Utah might be the last place on earth you would expect to find the longest-running open bar west of the Mississippi.
And when traveling towards Huntsville, UT, it’s not hard to imagine that you are close to that last place on earth. Like the Magi following the Christmas Star, we pointed our vehicle towards the establishment that's gone by the name of the “Shooting Star Saloon” since 1879.
The destination did not disappoint. We rolled up to a small, one-story brick building built not in the last century, but the one before. A three-foot-high white neon star perched atop the roof confirmed we'd reached the end of our travels. The exterior sports a covered wooden walkway right out of Hollywood’s Western era.
As you push open the heavy wooden door, you walk into the past – it’s obviously not 1879, but it could certainly be 1979. Only the craft beers on tap exposed the new millennium.
Like most honky-tonks, the clientele seemed to be local. The wood-paneled walls are adorned with taxidermy art. You’ve got the usual: the head of a deer, a variation of the jackalope, even a moose. However, the head of a St. Bernard protruding from the wall was one I hadn’t seen before.
We moved past the three occupied booths and the several patrons at the bar to the only open seating. A notice at the table read, “Please place your order at the bar, our waitress quit to become a rodeo clown.”
Funny, yet strangely possible in these parts.
To stay in the theme of the evening, I ordered a Polygamy Porter and a Shooting Star burger. The local brewery proved not only to have a good sense of humor, but good taste as well. The sandwich was a meat combination, with a thick linked sausage split in two and placed on top of a hamburger patty. It tasted great and the tab for both was under $10.
Entertainment was provided by a 45-playing jukebox and a pool table. Since no one was partaking in a game of billiards, we took advantage of the extra space and made our own little dance floor, swaying to the sounds of yesterday’s music.
The barmaid was happy to explain the history of the establishment. I was informed that the saloon first opened in 1879 and has not closed since. She was quite proud of the fact that even through Prohibition, the owners had pushed draws and shots of alcohol across the bar to the thirsty miners and ranchers. (Other than an Irish bar in Manhattan, no other tavern in the U.S. can claim that fact.)
From what we experienced in our visit, there was no indication that it was going to close anytime soon. All bets are on that the Shooting Star will remain open and flourishing. Don’t be surprised if the neon star is still ablaze to toast the arrival of the next century as well.