7 must-visit Nevada saloons — and what to quaff

Many spots have been slaking thirst for more than a century

SYDNEY MARTINEZ/PROVIDED TO RN&R: Goodsprings Pioneer Saloon, about 40 miles south of Las Vegas, opened in 1913. It's the oldest bar in Southern Nevada.

Toby Keith got it right: “I love this bar.”

His psalm extolling a cherished watering hole reminds us (with a beer chaser) of the importance (nay, the sacredness) of such places. In Nevada, some of these spots have been accommodating bellies to the bar for a century or more.

Travel Nevada, which promotes tourism in the Silver State, calls them Sagebrush Saloons. We’re joining with Travel Nevada to showcase seven saloons worth a road trip (or a stop on a road trip)

Some are a short pour from Reno, others farther afield, but all celebrate the (responsible) pleasures of a stiff drink and bar stool conversation (with a float of history).

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GOLD HILL HOTEL & SALOON, 1540 S. Main St., Virginia City (Storey County)

SYDNEY MARTINEZ/PROVIDED TO RN&R: The Saloon portion of Gold Hill Hotel & Saloon, near Virginia City, was once the stable for the property.

The original section of the Gold Hill Hotel dates to about 1860 (four years before Nevada statehood) and to the start of the Comstock silver mining boom. The Saloon once housed the hotel stable. Today, the bar features burly walls of brick and stone, a big fireplace for chilly nights and a terrace for warm-weather sipping. As of April 2021, the property has new owners.

What to drink: In the 1860s, folks had to mix Virginia City water with gin to make the water potable, so order anything made with local Cemetery Gin.

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IGGY & SQUIGGY’S JUNCTION BAR, 1506 Old U.S. 395 S., Holbrook Junction (18 miles south of Gardnerville in Douglas County)

SYDNEY MARTINEZ/PROVIDED TO RN&R: Iggy & Squiggy’s Junction Bar, south of Gardnerville, is owned and operated by two brothers.

Iggy is Steve Popichak. Squiggy is his brother Jerry Popichak. They own and operate this quirky roadhouse known for its burgers (which you’d expect from a roadhouse) and its tacos (which you wouldn’t). For a visit (or if you’ve had one too many), bunk down in the sites reserved for tents or RVs. Also on the grounds: picnic tables, bathrooms and laundry.

What to drink: A Nevada martini. But belay the shaker. This martini is a frosty mug of draft beer spiked with fat salty Iggy & Squiggy olives. The bar also sells the olives in jars.

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MIDDLEGATE STATION, 42500 U.S. 50, Middlegate (50 miles east of Fallon in Churchill County)

SYDNEY MARTINEZ/PROVIDED TO RN&R: Middlegate Station, a former Pony Express waystation east of Fallon, challenges folks to finish the 4-pound Monster Burger.

In the 1860s, Middlegate Station began life as a waystation for Pony Express riders. In the 1940s, it became a stop for folks traveling U.S. 50, the first modern highway to span the country. Middlegate Station remains a place to refuel on windswept 50, with gas, a mini-mart, cold beer, strong whiskey and the famed 4-pound Monster Burger many braggadocious eaters can’t finish.

What to drink: Beer with a whiskey back. If you can’t down the Monster Burger, you can at least down these.

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PARADISE VALLEY SALOON & BAR G, 95 S. Main St., Paradise Valley (40 miles north of Winnemucca in Humboldt County)

SYDNEY MARTINEZ/PROVIDED TO RN&R: North of Winnemucca, Paradise Valley Saloon & Bar G has been welcoming imbibers since the early 1900s. Dollar bills signed by customers mantle the walls.

The community of Paradise Valley (present population: about 100) was founded in the 1860s. Since the early 1900s, the saloon has been a mainstay of the community, over the years serving ranchers and prospectors and any other folks who happened by (that friendly spirit endures). Dollar bills mantle the walls, a classic bit of saloon décor, and a wood-fire stove nods to the rugged setting.

What to drink: Whiskey rocks with a burger or Basque chorizo sandwich. On Saturdays, make that whiskey rocks with a rib-eye.

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LUCKY SPUR SALOON, 306 Kingston Canyon Road, Kingston (30 miles south of Austin in Lander County)

SYDNEY MARTINEZ/PROVIDED TO RN&R: Men’s Health magazine named Lucky Spur Saloon, in the hamlet of Kingston south of Austin, the best bar in the middle of nowhere.

In 2011, Men’s Health named Lucky Spur Saloon the best bar in the middle of nowhere. The magazine’s editors discovered what travelers have known for years: The saloon is worth a detour to the heart of the Big Smoky Valley. After a day of skiing ,hiking or hot spring soaking, folks head to the bar (garnished with taxidermy heads) for potent drinks and stunning vistas.

What to drink: You can’t swig the views, but you can swig a boozy bloody Mary.

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SANTA FE MOTEL & SALOON, 925 N. Fifth Ave., Goldfield (Esmeralda County)

SYDNEY MARTINEZ/PROVIDED TO RN&R: Santa Fe Saloon opened in 1905 when Goldfield was Nevada’s largest city. The saloon once included a house of ill repute.

The Santa Fe Saloon (once called the Santa Fe Club) opened in 1905, when the prospecting boomtown of Goldfield was the largest city in Nevada — and when many saloons, like the Santa Fe, doubled as bordellos. These days, the beds are in the motel, not the backroom. As you take a seat at the Santa Fe, the plank floors and old mining claims and the antique back bar summon the Gold Rush.

What to drink: A cold one.

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GOODSPRINGS PIONEER SALOON, 310 Nevada Route 161, Goodsprings (40 miles south of Las Vegas in Clark County)

SYDNEY MARTINEZ/PROVIDED TO RN&R: A stained-glass window celebrates the 100th anniversary of Goodsprings Pioneer Saloon south of Las Vegas.

History truly takes a bow at this 1913 saloon. Bullet holes pit the pressed tin walls, souvenirs of a long-ago poker game gone bad. Clark Gable kept vigil at the bar in 1942 until the remains of his wife, Carole Lombard, were recovered from a nearby plane crash. Imbibers today can still paw the original brass foot rail from when the place was built. A Vegas visit isn’t only about the Strip; head out to Goodsprings.

What to drink: A Kentucky Mule made with Bulleit Bourbon. Because it’s hot in Vegas and thereabouts.

Johnathan L. Wright is the food and drink editor for Reno News & Review. Follow him on Twitter at @ItsJLW or on Facebook personally or at @FoodNevada. Sign up here for the Reno News & Review free weekly newsletter highlighting our most recent stories.

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1 Comment

  1. You missed Dirty Dick’s Belmont Saloon and the Midas Saloon. It was the Midas Saloon years before the need to add Ghost to the name.
    You know you’re a Nevadan if you ever filled your car wis gas from the original Midas hand pumped gas pump!

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