Gold in the hills and beer in the bars; riches abound in and around these California Gold Rush saloons.
By Michael Greyshock
212 W. Main St., Grass Valley, Calif.
DETAILS: The town fire of 1855 destroyed the original saloon, but legend has it, patrons were served under a tent as coals glowed. In 1862, it was rebuilt inside the current Holbrooke Hotel, where it has stayed the course through the rapid changes of a Gold Rush town. DRINK: The gold country’s own Loomis Basin Brew churns out a reliable IPA and seasonal favorites, always available on one of 10 taps. EAT: Roasted duck breast and seared, pepper-crusted ahi are made more enchanting by views of the vibrant and well-preserved historic downtown Grass Valley. TIP: Ponder where you fit into the history of a place that counts desperate prospectors, iconic authors and U.S. presidents among its patrons. Or just rock out to live music five nights a week.
18851 Hwy. 20, Nevada City, Calif.
DETAILS: Whether as a saloon, stage stop or brothel, miners and travelers have always been able to count on the 1890-built Old Five Mile House to satisfy their needs. DRINK: Enjoy live Irish music and a dollar off Guinness on Thursdays, or stick with the Gold Country star and take down a Sierra Nevada. EAT: Every month, the menu changes to reflect the diversity of the peoples brought here by the Gold Rush with specials like Peruvian lomo saltado, Italian insalata caprese and Greek spanakopita. TIP: Prospecting takes a toll on the stomach, so stop at this roadhouse before you fill your poke to pick up some sloppy-slope-sliders, hot breakfast sandwiches on kaiser rolls available to go.
The Red Dirt Saloon
24601 Foresthill Rd., Foresthill, Calif.
DETAILS: Clandestine tunnels below, an ore cart for a grill, mining antiques on the wall and modern prospectors as regulars hearken the early days when the building originally operated as a Wells Fargo Stage Stop in 1854. DRINK: Sasquatch may or may not live nearby, but something more elusive can be found here: the $1 draft, which lives on with PBR. Regional brews dominate the rest of the taps; try the pub’s own Red Dirt Ale. EAT: With homemade buns and scale-tipping size, the Ridge Topper Burger is a hit. But if you have a strike to celebrate, don’t miss out on Friday night’s special: lobster-stuffed filet. TIP: There used to be a $5 fine for not chucking your peanut shells on the ground; stick to tradition and let ’em fly.