A work trip to the remote mountain town of Crown King – and a quick stopover at the legendary Crown King Saloon – got us thinking about Arizona's great wealth of territorial saloons. And when we start thinking about things, well – being the quantification junkies we are – we have to rank them, too.
First, let's define the playing field: To qualify as a saloon, the bar in question must have 1) saloon-style swinging doors, even if they're merely decorative, 2) some sort of extant copper paneling on the premises, 3) at least one black-and-white or Daguerreotype framed photo on the wall, and 4) at least one dude with a Sam Elliot mustache sucking down a tall boy at the bar.
So let's start quantifyin'.
1. The Palace
For a whole mess o' reasons, this century-old Prescott watering hole gets our vote for the #1 saloon in Arizona. We like the fact that Junior Bonner – the 1972 rodeo flick starring Steve McQueen – was shot here, and we like the story of how territorial patrons allegedly carried out the saloon's floor-length Brunswick bar on their backs when a fire engulfed the original building. That's devotion. 120 S. Montezuma St., Prescott, 928-541-1996, historicpalace.com
2. Crown King Saloon
According to locals, there are merely 75 full-time residents of Crown King, a one-time mining camp in the woods of the Bradshaw Mountains. At any given time of the day, you'll find roughly 10 percent of the population sipping on tall draughts of Prescott Brewing IPA at the bar – and they're all friendly as hell. Cool place. 3 Main St., Crown King, 928-632-7053
3. Harold's Corral
Whether you prefer Harold's or the Buffalo Chip Saloon across the street may ultimately boil down to “Packers vs. Steelers.” The Buffalo Chip features live professional bullriding, which is slightly more Western-y and hardcore than the mechanized version you'll find at Harold's – but Harold's is turning 80 in September, so consider this a birthday present. 6895 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, 480-488-1906, haroldscorral.com
4. Big Nose Kate's Saloon
You have your pick of at least four self-identified saloons in downtown Tombstone, and let's be honest: They're all tourist traps. Still, that doesn't change the fact that actual murders and professional sexual transactions were once routine in their environs. We like Kate's 'cause it has a coffin you can pose in. 417 E. Allen St., Tombstone, 520-457-3107
5. Rusty Spur Saloon
We can't speak to the authenticity of the place – is anything in Scottsdale authentic? – but we do know you can have a heap of fun at this Old Town honkey-tonk, any night of the week, any age you happen to be. Be warned: On the dance floor, you might find yourself getting macarena'd by an octogenarian. 7245 E. Main St., Scottsdale, 480-425-7787, rustyspursaloon.com
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