were almost raw. There was no sauce and no apparent seasoning. My SO said that the lamb pieces were cold in the middle.
Luckily there was enough of my dish to share some with him, especially the sauce, since his had no flavor.
I don't know if this was just an ordering miscommunication, but what my SO received was like nothing we have ever seen an an Indian restaurant (though I am no expert on Indian food). They obviously can make some really good food, but if there is any uncertainty at all, you may want to clarify what you are ordering.
The next day we tried Cowboy Gelato for lunch (again on a Texas Monthly review).
I ordered the special - a catfish sandwich and I subbed in onion rings. I received catfish on a bun, a dish of tartar sauce, a side of coleslaw and the onion rings. At the time I thought - how about some lettuce, tomato, or something on this sandwich, not just fish and bread. (Their website says that the catfish sandwich has spring mix on it.) I realized after eating it that I probably should have put the coleslaw on the sandwich instead of eating it on the side. As it was, everything was fine, but not spectacular. The best part was the onion rings.
My SO ordered the Claudia's Clucker described on their menu as "Chicken sandwich grilled or fried with your choice of cheese, loaded with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and onion." He chose fried and also got onion rings as a side. What he got was bread and chicken with some cheese melted on it. I asked him if he wanted to ask for the lettuce, tomato, etc and he said that he wasn't sure that there were vegetables in Amarillo.
A big draw of Cowboy Gelato was the gelato, but after having such an unhealthy lunch, neither of us were in the mood for gelato. I actually dug an apple out of the cooler as soon as we got in the car. I will say that they do know how to work the fryer.
For our next trip to Amarillo I will ignore Texas Monthly reviews (which has led me well in other parts of the state) and stick with Tex-Mex resturants.