22 February, 2020, 23:45

Daisy Mae’s: Home to Succulent Steaks & Iconic Dollar Bills

You'll find high-quality grub, kind-hearted service, and strong drinks.

What do defaced dollar bills, the band Pantera, and Texas toast have in common?

It sounds like a beginning of a corny joke, but there’s actually a meaty answer: they’ve all had some kind of stake — and steak — in Daisy Mae’s.

Out on the Westside in the foothills of the Tucson Mountains, Daisy Mae’s Steak House inconspicuously serves some of the city’s best meat dishes.

The original owners set out to offer diners a special experience in 1990, and it’s since evolved into a storied Wild West Cantina.

It’s not a white tablecloth candlelit steak dinner experience, but Daisy Mae’s consistently provides high-quality grub, kind-hearted service, and strong drinks under the glow of televisions and neon signs.

The restaurant has always attracted a sundry crowd. First, cyclists whizzed by, en route from one important trail or race to another, stopping into carb load with a baked potato and perhaps throw back a porter.

Sometime later, customers from all over the world began to decorate the walls with dollar bills that they wrote fun messages on.

Dollar bill-decorated wall in the dining room at Daisy Mae's Steak House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Dollar bill-decorated wall in the dining room at Daisy Mae’s Steak House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Dollar, dollar bills y’all

Daisy Mae’s kept these — literally thousands of bills — up for years. Tthe fire marshall deemed them a bona fide hazard in 2015, according to head server Paul Terry. Today only a few bills remain, behind the bar and scattered high above, among the taxidermy, antlers, and speaker wires.

The most interesting bills that are still mounted are probably those created by the band Pantera, which has a tight connection with the restaurant.

Back in Daisy Mae’s early days, “Big Val” Bichekas used to frequent the restaurant. He was a major local football star and later ran security for Pantera, among other bands.

Pantera later came to love the Daisy Mae’s, dropping in whenever they were in town, to the point of having one of the band members’ wedding parties at the steakhouse. They even nicknamed one of the owners, Joe Lee, “Crazy Mae.”

Lounge at Daisy Mae's Steak House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Lounge at Daisy Mae’s Steak House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

The dollar bill collage that the band made features the word “PANTERA” in their signature lettering, and says “the originators and kings of the Black Tooth Grin” below that.

The Black Tooth Grin is the band’s signature drink. It’s served as a shot consisting of Crown Royal whiskey and “just a splash” of Coke, said Terry, who emphasized the “just a splash” part. It’s not a weak drink.

Why the steak?

Anecdotes and history aside, the food is why those in the know seldom go anywhere else for steak. The beef is always Certified Angus, and all the entrées are mesquite grilled over an open fire.

Lee — who started out as a chef in 1991 — notes that it’s the “expertise of the cooking and the quality of the meat,” as well as the grill itself that differentiates Daisy Mae’s.

The grill has been used consistently for more than 30 years, Lee added, so it’s extremely well seasoned.

Partner and grill master Jake Root grilling at Daisy Mae's Steak House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Partner and grill master Jake Root grilling at Daisy Mae’s Steak House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Customer favorites

The number-one selling item — on the intentionally limited menu — is the ribeye. The ribs — which are outstanding, due to their tenderness and Daisy Mae’s secret barbecue sauce recipe — are a close second.

The wings, Lee added, are rightfully popular. But he said that when he’s really hungry, he opts for the porterhouse.

Filet mignon, rib eye steak, wings, chicken, and ribs on the grill at Daisy Mae's Steak House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Filet mignon, rib eye steak, wings, chicken, and ribs on the grill at Daisy Mae’s Steak House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Menu secrets

He also noted that there are also some secrets to the menu. “I tell my servers to tell customers that they can marinate the sirloin in teriyaki.

We also have a half-pound bar burger,” which is not on the menu. “You just have to ask.” He said it took him a long time to source the beef for the patties but now that he’s found it, it’s one of the best burgers in town.

He added that the pork chop is less popular among the younger crowd, but that they’re missing out. “It’s underrated,” he said, and like the sirloin, it also pairs particularly well with a side of their teriyaki sauce.

The salmon is farm-raised and the halibut is wild-caught — both outstanding.

One of his regulars encouraged him to add the now “wildly popular” meat lover’s special, which is $40 for an 8-ounce ribeye, a half rack of ribs, and five grilled wings.

All entrées come with a potato, an iceberg lettuce salad, bottomless pinto beans, and Texas toast.

(Credit: Daisy Mae's)

(Credit: Daisy Mae’s)

The bar menu is surprising with its extensive wine list and rotational beers. They also serve independent distilleries’ whiskeys and gins, and even gluten-free booze.

The details

Daisy Mae’s Steak House can be found at 2735 W. Anklam Rd. 

The lounge opens at 3 p.m. and dinner is served from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and until 9 p.m. on Sundays.

For more information, visit daisymaessteakhouse.com.

Angela Orlando is an anthropologist who owns Wandering Writers Workshops — retreats that take writers around the world. She’s into all things plant- and animal- and food-related, especially when cheese is somehow involved. She throws pottery and eats from her own handmade plates.

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