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!
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.
Mother's Day Lunch in Gila Bend
You have to love the name of this restaurant.
And you have to appreciate the name of this town as well!
Why Did We Go?
This was not a big Destination Mother's Day Celebration. We were on our way from Alpine, CA to Tucson, AZ.
It happened to be Mother's Day, which meant I got a little extra say so in where we stopped for lunch. How could I resist this 1960's diner with the sparkly white paint job. In fact the blue tiles had glittery sparkles, too!
Where is Everyone?
It was sort of a bad sign that the place wasn't packed on Mother's Day. There was nowhere else do go in Gila Bend and who wouldn't want to bring their mom here?
I did have to grin when I walked inside, though. The modern spotlights were aimed at the colorful space mural and the counter stools were right out of the Jetson's cartoon show. The white dots on the shiny black floor made me feel like I was looking down into outerspace!
The menu had a friendly cover with a very exciting image of a flying saucer/coffee cup.
Inside the menu there was a write up about the history of the Space Age Restaurant and Motel, built in 1964. (postcard image from the internet) The futuristic design was created by Al Stovall, who at that time was affiliated with the newly founded Space program.
He owned a plastic factory among other things and was able to use factory mateirals to create some of the unique features, like satellite replicas on the roof. Mr. Stovall passed away in the '70's, but his family is still involved in ownership. The restaurant was rebuilt after a fire in 1998, so sadly some of the truly retro features are missing.
We were starved, so ordered quickly.
Don's hamburger didn't look terribly exciting, but the space age china that the burger sat upon, made up for that. Do make note of the etched glass behind Don. Planets and Spaceship!
I made sure to order a salad bar with my tuna sandwich and chili. That meant I got to go into another room with more wall art. Painted Rockets and astronauts, saucer style lamps, dramatic blue ceiling with dangling planets!
This shouldn't impress me since I can go to Space Center in Houston anytime I want. But it all seemed hysterically fun, out in the middle of nowhere in Arizona!
You can tell by the cheese that my chili was not served piping hot, but they were able to give it a little zap in the microwave, when I asked.
It still was only lukewarm, but I enjoyed my flying saucer plate so much that I hardly cared.
Time to Go
I'm glad we didn't drive 2 hours... or 2 days just for Mother's Day Brunch, because our dining adventure was over in about 30 minutes.
Which was just fine since we needed to get on the road. I wish we'd had time too stop in the motel lobby before departing. The lobby is underneath the saucer-like structure to the left!
I did make a purchase from the diner gift shop.
This very awesome Space Age mug is my most favorite coffee mug these days. I made sure to capture its image on some reflective foil to add some excitement to the photo.
When We Return
Don and I realize we may not have hit the restaurant on the best of days.
I have a feeling the people of Gila were doing what all families should do on Mother's Day. They were home celebrating with Mom. So we'll just have to return another time and maybe even stay at the Space Age Lodge!
Williams, Arizona in April
There are quite a few cool looking signs in Williams.
You might expect that since it's on the old Route 66 on its way into the Grand Canyon.
You have to be extra impressed with a steak house that has a snazzy neon cow sign at the rear entrance...
...as well as the front entrance! And look at the awesome cow that I got to pose with. There is just no way we could pick another place besides Rod's!
This is the front room, which was filled with cow stuff all the way up to the stained glass cow in the ceiling light.
There was a fireplace with some kind of cow art above the mantel.
On the wall beside Don we had a double cow feature, with a nice cowhide, as well as a cow skull.
There was a nice display of cow dishes on the wall shelf.
The paper mat had a little history about Rod and how he opened the Steak House with his wife in 1946.
The brief history mentioned a teenage dishwasher name Lawrence, who was hired by Rod. That dishwasher grew up and now he owns the place. I love stories like that.
I'm glad we spotted the festive neon sign before we did a food search on the internet. I read reviews later and I guess traveling just makes diners grumpy.
I didn't have steak, so I can't really say. But maybe these people were just coming in with ridiculous expectations. I came here because I loved the sign, but my my tuna sandwich, cold slaw and Mexican cheese with beef and veggie soup was delish! Don's Prime Rib Dip was exceptionally good! Moist and tangy and perfect for lunch. And big bonus points for the china! I loved the sweet Hereford on the center with the fence & cow design circling the rim!
This photo near the front door shows you that Williams is not a big city.
There were quite a few motels along the road, which probably get packed with summer travelers to the Grand Canyon. I didn't get a chance to sit on the saddle in the corner...or the cow outside.
I love having an excuse to powder my nose. On my journey to the restroom, I got to check out the rear dining areas.
Look at that mighty steer on the wall. Lots of cowboy décor to enjoy!
My journey continued into the basement. You have to love a basement with white brick and neon.
It made me think I was wandering the bottom of a ship.
Love My Ladies Room!
Nothing delights me more than a vintage restroom to add to my restaurant memories.
This little beauty had mint green tile and a curvy counter to rest my purse, while I powdered my nose!
Cows to Go!
As we headed on our way, I was pretty excited to have a little cow card souvenir, to help me remember our special lunch.
I would love to return sometime for an evening meal with steak and potatoes. Then I could see both neon signs lit up! Hope to return!
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.