St. Pat's is a big deal, but not only draw at old-time saloon

2013-03-16T00:00:00Z St. Pat's is a big deal, but not only draw at old-time saloonAshley Powell For The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Every year Tiny's Saloon and Steakhouse serves 350 pounds of corned beef on St. Patrick's Day.

A waitress in a leprechaun costume greets customers, handing out chocolate coins to children and serving green beer to adults. The restaurant also celebrates with raffles and giveaways.

Penny Pickell, 36, who has managed the store for four years, said that the restaurant is not a big holiday bar other than that.

"(It's) always a lot of fun," Pickell said.

The family-friendly restaurant sits off West Ajo Highway near South Kinney Road, close to a McDonald's, a retirement community and a gas station. It's hard to miss the giant rusting wagon that reads "Family Restaurant."

Tiny Denniston and his wife, Marry, opened this steakhouse in 1982 and later sold the restaurant before Tiny's death in 2001. Tiny's Saloon and Steakhouse remains intact and open for business, capturing the same Western feel as it did back then.

"We have to maintain our history," said owner Teresa Salinas, 58.

Salinas' late brother bought the saloon in 1998. She and her sister now own it.

As you enter the restaurant, you see a long wooden bar to one side. Antlers and old pots, pans, lanterns other gadgets hang from the restaurant's ceiling. Country music streams out of the speakers.

Old West photos, cowboy portraits, wagon wheels and Tiny's framed obituary, which reads, "Tiny Denniston: A Big Man With An Even Bigger Heart," add to the ambience.

"It's something that reminds me of the Old West," Salinas said, adding that the restaurant gives her the vibe of being in Tombstone.

Salinas said independent films and a Jack Daniel's commercial have captured the Old West feel at Tiny's.

Pickell and "Tiny's Staff," as the servers' T-shirts read, get ready to open by writing the day's specials on a blackboard near the bar.

October through May is the busiest time of year for Tiny's. During the week, the saloon is flooded with customers on Tuesdays and Thursdays for its half-pound burger special. Sunday's wings and the burgers are Tiny's most popular dishes.

"When people come in here, it's more homey, not like a Denny's," said a waitress of 15 years, Linda Breen, 63.

Salinas and Pickell said the steakhouse gets a lot of snowbirds but plenty of regulars, as well.

"It's kind of like a melting pot of clientele," Pickell said. "I love the regulars we get. They're so fun."

While Tiny's caters to families, it's the bikers, cowboys and locals who help the restaurant stay alive.

"People come in here and come in here for a long time," said Susan Driskill, 61, who has worked there as a waitress since 1982.

The familiar clientele and longtime workers make it feel like a home.

"It's enjoyable to come to work every day," Pickell said.

The restaurant does everything it can to keep people coming back or trying Tiny's for the first time.

Along with the St. Patrick's Day festivities, Driskill recalled a year where a headless horseman rode into Tiny's on Halloween, and the time staff members put on an Easter egg hunt and a horse-and-wagon ride for children on Easter.

"We've had a lot of good times here," Driskill said.

A mural portraying cowboys and Indians on the side of the building is visible from the dirt parking lot, paying homage to the area's Wild West past.

"It's not just city. It's the rural that's important too," Salinas said. "It's part of the West."

If you go

• What: Tiny's Saloon and Steakhouse.

• Where: 4900 W. Ajo Highway.

• Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Wednesday; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday; 10 a.m. to midnight Friday; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

• Contact: 578-7700.

• Price range: $10-$18 per person.

Ashley Powell is a University of Arizona student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at 573-4117 or starapprentice@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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