While places East of the Mississippi can boast numerous 19th century buildings, the West does not. Most of the surviving buildings ‘out here’ are made of stone, adobe, and lava rock.
Restaurants are more of a rarity due to the nature the requisite blaze required to cook and the danger of such chemistry near wooden walls. Some say it is obvious the wooden restaurants would either burn or rot out. I have a theory some wooden structures just spontaneously combusted! On the other hand, I always wondered where the settlers and pioneers even GOT the lumber in the first place? Palo verdes and little dried out shrubs are the only indigenous flora around these parts. Let us think this frontier restaurant trough, shall we? Wood building+ little glass window (did you ever hold a magnify glass over an ant on a sunny day?) + 118 degrees of dry heat + most likely drunken inhabitants at some point or another = a baaaad combination! The building is right for the kindling! It is a wonder more places were not inadvertently torched.
To that end, there are two notable restaurants in Arizona that have weathered the test of time (in some cases, they were burnt to ash and rebuilt on the same spot.–Nothing says ‘learning from your mistakes’ like dusting off the embers and resurrecting yet another wooden structure . . . ) **Below the two notable places which continue to serve the desert; words are directly from an article in the Arizona Republic. My two cents are in ().**
Palace Restaurant & Saloon, Prescott, 1877
The Palace is the historic heart of Whiskey Row. (Whiskey Row, BIG surprise)
Back when Prescott was still Territorial Capital, such notables as Wyatt Earp, his brothers Virgil and Morgan, and Doc Holliday were bellying up to the bar at the Palace shortly before they departed for Tombstone.
In 1900, when fire swept Whiskey Row, customers of the Palace interrupted their drinking just long enough to carry the ornately carved 1880s Brunswick bar across the street to safety. (It is nice to know the drunks kept their priorities straight)
There they continued to toss back the hooch as the fire raged, making the Palace the site of one of the all-time great drinking stories. (I rest my case)
By 1901, the Palace Hotel and Bar, complete with Chinese restaurant and barber shop, had reopened and was known as the most elegant pleasure resort on the Row. Three large gambling tables were kept going full tilt.
The movie “Junior Bonner,” starring Steve McQueen, was filmed there, as well as scenes for “Billy Jack” and “Wanda Nevada.”
Today, the Palace has been lovingly restored and serves a full menu of grub and libations. (Must check this out for myself!)
Details: 120 S. Montezuma St. 928-541-1996, historicpalace.com.
Longhorn Restaurant, Tombstone, 1881
Almost every building site along the boardwalk streets of Tombstone comes with a vivid, often bloody history. The Longhorn Restaurant is no exception.
On the night of Dec. 28, 1881, gunmen huddled near a window in the office of the Huachuca Water Co. As Virgil Earp crossed the street, the roar of shotguns split the night. (Not the brightest idea to shoot at a lawman)
One load hit Virgil above the left hip, and another shattered his left arm above the elbow. Gunmen fled out the back as Virgil staggered to safety, collapsing in the arms of his brother Wyatt. Virgil survived his wounds but forever lost the use of his arm.
Later, the Tourist Hotel and Owl Cafe occupied the spot where unknown assailants sought retribution for the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. In the 1950s, it was Rossi’s Restaurant; it became the Longhorn Restaurant and Hotel a decade later.
Steve and Gloria Goldstein purchased the property in 1977. They got rid of the hotel, expanded the restaurant and restored a look compatible with Tombstone’s historical status. The Longhorn Restaurant has become a landmark in a town filled with family-friendly dining options. (I have been here and it is yummy. The place is also referred to as Big Nose Kate’s.)
Details: 501 E. Allen St. 520-457-3405, bignosekates.com.