Tubac, Arizona in 2014
Don and I were headed to Bisbee, AZ.
We saw Tubac on the map and remembered hearing there was something historic and artsy about this community... and we were hungry for lunch.
I prefer old roadside diners or curious cafes in historic hotels.
A restaurant at a golf resort doesn't usually sound like a "dining adventure" to me. But this lovely resort was located on the Otero Ranch, established in 1789. We could eat and absorb a little history!
Lunch in the Old Stables!
We walked through the lovely fountain courtyard and into the Stables Ranch Grille.
It wasn't just a cute name, the building once housed the horses used by the Otero Family and Spanish settlers, working the ranch. The old stone floor was original.
Beams and Arches
I'm not sure when the other rooms were added on, but the brick arches and wood beams made it all blend.
We moved to the back, for window seats!
As you can see it was not crowded. In fact we were the only diners, which seems to happen to us a lot when we travel off season. It was early May, with perfect weather, but we didn't see a golfer in sight.
What we did see were the Santa Rita Mountains and a picturesque view of a pond, white fencing and cows in the distance!
Don was pretty delighted with his fish tacos, with pineapple-mango slaw on pickled jalepeno tortillas. My apricot chicken salad with walnuts was like dessert! But as yummy as the food was, I'll remember the staff more.
Our friendly waiter was excited to see Don's wallet made of stingray skin. He'd been hoping to get some stingray cowboy boots. The hostess was chatty when I showed enthusiasm about our view. When she pulled out the vacuum a while later and got to work before we finished eating, I wasn't even annoyed. (That usually bugs me!) Our private dining was as comfortable as if we were eating at a friend's house... who had chores to catch up on!
I had to take a stroll into the bar, where the only other customer was hanging out. He didn't seem so amused when the bartender invited me to try out one of the saddles... or I would have invited him to pose!
The bartender wasn't old enough to remember when John Wayne used to come to this bar, but he was around when Kevin Costner and Rene Russo hung out, during the filming of the movie, Tin Cup.
A Lucky Find
It's always fun to have an unplanned adventure which involves good food and nice atmosphere and a little history.
I think if I was going to plan a visit in the future, I'd aim for dinner, with a view of the sunset and a few more diners to liven the place up. Of course I wouldn't mind having Kevin Costner join us at the table. Of I'd even go along with the ghost of John Wayne... of Mr. Otero!
Saloon Options in Tombstone
I'm embarrassed to even say I went to Tombstone, but we did in the spring of 2014.
It was early, so the there were more people dressed like this, than tourists with their newly purchased cowboy hats.
Which Saloon for Lunch?
I liked the name Crystal Palace, so I told Don we should go there.
There seemed to be only men at the Palace. (That is a man with the long blond hair) And most of them had their heads bowed down at the bar.
I don't think they were praying. I don't even think they were texting. I'll tell you later what I think they were doing.
A Manly Kind of Place
Maybe it was the macho moose..elk head or whatever that was, that attracted the men. Or the tall ceiling with bullet holes? That's attractive to men, especially tall ones, who can spot those holes in the tin, while they chuckle about their own gun mishaps.
Of course the gal at the door wearing the black & red, Frederick's of Hollywood get-up, couldn't have had anything to do with the number of men in the place.
Beer or Lunch?
It was early, but we were hungry and there were indeed people ordering food. "Maybe we should just sit at the old bar, for the real experience."
I told Don. "We can have a beer and decide if we want to go all out and have lunch." You can be like that when you're on vacation.
So we sat near the end of the bar where there was some good people watching. Maybe not as fun as this old image of the bar, but we did watch an incredibly old man in a cowboy hat leave his stool.
At first I thought he was doing a slow-motion, soft shoe dance to amuse the costumed hostess. But then I realized his arms were held out for balance and his slow, toe to heel, sideways shuffle across the worn wood floor was just the way he moved...until he grabbed hold of the railing.
Where to Look?
Our barmaid wandered down to take our order and it was all I could do to keep from busting out in giggles. Her body, squished into her little outfit was like a cartoon drawing.
When she returned and leaned in with the beers, it was as if she also was offering a plate with 2 mounds of jello hors d'oeuvres. I'm not kidding. It was weird. Again, I wanted to laugh, but her icy expression seemed to be saying, "Don't even look at them!" So I stared forward at the bar mirror, which reflected a raunchy old-style painting from the opposite wall. And then a quick glance at the fine calendar tacked to the wood and I realized, we were being served by Miss April!
So all those men gazing downward, were either so incredibly intimidated by Miss April's eye-rolling attitude or they were all texting photos of her to their friends.
That better not be what Don was doing! I wish I'd had the guts to get a closer picture of her because I truly wanted to study how she fit into that corset thing!
Conversing with Miss April
I started to feel sorry for Miss April. Probably no women will ever talk to her. And men are probably either rude to her or too intimidated to speak. So I struck up a conversation. I stupidly asked about the history of the saloon.
She answered in monotone and pointed to bullet holes above. I should have just gone ahead and asked her the question I really wanted an answer for. "That contraption, that is lifting your boobs up in such a comical way... does that thing make you feel like you're in a middle-aged nightmare and trapped forever in a Mammogram machine?" She would have probably sighed, "Mammo-what, Honey?"
Big Nose Kate's
We finished our beers and moved on.
The tough guys in black, at the entrance to Big Nose Kate's Saloon, seemed much less intimidating.
A Nice Change
It was all noisy, crowded and sort of silly in the spacious saloon. But we had a great time, seated up on a raised area where we could enjoy more people watching!
The vibe was touristy, but totally comfortable at this saloon!
A Friendlier Place
I was feeling mighty content and relaxed as we shared a Rueben sandwich and some chili. Some man from a nearby table stopped by our table to comment about my pleasant smile.
I'm past flirting years and he was mannerly and not drunk... which made the comment all the more confusing. Was I radiating some kind of grinning relief because I was far, far away from Miss April?
Oh Those Silly Tourists
There were a lot of middle aged tourists having a grand old time, posing behind the bar or even on top of the old player piano.
Such silliness! Then I reminded myself of all the goof ball things I do with posing and cameras. I guess I won't make fun.
So as we listened to the live music and counted all the cowboy hats and chuckled over a few tourist babies nearby, we also took in a few of the "locals" dressed in sheriff and outlaw attire.
Don and I had such a short visit to Tombstone, we never quite grasped what the place was about. It's not like we paid a fee to come into an "Old West" theme park with paid actors. How does all this work?
We'll have to figure it out next time!
Balboa Pavilion in Newport Beach, CA
I love the word pavilion. It conjures up images of spacious grand structures, where fun things happen. The Balboa Pavilion has been having some fun since it opened on Newport Bay in 1906.
Ferry from the Island
Don and I were visiting Balboa island in May of 2014, when we realized we could catch the ferry across the bay to the iconic waterfront pavilion and recreation area.
It was a pretty fun little trip, watching the sailboats and glide by. We could see the ferris wheel, palms and the flag waving on the top of the ornate cupola.
Seeing the pavilion from the water, was ideal. You could imagine the ballroom on the second level, where there was no charge for dancing, unless you wanted to dance in the roped off area in the center.
In the 1930's, during the Big Band Era, Goodman, Basie and the Dorseys played here. There were also dance marathons in the ballroom, where contestants danced until they could dance no more!
I've always been curious about the seaside bathhouse world at the turn of the century. When I visit nearby Galveston, I have to just imagine those Victorian structures. They're all gone.
It was just an hour ride on the new Pacific Electric Railway from downtown Los Angeles in 1906.
The whole lower floor was a bathhouse, so travelers could change from their city clothes for a day at the beach. There were even options for renting bathing suits. For those who would rather look at bathing suits, in the 1920's there were bathing suit parades with judges of course.
The look is not so impressive today. But at least the pavilion continues to run. And there was a very cute Balboa Bakery on the corner with a fun old Donuts sign.
The entrance on the street is a little too modernized for my taste, but at least there was a restaurant on the lower level, so we could enjoy the once grand place.
Bar and Restaurant
My bar image is not too impressive, with tourists on cell phones and ball caps. Not one of those long striped bathing suits in sight anywhere! But we took a window seat and ordered some wine and 4-dollar small plates to celebrate the "Longest Happy Hour in Town" (11-7)
It would have been fun to have dined there at night with dim lighting, so we could imagine the Victorian crowds or the gambling and dancing crowds that came in later years. But, how could we complain? We had a "lunch" for a few bucks and a window where we could watch kids taking sailing lessons, or a mini parade of flag covered yachts.
A Step Back in Time?
Our dining adventure at the Pavilion didn't really give take us back in time to experience a different era. (too many tourists around us) But the world we watched from our table, was just as foreign as a different time period. Someday I'll have a dining adventure on a sailboat or yacht!
Alpine, Arizona in 2014
Don and I were on the road headed towards Winslow, when we made a stop for lunch at this fine place.
We were still chuckling a bit as we entered, because we had just noticed a truck flying by on Highway 180, with a gas hose flapping from the side of the truck.
Wood Covered Cafe
We passed the fine sign with the bear weathervane, then climbed onto the porch, noticing an awful lot of banners with "POW- MIA" and "Don't Tread on Me" thoughts.
The inside reminders, "No Bikes on the Porch" and "No Cell Phones" didn't seem too welcoming, but we got a nice greeting from staff.
Screen Door and Knotty Pine!
I love a screened door, propped open with a half a brick, especially when there are moose and bear images involved.
And I do love knotty pine! The pine walls were covered in photos! Good for browsing.
Cluttered and Cozy!
Stools, booths, lights hanging from antlers, brown & tan tile below and shiny wood above!
What a welcoming sight, just inside that door!
Where to Sit?
We chose the back "sunroom" with booths along a windowed wall. The tables provided cozy seating and a view.
I was also hopeful about a good people encounter, since the man in overalls looked like he might know the local gossip.
View and Gossip
First we enjoyed the view below, of some hunter's cabins and some trees that hadn't realized it was spring, yet. Then we had a chance to meet Rick, who sat behind Don. "Looks like you two are a long way from home." You have to love that line.
When he heard we were headed for Winslow said, "Oh, I'm sorry." We had to fill him in about the Harvey House Hotel we were excited about. He came around.
Rick told us he'd been coming to Bear Wallow since he was about 5 years old. He knew the area well and gave us some suggestions for scenic roads and historic towns. Our chatty waitress got in on the conversation. She and Rick had already heard about the truck that ran away with the gas hose!
Food and History
Rick had recommended the Half and Half Chili. It was a great mix of regular and green chili...with lots of onion!
Don had a burger which was pretty basic. We read the menu, hoping for some history of the cafe, but learned more about Alpine's history. No wonder I was feeling woozy. Alpine is at 8,050 feet!
Taller Than Don
I made Don do a quick pose with the chainsaw bear near the porch.
The words "Bear Wallow Cafe" were barely visible on the fish, held by the paws. Sweet old bear at a funny old place.
We always like to catch the unusual places, before it's too late and they're suddenly gone. I have a feeling Bear Wallow isn't going anywhere soon.
Mount Vernon, Texas
This was quite a little find at the beginning of our road trip last fall. The window on the left said Home Cookin' and the window on the right said The Cake Lady. I still don't know which is the name.
A Tiny Town
We were headed from Fort Worth, Texas to Hot Springs, Arkansas. This 2-lane road was not the fastest route, but Don loves an old highway and he was intrigued with Highway 67, which starts in Presidio, TX and ends around Davenport, Iowa.
It was a Sunday, and small town cafes are often closed. But we spotted an old blue neon sign that said "Alp Cafe" and there seemed to be a car in the lot.
The sign itself was worth the stop.
Flag and Curtains
You never know what you might find when you venture into a little cafe on the edge of town. And the last thing you want to do is walk in and insult the owners by not staying. But the curtains in the window and the un-tattered flag seemed to be a good sign. Plus there was a big tree in back with a glimpse of a wooden deck. This must be good.
Donna, the Cake Lady
I have no pics of the omelet and fried eggs we ordered. They were fine, but the chatty owner Donna was the finest. She'd just been open 6 months, but seemed mighty happy with things so far. She had 7 kids and 27 grandkids and figured if she was always going to be cooking anyway, she might as well open a restaurant. As for her name... people started calling her The Cake Lady for the delicious treats she used to sell on the town square.
A Little History
We asked about The Alp Cafe sign and Donna said that was the original name. The old sign recently was discovered in a river and rescued.
The Alp, was a 24-hour joint back in the 1930's. Donna said she'd heard a lot of wild stories about the men who headed over to the Alp late at night... after taking their dates home. At that time there had been no bathroom, so the customers had to go over to the filling station. You can see the building next door, with the restroom doors on the side. I'm sure there's still a worn path between the two buildings...but I didn't really want to look.
The cook, who may have been a relative, rang the bell a few times to announce an order. That was sort of amusing, since for most of the time we were the only customers.
I should have taken that bell sound as a signal and looked up at that window. I would have made a wiser choice with my order! We had chosen breakfast since it was before noon, but we could have had the $6.95 special! It was an amazing platter of stuffed pork chops, green beans and dressing!
Next Time! We'll have to come back and catch up on more news with Donna and for sure get the daily special.
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.