Bars are havens for epic tales, sharing of secrets and making memories that stand the test of time, thanks in no small part to liquid courage courtesy of Milwaukee, Jalisco, Burgundy and Kentucky. And if the walls could talk at these bars, which are among the oldest in the city still shaking, stirring and pouring, they’d spill a lot of tea.
So, pull up a seat and order something stiff at the most historic drinking establishments in the Valley.
Harold’s Cave Creek Corral
Year opened: 1935
With an original owner named Johnny Walker, how could this bar not have staying power? Walker’s effort to serve workers building the Bartlett Dam evolved into a beloved watering hole named after Harold Gavagan, who bought it from Walker. The tales about lions and tigers caged in the back room and whispers about Gavagan signaling closing time by firing his gun into the air only added to the legendary attraction that has drawn movie stars and country singers to the humble bar over the years. And good luck finding an open seat during football season as it’s known as “Heinz Field West,” one of the biggest Pittsburgh Steelers bars outside of Pennsylvania.
Details: 6895 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek. 480-488-1906, haroldscorral.com.
1889 Saloon at The Stockyards
Year opened: 1947
Located on the site of what was the largest cattle feedlot in the world when it opened 75 years ago, this saloon and steakhouse began as a way to feed the workers at the packing house owned by cattle baron Edward A. Tovrea. In 1953, a fire all but destroyed the building, but the bar reopened after a year-long renovation and guests can once again see the original murals along, chandeliers and hand-carved custom mahogany bar. In 2004, an extensive revamp earned the building a place on the Phoenix Historical Register.
Just like the adjacent restaurant, the saloon menu features the beef that made The Stockyards a major player with prime beef sliders and a New York strip sandwich. The calf fries, also known as Rocky Mountain, remains a menu staple.
Be warned, this saloon has a reputation for being one of the Valley’s most haunted places. Hey, a spot this old is bound to have a few ghosts.
Details: 5009 E. Washington St., Phoenix. 602-273-7378, stockyardssteakhouse.com.
Year opened: 1947
When this tiki bar opened on Grand Avenue, the road that doubles as US 60 was the main highway through town, connecting road trippers from Phoenix to Vegas and all the dusty stops in between.
The absence of windows means the place remains dark day and night, save for the daylight that floods in the door whenever someone walks through it. It’s a diverse crowd with older regulars returning for the retro vibe, blue collar types appreciating the cheap drinks and no frills digs and hipster types appreciating the authenticity. No one seems to mind the occasional sticky floors or original decor. Another thing that’s stayed the same is the bar’s cash only policy.
Details: 1502 Grand Ave., Phoenix. 602-252-0472 facebook.com/theBikiniLounge.
Rusty Spur Saloon
Year opened: 1951
Established as the first bar in Scottsdale, its location in the former Farmer’s Bank of Scottsdale, built in 1921, makes it an official historic landmark. Walk through the wooden swinging doors and step back into the old wild west with old time barstools, a hodgepodge of kitschy decor and a stage where live country music begs for foot-tapping and dosey doeing every night. Celeb sightings have included Post Malone, Blake Shelton and once-upon-a-time couple Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston .
Details: 7245 E. Main St., Scottsdale. 480-425-7787, rustyspursaloon.com.
Year opened: 1959
Not to be outdone by its Main Street counterpart, this bar claims to be the oldest tavern of its kind in Old Town Scottsdale, having opened its doors when the city was a one stoplight town and its streets saw their fair share of horses. Open 365 days a year, regulars know to head here for cheap drinks, a good patio and relaxed vibes. Expect a dressed-to-the-nines crowd, whether popping in for a beer at 6 am or a nightcap at 2 am Rustic, cozy and loaded with Southwest charm, you won’t find a more festive best dressed bar during the holidays.
Details: 7011 E. Indian School Road, Scottsdale. 480-990-3433, coachhousescottsdale.com.
Palo Verde Lounge
Year opened: 1964
You know those bars that appear divey on the outside, but are far from it on the inside? That’s not this central Tempe blink-and-you’ll-miss-it spot. Its reputation as Tempe’s oldest and perhaps most legit dive bar is well deserved thanks to an ultra laid back attitude accented by the prerequisite pool tables, juke box and dark and dank environments that create a special kind of charm. Stroll in and expect to find a mix of ages, professions and backgrounds, ranging from ASU students and faculty to construction workers and retirees. After going through a few name changes, it’s had the same one since 1982. Owner Chuck Marthaler has been running the show for nearly 20 years and is a beloved character, socializing with long-time regulars and first-timers with equal enthusiasm.
Details: 1015 W. Broadway Road, Tempe. 480-334-7567, palo-verde-lounge.business.site.