Oklahoma Cowboy Steak – Back in the ’30s and ’40s, before it was acquired by Harold Gavagan and gradually turned into a shrine to the Pittsburgh Steelers, this classic ramshackle western saloon and chow house is said to have served cowboy fare to real, no-kidding cowboys. That tradition continues: The place still offers a dauntingly decadent 20-ounce bone-in ribeye, dripping with flavorful fat and paired with a simple baked potato, that an Okie cowpoke fresh from the trail could relish. It’s the sort of meal that could give you the strength to sneak into new territory and stake your claim sooner than everybody else.
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 the biggest Pittsburgh Steelers bars outside of Pennsylvania.
One of the state’s oldest restaurants, Harold’s Corral, is celebrating its 87th anniversary on Saturday, Nov. 5, with a party starting at 1 p.m.
As Cave Creek’s original “Wild West Saloon and Restaurant,” Harold’s is a landmark and popular stomping ground for locals and tourists.
The party not only commemorates nearly nine lore-filled decades of dining, entertainment and fun, it also pays tribute to several generations of patrons who have become like family to the restaurant’s owners and staff.
The Valley’s oldest restaurants have all carved their own special niche in not only the metro area’s history, but in Arizonans’ hearts as well. And this combination, along with sheer grit, may very well explain how they’ve survived for so long. All the restaurants on this list have all held their own for more than half a century, surviving natural disasters, the ups and downs of the economy, a global pandemic, rising food costs and labor shortages. Harold’s Corral’s roots date back to 1935, when owner Johnny Walker opened a bar to serve the workers building Bartlett Dam. Fifteen years later, Harold Gavagan purchased it, gave it his name and began the evolution of the landmark bar and restaurant. Gavagan’s friends helped spark countless tales about lions and tigers caged in the back of the restaurant and legends about the owner firing gunshots into the air at closing time. Over the decades movie stars came to see for themselves, raising glasses as country singers played a set or two. It’s standing room only during football season as Harold’s is the official home of “Heinz Field West,” hosting one of the biggest Pittsburgh Steelers watch parties outside of Pennsylvania. The lengthy menu remains a something-for-everybody hodgepodge with legendary pleasers such as Arizona wings, Italian-style baked stuffed hot peppers and the 14-ounce ribeye, which should be ordered with sautéed mushrooms and scallions, just like the establishment’s namesake would have.
In its nearly 85 years of business, Harold’s had never experienced operating during a global pandemic. But when it became clear that the highly contagious coronavirus (COVID-19) could endanger the lives of customers and staff, Harold’s shifted into crisis mode, with the goal of helping the community the popular restaurant serves.
This barn-like hall was originally built in the name of an old Arizona tradition: getting a piece of the massive federal largess that’s flowed in here through the years. The workers who built the Bartlett Dam in the late 1930s needed a nearby place to spend their paychecks and forget their cares. An entrepreneur named Johnny Walker was there to help them with a place he called the Corral Bar. A promoter named Harold Gavagan bought it a few years later, filled it with honky-tonk gimcracks, brought in some country-and-western bands and called it a “wild west” bar, even though very few actual ranchers were among the customers. Sports plays on the TVs and there’s off-track betting. It’s worth seeing how Arizona looks at itself in a mirror and reflects itself back to the rest of the world.
Started as a beer stand, but this place is where the family can come to eat and dance, with a lot of Pittsburgh Steelers pride.
The Western-themed Cave Creek restaurant is intertwined with the fabric of the town, 30 miles north of Phoenix. Cave Creek’s longtime Mayor Vincent Francia has said, “Sedona has its vortexs, Cave Creek has Harold’s.”
There are 3,000 people who have made reservations at Harold’s Cave Creek Corral outside Phoenix, Ariz.
As part of Super Bowl week, Steelers Nation Unite and Harold’s Corral in Cave Creek, Arizona, hosted a meet and greet with Dermontti Dawson and Merril Hoge to recognize Steelers Nation for their support.