On our way to Bisbee, Arizona, we passed through the infamous town of Tombstone. I say infamous, but honestly, I'd actually never heard of it before! It rose to fame thanks to the 1993 Western film called - you guessed it - Tombstone, which according to Wikipedia is, "loosely based on events in Tombstone, Arizona, including the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and the Earp Vendetta Ride, during the 1880s."
The official website for the town of Tombstone touts that it is, "The Most Authentic Western Town Left in the United States." With a slogan like that and a name like "Tombstone," we figured that there couldn't really be anything worthwhile to see or do. I was honestly picturing Frontierland in Disney World (which, don't get me wrong, I love), but cornier and possibly more aggressive. Dumb attractions and extremely average restaurants with no vegetarian options at all (like, even the salad has bacon on it). If I'm not making myself abundantly clear, I wasn't expecting much from a day trip to Tombstone.
To our surprise though, Tombstone was actually really nice and well worth a visit. It looked like an authentic western town with its wide pedestrian-only dirt road and several blocks of wild-west style buildings. These buildings weren't just for show, though. They were actually filled with shops, restaurants, and even two wineries! (Of course, we had to check them both out).
Here's a recap of our afternoon eating and drinking our way around Tombstone, Arizona!
Big Nose Kate's Saloon
Our first stop was Big Nose Kate's Saloon for lunch. After seeing it had 4.6 stars out of over 2,800 reviews on Google, we couldn't resist checking it out. There was a little bit of a wait, which just goes to show how popular of a place it is. After maybe 20 minutes or so we were eventually seated at the bar and when we walked inside I was surprised by how small it was! I was glad it was small though because it felt intimate and not like they were trying to cram as many tourists in there as possible.
There was live music the entire time we were there which was a huge plus. Our service at the bar was amazing because our bartender was so great. I ordered a prickly pear margarita because I've been on a margarita kick lately, and while it was a pretty pink color, I didn't really taste any prickly pear. Which is fine, it was still good. For food, we got the Gold Nuggets, which were like little fried balls of corn pudding (so delicious), and The Boothill Burger with a veggie patty! The Boothill came topped with grilled onions, pepper jack cheese, and green chili, which I love. Ever since our trip to Colorado in 2017 where I had a breakfast burrito smothered in green chili, I've been obsessed with it.
This definitely wasn't a five-star food experience, but we enjoyed it a lot and overall we actually had a really, really good time.
After lunch, we hopped right across the street to the Cabal Cellars Tasting Room and were surprised to see the same woman we'd met running the Passion Cellars Wine Bar in Bisbee a few days earlier! We had such a fun time chatting with her last time so we just had to stay. (Oh, and the fact that this was a wine tasting may have swayed our decision to stay, too). This tasting room offered wines from both Passion Cellars and Cabal Cellars, but they were kind of all combined on the same tasting selection sheet. So, we probably tried some of the same wines again unintentionally.
We enjoyed the company of Sheliene (not sure if her name is spelled correctly) - she was so fun to talk to - and the wines were pretty good. Nothing super memorable and a little pricey in my option. For a tasting, it cost about $15 for 5 samples.
Tombstone Brewing Company
Next, we popped over to Tombstone Brewing Company which was a short walk away, but off of the main wild-west looking street (also known as E Allen Street) where Cabal Cellars and Big Nose Kate's resided. Considering I was the designated driver for the day (I'm not exactly sure how that happened), I didn't taste any beers, but Ryan absolutely raved about them. We'd recently had a few disappointing brewery experiences (*cough cough* Old Bisbee Brewing Company *cough cough*) so the fact that we found this really great beer in Tombstone of all places was pleasantly shocking.
He had "Another Exercise in Mediocrity" and "Dank Fruit," both double IPAs, which he would highly recommend.
Silver Strike Winery
After a few beers at Tombstone Brewing Company, we wandered back over to E Allen Street and decided we'd give the other Tombstone winery, Silver Strike, a try. I wasn't super thrilled about having spent over $30 on a wine tasting earlier, but when would we ever be in Tombstone again? I just couldn't bring myself to miss out on sampling both of Tombstone's wineries, so in we went.
Our experience was... interesting. Hank, who owns Silver Strike with his wife, was running the show that day and he is certainly a character. He's quite the talker - we must have spent at least 20 minutes in conversation with him before we even got the chance to mention we were there for a wine tasting! He wasn't boring us, though. The whole thing was pretty funny. He told us about what led him and his wife to open the winery and why all the wines are organic, stuff like that.
It took a more negative turn when he began implying that COVID-19 must not be that serious because only one person in the tiny town of Tombstone (population 1,300) had been sick. How he knew this for certain? I'm not sure. By the way, did I mention he wasn't wearing a mask this entire time? He certainly wasn't being aggressive or even negative really, we were just pretty put off by the fact that this even came up.
We basically just silently nodded our way through this unfortunate and unprovoked turn in the conversation until we got the opportunity to mention what we were there for. Ryan ended up just ordering a glass, while I did the tasting.
The price of a wine tasting here was the same at Cabal Cellars - $15 for 5 samples, but you also got to keep the glass! Ryan got to keep his too, despite only ordering a glass and not the tasting. I'll be honest, I didn't really love the wines. However, there was one wine at Silver Strike that I did love, and it was incredibly unique. It's the TNT, a white wine infused with a chile (Chile Tepin, to be exact) and it's so good. It's not spicy hot like you'll have a hard time drinking it, but it has the flavor of the chile in it which gives it such an interesting flavor. It's incredibly smooth and surprisingly drinkable. They actually recommend trying it in a margarita!
We didn't do any of the "main" attractions of Tombstone like the O.K. Corral or Bird Cage Theatre but instead browsed through a few of the shops and galleries along E Allen Street. And we didn't feel like we missed out on anything! We felt like we got a cool taste (literally) of the real Tombstone by sampling the local beer, wine, and food. And we did manage to fit in a tasteful amount of the "wild-west Tombstone" at Big Nose Kate's, between the atmosphere and the outfits worn by the staff.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that Tombstone is more than a cheesy tourist town. It's actually not much of a cheesy tourist town at all! I was worried about the slogan indicating this was the most authentic Western town left in the United States; I thought it could only mean tourist-trap. But it truly does feel authentic, I think because it's not trying to pretend it's still existing in 1880. While it's maintained its history, it's grown with the times as well!
Pay Tombstone a visit if you ever get the chance. I really think you'll enjoy the atmosphere. Plus, it's a really cool place to spend an afternoon eating and drinking the local Arizona scene!