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The Texanist: Is Dairy Queen Actually a “Texas Thing”?

It’s known as ”the Texas stop sign,” but can the Illinois chain really claim the Lone Star State?

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Illustration by Tim Bower

Q: The other day me and my closest six hundred Facebook friends had a debate about chain burgers in Texas. In general, Whataburger was the victor. But in North Texas the Oklahoma staple of Braum’s stood out. The subject of Dairy Queen came up and although it is known as “The Texas Stop Sign,” the franchise was started in Illinois by someone from Iowa. So, the question is this: Is Dairy Queen actually a “Texas thing” or are we all just living in blissful DQ ignorance?

Caleb Marsh, Pilot Point

A: It is true that Dairy Queen was not born in Texas, but it is also true that many are the Texans who were brought up in and around the local DQ. The Texanist, in his Temple youth, found occasional nourishment at a Dairy Queen located in the parking lot of the A&P on 57th Street. The Whataburger was just off 57th on Ave. M and the Texanist was fed there too, although he will admit that the draw of the dipped cones (AKA brown derby) at the Dairy Queen was mighty powerful. The Texanist has never set foot in a Braum’s.

So while Dairy Queen, technically speaking, is not a necessarily a “Texas thing,” Dairy Queens in Texas are most definitely a “Texas thing.” As proof, the Texanist suggests looking no further than Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen, the 1999 book of non-fiction by one of the most Texan of Texan writers, the Larry McMurtry, who, speaking to the Texaness of Dairy Queen, explained it quite simply and eloquently: “Dairy Queens combined the functions of the tavern, café, and general store; they were simple local roadhouses where both rambling men and stay-at-homes could meet. To them would come men of all crafts and women of all dispositions. The oilmen would be there at six in the morning; the courthouse crowd would show up about ten; cowboys would stop for lunch or a mid-afternoon respite; roughnecks would jump out of their trucks or pickups to snatch a cheeseburger as their schedules allowed; and the women of the villages might appear at any time, often merely to sit and mingle for a few minutes…” If a writer from any other state has ever written anything that evocative on the subject of Dairy Queen, the Texanist has not yet found it.

Additionally, while Dairy Queen was indeed founded outside of Texas and today has locations the world over, there are more Dairy Queens (some six hundred) in Texas than in any other single place, by far. And though Texas’s Dairy Queens have not completely seceded from the national DQ mother ship, they do stand apart. Under the powerful umbrella known as the Texas Dairy Queen Operators’ Council, Texas DQs remain uniquely Texan. Take, for example, the DQ menu; it’s only in a Texas Dairy Queen that one can order the likes of a Hungr-Buster®, a BeltBuster®, a Triple-Buster® (may god help you), an Extra Long Chili Cheese Dog, or the Dude® Chick’n Fried Steak Sandwich. Dairy Queens outside of Texas offer foreign and decidedly un-Texan fare like bland “Cheese GrillBurgers,” alien “Kansas City BBQ Pulled Pork” sandwiches, and weird fried cheese curds. Thank you kindly, but no thank you.

Dairy Queen, you see, is absolutely a Texas thing. At least in Texas it is.

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  • Jed

    hear hear. props to the hempstead dq, where i learned to eat ballpark nachos in the ’70s during our mid-trip stops whenever we made the long sojourn from college station to houston; and the johnson city dq, which had catfish and black-eyed peas on the menu the one time i stopped there.

    • borgerboy

      Borger Texas once supported two DQs and have none!!

  • BuckyThreadkiller

    Another point for DQ – While the Corpus chain calls its larger drinks WhataSize, TDQ owns the trademark on TexaSize. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/132fc6dcf7a5b09dffe2f779c5ed663457fe3daeeed65be28a3471dc19415092.jpg

  • Crume

    If you are beloved by 26 million Texans, you must be Texan at heart. Can’t even count the road trips that included steak fingers and Dilly bars, dip cones and chicken baskets. Sadly got word today that Harvey demolished the DQ in Port Aransas. Saw this picture of KXAN talking to people in Rockport. And of course it is at the Dairy Queen. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/92336c9fd27c45c39aa2bb2292580f33b2ba7cb96302261e1061f07bb92bf3f3.png

  • Mark Moffeit

    It would be great if DQ would get back to their routes by making their food made to order. Instead of pre-making it. How about toasting your buns again. We’ve got enough fast food crap out there. If it’s not broke don’t fix it.