Why Dairy Queen Is a Texas Institution, Even If It’s Not from Texas

What started in Illinois, is now headquartered in Minnesota, and is definitely a “Texas thing”? Dairy Queen. Yes, Dairy Queen, the restaurant chain built on Blizzards and dipped cones, was started in Joliet, Illinois in 1940 and is currently headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

So how is it a Texas thing?

dairy queen texas
Texas Dairy Queen

Maybe it’s because there are more Dairy Queen restaurants in Texas than in any other part of the country (around 600 locations). Or maybe it’s because almost every Texas kid has a Dairy Queen story—it was their first job or they hung out there during high school. Either way, Dairy Queen is so ingrained in Texas culture that it’s known as a “Texas stop sign.”

Every Dairy Queen location (with the exception of two stores operated by the corporate-operated location in Minneapolis) is an independently-owned franchise. Because Texas is, well, Texas, they take that independence a little further with an entirely separate menu.

dairy queen texas
Texas Dairy Queen

The Dairy Queen Texas Country Foods menu can only be found at Texas locations of the chain. The main DQ website even has a note right at the top that states “Menus May Vary in Texas.”

At DQ locations across the rest of the United States you can find chicken sandwiches, both fried and grilled. In Texas, though, you get The Dude, a chicken fried steak sandwich. You can also get the fried steak in a Steak Finger Country Basket, with “the best cream gravy anywhere” according to the website. The rest of the country is stuck with simple old chicken strip baskets, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

It may not be scientific, but it’s definitely the truth.

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In Texas, you can also find tacos, nachos, and a taco salad of both beef and chicken varieties.

Then there are the burgers. The Hungr-Buster is a quarter pound beef patty topped with crisp lettuce, tomatoes, purple onions, pickles, and bold yellow mustard. The Belt Buster adds a second quarter pound patty to the burger, while the Triple-Buster with Cheese adds a third patty and three slices of cheese.

dairy queen texas
Texas Dairy Queen

Plus, some Texas locations serve Chick’n & Dumplings, which is something I’m pretty sure no other fast food chain has ever done.

Texas is able to have its own Dairy Queen menu because back in the 1980s, the Texas Dairy Queen Operators’ Council negotiated with the parent corporation International Dairy Queen, Inc. to acquire the rights to their own marketing and menu. Which is why Texas ads for the chain have a unique tag line (“That’s What I Love About Texas”) and why the Texas Dairy Queen Twitter feed is, objectively speaking, the best DQ Twitter feed.

And because it’s Texas, if you’ve got a group to feed, DQ has you covered. Right on the front page, it says “Coaches and Leaders” because every away game needs a place to stop for a good, inexpensive dinner. Fun fact: The fictitious Alamo Freeze in Dillon, Texas, one of the critical locations in the TV show Friday Night Lights, is actually an operating Dairy Queen in Austin.

Texas Dairy Queens have always focused more on the food than on the frozen treats, but you can still get your soft serve ice cream dipped in chocolate and your Oreo Blizzard treat served to you upside down. Just like in the rest of the country, only better.
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