The recognition comes from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which is an organization that works toward saving historically-significant places throughout the nation.
St. Elmo Bar is the bar in mind, which has been around since 1902 and is the longest continually operating bar in Arizona, according to
archives from #ThisIsTucson.
The National Trust website also says that St. Elmo survived the Prohibition years ago when it transformed into a soda shop. And the organization recommends the Bloody Mary — which uses a special "chili water" for a little extra spice.
Beyond St. Elmo, which is located at
36 Brewery Avenue in Bisbee, National Trust's list includes dive bars from New York, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Texas, Idaho, and Washington, D.C. Dive bars in Tucson:
Cowpony (or Cow Pony, as it often spells itself, despite the painted sign that clearly leaves out the space; whatevs) is a place where patrons sometimes get up and dance on the bar. As a result, "We have to tighten down the screws every now and then, but it's all OK," owner Jay Healy told the Star in 2004. Even with its cow-print drapes and its boots, buckles and spurs hanging from the rafters, there's a lively debate on Yelp! 'bout whether it's really a cowboy bar. Decide for yourself at 6510 E. Tanque Verde Road.
The wall paper with covered wagons, pistols and saddles, adorned with hanging cattle skulls and bull horns, hasn't changed for decades at Danny's Baboquivari Restaurant & Lounge, 2910 E. Fort Lowell Road. Hey, but some things can change for the better: Danny's just posted on Facebook that it has added three pinball machines.
"College students join local scenesters" at Che's Lounge, 350 N. Fourth Ave. Che's bills itself as having the best grooves in town.
Golden Nugget Tavern
Part of your setup at the "World Famous" Golden Nugget Tavern could include a shuffleboard game piece, or a billiards stick if you prefer. The Nugget, at 2617 N. First Ave., opened in 1965. Here's what the Star wrote about it in 2004: "
There are many words of wisdom at the Golden Nugget Tavern. You just won't find many of them unless you go to the bathroom. The wall scrawls, like the patrons, are diverse. ... Like the random doctor's scale next to the jukebox, some (other features) are inexplicable."
The Shelter opened in 1961 and bills itself as a "Go-Go Boot Wearing, Martini Drinking, Swanky, Groovy Lounge." So of course, the Kennedy bros are there. It's at 4155 E. Grant Road.
Bay Horse Tavern
The Bay Horse Tavern (shown here in 2008, wearing a banner in advance of Grant Road's widening) moved to its current site, at 2802 E. Grant Road, in 1958. It now has a Facebook page, which seems wrong (I mean, just look at that authentic joint!). But — and this makes me feel better — it lists only one "life event" there: "Opened in 1948."
The Buffet has been serving alcohol in the same building since 1934, making it the oldest bar in Tucson.
The Silver Room
Little changed since the 1940s? Check. Wood-paneled walls, neon beer signs and a jukebox? Of course. Nondescript air in a mainly industrial area? You've got it at The Silver Room, 673 S. Plumer Ave.
If a telephone booth could talk, the one inside a midtown tavern would tell a tale of life and death, as the Star reported in 2012. One night in October 1986, a patron there died in mid-sentence while chatting on the phone with his lady friend. Some say his spirit lives on at the Bambi Bar, a watering hole at 5050 E. Speedway. Nowadays, Bambi's phone booth is minus its phone, due to a lack of use in the cellphone age. Patrons have decorated the booth with the bust of a skeleton, and a poster of what looks like a James Bond girl.
Booze, blues and the Bears are on tap at the Chicago Bar, 5954 E. Speedway, "where music lives seven nights a week." On Halloween, for example, Neon Prophet will play. (Shown here, in 2008, is cover band Megan's Law.) For Tucson's many, many Chicago transplants who've made the 1,800-mile move (did I mention there are many of you?), there's memorabilia all over the walls, from street signs to glossies of sports heroes. There's dancing, pool and darts. There's $2 jello and pudding shots on Saturdays and there's Reggae Sundays.
You can sidle up to a horseshoe-shaped bar at the Saddlehorn, 6300 E. Tanque Verde Road, enjoy the steak night deal, be surrounded by country stars' portraits, and hear people retell an urban myth that the joint was once owned by John Wayne. But the Star has rated the saloon's cowpoke factor at "low," mostly remaining in name and decor. That's because the music is rock, hip-hop, metal and blues, plus country, and the place can be packed with neighborhood regulars.
The karaoke on the inside looks perfectly normal at Shooter's Steakhouse & Saloon at 3115 E. Prince Road. But the outside, with its
Moroccan and Mediterranean archways and multiple domes, is a surprise; it was built as a 1972 Moroccan belly-dancing restaurant, El Jebala. The joint became Shooter's i n 1992, with a theme that makes more sense for the property — it was a stagecoach stop in the 1800s.
The rug at the front door of Wooden Nickel Tavern leaves no doubt where you are. Owner Joey Varela likes to call the bar "the living room of the neighborhood," at 1908 S. Country Club Road. Arizona Daily Star and
Tucson.com readers voted its wings into the semi-finals of the "Wing Madness" contest earlier this year. The place also has a big St. Pat's Day tradition.
Mint Cocktails was founded in 1934 downtown, and later moved to its current and longtime site at 3540 E. Grant Road. In the 1950s, according to local lore, folks supposedly rode their horses to the bar. For the last couple of years, though, Mint, under new ownership, has courted controversy with city officials with its "Wild Boys" and "Wild Girls" go-go shows and its burlesque.
The Bashful Bandit
The Bashful Bandit, long infamous as a tough biker bar, looks spiffy, some might say too spiffy, after its 2013 remodeling by the Travel Channel's "American Roadhouse" show. It's at 3886 E. Speedway. (And snarky jokes about surgeons on Harleys? Make 'em at your own risk.)
Contact reporter Gloria Knott at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4235. On Twitter: @gloriaeknott