The sign for Windsor Bar is an intriguing one. The 1935 silver dollar lights up at night and so do the words, "packaged goods" and "KENO"!
We spotted the sign last fall, as we rolled into the small town of Boulder.
We arrived at about 3 pm. The town has a population of about 1,000, so there wasn't too much to see.
We were headed to the historic Boulder Hot Springs Hotel, a couple miles outside of town, past a big rodeo arena and a Youth Detention Center. We knew the hotel offered no dinner options, but we'd heard the Windsor Bar did.
Checking it Out
I had Don pull over. It certainly didn't look like a place that would serve anything besides liquor. It also didn't look like a place I would normally go to for a glass of wine. But earlier, I had been surprised to read decent food reviews, on TripAdvisor!
It was too early for dinner, but I decided to go in for a peek. I was confused about which door to enter. How about the one with the faded barber pole painted beside it? I decided to go for the door near the corner, where I felt welcomed by the neon "OPEN" sign, which glowed from the glass block window.
There was no one in the room with the long wooden bar and knotty pine walls. However, I heard voices through the window opening in the center of the bar.
I walked around and found the bartender, James in the second room. He was serving a man with a white ponytail, enjoying a beer and a basket of popcorn.
James and the Birthday Boy
The man at the bar was having a beer in celebration of his birthday. I wished him a happy one and then asked a few questions. I told them both that I had heard about the great steaks at Windsor Bar. The birthday boy raved about James and his rib eye cooking skills.
I had to laugh when I noticed the built in grill, sharing space with liquor bottles, beer mugs and cooking utensils. James warned me that I might want to reserve some meat, if we were coming back. He studied his list of call-in-orders and announced, "We're limited tonight. I only have one rib eye left. We have all fresh meat, hand cut daily."
Back at Six
Don and I checked into the hotel then returned at 6:00. The popcorn smell I had noticed earlier was replaced by the smells of sizzling steaks. James was rushing around finishing up some ribeye orders for 3 couples at a nearby table.
His shift was ending, but Soja, (who is the daughter of owner, Rusty) was starting up for the evening. She was full of fresh energy as she teased James who had been working since early morning. She laughed with locals and slammed the dice cup down on the bar, alerting anyone who might be interested in playing Once a Day Rolls. Don and I were the only non-regulars, so I felt a little guilty when we were the only winners of a free drink. But we made up for the freebie by ordering a ribeye dinner for $32.00.
Watching the Food
It was pretty wild, sitting on the old swivel stools watching Soja toss on the 24 ounce slabs of meat, then twirl around with giant mugs of beer, then toss potatoes into the microwave, then laugh with a customers over the dice game. She was young and energetic, but tended to the food, drink and customers like an old pro.
Dinner is Served
We sat right there at the bar sharing a big platter which held our massive rib eye and steamy baked potato.
Another plate held stacked up slices of garlic toast. The meat was as juicy and mouthwatering as the reviews had claimed. Soja made sure we were pleased and then left us to our feasting.
This is Jim, who came in after a bit and sat down near Don. At one point, he noticed me snapping photos in the other half of the bar, so he followed along and shared some stories.
I pointed above the bar and wanted to know what that boat-shaped, polka-dotted thing was. He said it was half of the original top of the old "Silver Dollar Bar". Drinkers could have their silver dollar placed into one of the circular holes and then their name would be etched beside it.
Why Are Coins Missing?
Jim said when he was a boy, there was a town robbery. Someone broke into the bar and used a screwdriver to remove a couple rows of silver dollars. Then the crook moved down to the bank where he stole the entire safe.
They called in lots of help to search the land around Boulder, including Jim's boy scout troop. Jim and his buddies were the first to spot the discarded safe in the brush. They called for help and sadly learned that the only things left inside were some coins and checks. Great story. I hope it's true.
The Art of Connie Smith
Next, Jim pointed out some large pieces of Western artwork, mounted to the knotty pine walls. I was told that CJ Smith did basically two things, paint and drink. "Connie pretty much paid for his liquor with his art. He lived a block from my house when I was a kid.
He was old and cranky and most of the kids were scared of him. But I didn't mind him. Sometimes he wouldn't make it all the way home after a big night drinking at the bar and I'd see him asleep under our willow tree in the morning. My dad would go out and help him get home. "
The owner Rusty appeared when we were finishing up our meal. I guess Soja must have mentioned to her dad that there were some out-of-towners at the bar. (As if he couldn't tell) Pretty soon she came down our way, saying her father would like to buy us drinks. The whole idea of someone offering you a drink is just fun. It happens in movies and to cool people... not a regular thing in my world.
Unfortunately, I'm also one of those people who can only drink about 1 beer, so that kindness is sort of wasted on me. But we ended up having a great chat with Rusty who seemed pretty surprised when I told him we had heard about their good food from the internet. He handed us each a Windsor Bar poker chip on our way out. I'm holding the chip in the photo. I decided it could be my tangible reminder, so I wouldn't forget to add another good TripAdvisor & Yelp review.
"Surprisingly yummy food in a surprisingly friendly atmosphere!"
We just missed a lovely sunset as we headed for the hotel. And we didn't have time the next day to check out the Free Enterprise Health Mine, as advertised on the side of the building.
Evidently, you can relax and heal in the old mine tunnels with a little radon. But our time had not been at all wasted at the Windsor Bar. Good memories!
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.