by Blake Herzog
The stars of the dining and nightlife scene often are the newest and most adventurous businesses on the block, whichever city you happen to be in.
But other restaurants and bars find it profitable to lean into tradition, spotlighting the backstory of their building and those who patronized it decades, even a century, ago. This can be an especially winning formula in cities that naturally draw history buffs.
120 S. Montezuma St., Prescott; www.whiskeyrowpalace.com
One of the oldest establishments of any kind in Arizona, the Palace opened in 1877 and made its legend quickly by hosting the likes of Wyatt and Virgil Earp and Doc Holliday, as well as becoming a community hub. Like most of Whiskey Row it was destroyed by the July 1900 fire but sprang back up within a year and has been going ever since, using the 1880s-era bar rescued from the flames by its customers. Today its interior retains its elegance as well as many historic relics.
Bird Cage Saloon
160 S. Montezuma St., Prescott; Facebook: @prescottbirdcagesaloon
The Bird Cage has been part of Whiskey Row since 1967 but was forced to relocate a few doors down from its original storefront after the most recent of the block’s destructive fires, in 2012. But you wouldn’t know this from just walking in — the iconic sign and the 1880s-vintage back bar are still there, and the space retains an old-time vibe.
Glass Bar and Peacock Room
at Hassayampa Inn
122 E. Gurley St., Prescott; www.hassayampainn.com
Both destinations are featured within the elegant red-brick hotel that stands at the gateway to downtown and as a testament to its beauty and durability. The Peacock Room was remodeled in 2014 but retains its Art Deco elegance. It is known for its prime rib, Alaskan salmon and lamb shank.
The adjacent Glass Bar has ornate carved-wood ceilings and bright orange stained-glass windows to highlight its historical connections. It has live music on the weekends and, fittingly enough, many customers go there in search of its “old-fashioned” cocktails, which aren’t on the menu.
112 Montezuma St., Prescott; www.mattssaloon.com
This place “only” turns 59 years old as of 2021, but rests comfortably in the 1901 Levy Building, which has had a bar on its first floor since just after Prohibition. Matt’s has its own history as a live music mecca, with a 1,200-square-foot dance floor, regular appearances by Waylon Jennings in the ‘60s and a drop-in from Bruce Springsteen in ’89.
201 N. Cortez St., Prescott; www.murphysprescott.com
The building started out as the J.L. Gardner mercantile in the 1890s, with a wall stacked even higher with canned goods than the wall behind today’s bar is with bottles and glass. The spacious building has been an upscale restaurant, bar and bakery for some years now but reverted to its roots in spring 2020, selling staples like toilet paper and pasta after these became hard to come by during pandemic panic-buying. (pictured above)
Kirkland Bar & Steakhouse
8985 S. Iron Springs Rd., Kirkland; Facebook: @Kirkland-Bar-and-Steakhouse
The location started out as a Wells Fargo and Pony Express stop in 1863, and nearly every online review of this small, biker-friendly landmark 25 miles southeast of Prescott uses a word like “historic” or “museum.” The tin-pressed ceiling and wagon-wheel chandeliers top walls covered with pictures and mementos, pool tables, a jukebox and a cozy sofa. An unlikely place to go for shrimp and lobster tail, but a good one.