Lisa Sanders Perini ’84

Real Texas Food

By Sara Ann Hutto ’17

Perini and her husband present an authentic Texas experience through their award-winning steakhouse

Perini Ranch Steakhouse has seven incoming phone lines. According to Lisa Perini, calls run the gamut from “I want a dinner reservation” and “I need to order a tenderloin” to “The cows are out” and “There’s a water leak.”

“All the glamorous things that can happen every day,” Perini laughs.

She runs the restaurant and lodging business alongside her husband, Tom Perini, who founded the steakhouse in 1983 in rural Buffalo Gap, Texas. The ranch is close to 640 acres — “very small in Texas standards,” Perini says — and boasts the steakhouse, the guest quarters, about 60 employees, ranging from dish washers to an onsite CPA, and about 50 longhorns, which Perini and her husband raise for fun: “One’s named Tiger. Imagine that!”

In 2014, Perini Ranch Steakhouse was named an America’s Classics winner by the prestigious James Beard Foundation, recognizing the establishment as representative of its surrounding culture and community. The steakhouse takes much of its inspiration from the chuck wagons of the late 1800s, which would serve breakfast and supper to hungry cowboys on their drive north.

“We call it real Texas food,” Perini says. The menu features signature Texas dishes like green chile hominy, quail and, of course, steak. “Beef is always on the center of our plate,” she continues. “We believe in the beef industry.”

The Perinis’ passion for beef is evidenced by their careful sourcing of Certified Angus Beef and Certified Angus Beef Prime from small farms and ranches across the United States, as well as their trips abroad with the U.S. Meat Export Federation to countries like Russia, Japan and Poland, where they promote the exportation of U.S. beef and educate chefs on how to best prepare it.

No stranger to cattle, Perini grew up on a dairy farm in Cordova, South Carolina. “My father went to Clemson, and my uncle went to Clemson,” Perini says. “My only job was to get accepted to Clemson.” She graduated with a degree in administrative management in 1984 and soon after moved to Dallas, where she met her husband and eventually joined him on the ranch.

Perini says one of her favorite aspects of the ranch is its rural location, something she and her husband weren’t willing to give up when they had the opportunity to franchise: “We love that there’s one Perini Ranch, and it’s such a unique experience. So much of what it is is because of where it is. You have to work to get here. We just don’t think that replicates.”

Between running the steakhouse and the guest quarters, catering, processing mail orders and caring for the longhorns, those seven phone lines stay busy. But Perini wouldn’t change it.

“We have many, many ideas on the horizon. We need more time in every day to get it all done,” she says. “They become very long days, but I don’t know how they go by so fast!”

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