One of the most rewarding discoveries when exploring the more remote parts of rural Nevada is stumbling onto some funky old-time saloon tucked away in a former mining camp or railroad town. These throw-back thirst parlors often boast elaborate wooden backbars as well as bartenders who can clearly spin a yarn or two.
Fortunately, there are still a number of these colorful old places where visitors can enjoy the ambience and a tall, cool one, including the following:
• The Manhattan Bar and Motel, Manhattan—Few places fit the description of classic water hole as does this joint, which is housed in a wooden building moved to the once-thriving mining town of Manhattan in 1927 from another mining camp, Silver Peak.
Behind the bar’s false frontier storefront beats the heart of this sleepy hamlet of about 120 souls. In addition to offering cold beverages, the bar doubles as the town laundromat, pool hall, RV park and a four-unit motel (it boasts the only rooms for rent in town—with wifi!). The latter have been renovated in recent years.
The Manhattan is famous—in Central Nevada, at least — as the home of the “Chicken Hit,” a unique game of chance. It involves placing a chicken in an eight-by-eight-foot cage, the bottom of which is painted with numbers like a giant keno board. Participants place bets on which number they believe the chicken will relieve itself.
The Manhattan Bar and Motel is located at 19 Main Street in Manhattan. For more information, call 775-487-2304, or go to: https://travelnevada.com/discover/31115/manhattan-bar-motel. The town of Manhattan is located about 45 miles north of Tonopah via State Route 376 and 377.
• Santa Fe Club, Goldfield—One look at the Santa Fe and you know you’ve found the real deal. With its Western false front, wooden sidewalk, and uneven floorboards, the Santa Fe creaks with authenticity. The saloon was built in 1905 on the edge of Goldfield’s mining district and has an impressive Brunswick back bar. (Many classic 19th- and early 20th-century back bars were manufactured by the Brunswick Company of Brunswick, Maine.)
If you want to stay overnight, the Santa Fe, with eight units, offers the only rooms in Goldfield. The saloon is located at 925 N. 5th Street in Goldfield. For more information, call 775-485-3431 or go to: https://travelnevada.com/places/santa-fe-saloon-motel. Goldfield is located about 25 miles south of Tonopah via U.S. 95.
• The Belmont Inn, Belmont—In addition to being a surprisingly cool bed and breakfast inn that is practically in the middle of nowhere, the Belmont Inn has a very hospitable, warm bar. Called “Indian Maggie’s,” this saloon is housed in an 1860s stone building adjacent to the inn, meaning it’s a short walk to your room from the saloon.
Inside, Indian Maggie’s has paintings of historic scenes of the Belmont area, created by a local artist, and a nice, friendly ambience.
The Belmont Inn has five guestrooms as well as a rebuilt stone miner’s cabin, located a few dozen yards behind the inn, which can also be rented. Large groups interested in “roughing it” can rent an old bunkhouse behind the main house, which has accommodations for up to ten additional guests.
For information about the Belmont Inn, go to: www.belmontinn.com. The best way to make a reservation is via email, email@example.com. Belmont is located about 40 miles northeast of Tonopah via U.S. Highway 6 and Nevada Route 376.
• The Pioneer Saloon, Goodsprings—Housed in a stamped metal building that was built in 1913, the Pioneer is the unofficial focus of the former mining town of Goodsprings.
Inside, the Brunswick cherrywood bar and backbar have been there since the place opened but are actually older, having been built in the 1860s. An old pot-belly stove in the saloon, which is still used, is said to date to the Civil War.
Additionally, atop the stove is a melted chunk of aluminum recovered from the site of a tragic airplane crash that claimed the lives of actress Carole Lombard, her mother and dozens of others in January, 1942. The crash occurred when Lombard’s plane slammed into nearby Double Deal Mountain. Lombard’s husband, actor Clark Gable, reportedly sat in the bar for days awaiting word from search crews.
The Pioneer is located in Goodsprings, which is about 34 miles southwest of Las Vegas via Interstate 15 and Nevada Route 161. For information, contact the Pioneer Saloon, 702-874-9362, or go to: http://www.pioneersaloon.info/.
Rich Moreno covers the places and people that make Nevada special.