It’s about the other Big Nose Kate.
As our visit to Tombstone, AZ neared, I went looking for a spot for Chuck and me to have lunch. The options were limited and the menu variety was even more limited. So, again, I went for the name. Big Nose Kate’s Saloon it would be.
So who the heck was Big Nose Kate? Big Nose Kate is believed to have been the first prostitute in Tombstone, Arizona Territory. However, her biggest claim to fame was the fact that she was also Doc Holliday's girlfriend. In 1881, Tombstone, population around 5,000, supported 110 saloons and 14 twenty-four hour gambling halls. It is no wonder that "the red light women" or The Shady Ladies (Big Nose Kate and her sister) were among the first to arrive, and the most welcomed, in the mining camp.
Big Nose Kate's Saloon, in Tombstone, AZ, was once the Grand Hotel; the original building built in 1881. On October 25, 1881, the night before the Gunfight at the OK Corral, the Clantons and the McLaurys (the “bad” guys, although I suspect that there were no good guys at the Gunfight) were guests here.
The first thing to know about Big Nose Kate’s is that it is, like the rest of Tombstone, the ultimate tourist trap. The stained glass panels along one wall contain images of Kate and Doc Holliday and the all-female waitstaff are dressed (barely) in late 1800’s attire. Cleavage was the order of the day.
We grabbed the last two seats on the afternoon of our visit--two stools at the bar next to the sign saying "Waitresses," with napkins and condiments surrounding Chuck's small eating space.
The menu was what you might expect. There were eight versions of the half-pound Black Angus burger in “Kate’s Burger Corral;” there were nine Southwest-inspired items listed as being “From the Hacienda;” there were nine “Kate’s Classics,” which were a mix of non-burger sandwiches, chicken bullets (sliders), chicken fingers, and something called “Kate’s Breast Gone West;” and calzones and pizza.
I admit that I found none of these to be inspiring, but I finally settled on “The Shady Lady’s Garden Delight“– a calzone filled with mushrooms, black olives, onions, and bell peppers and served with a small dish of marinara sauce for dipping. Chuck ordered “The Boothill” – a half-pound burger with grilled onions, green chili, and pepper jack cheese. The menu indicates that all hamburgers are cooked WELL DONE. (Arizona is one of those states where the menu and multiple signs warn you of the danger of eating raw or undercooked meat, fish, or seafood.)
My calzone was decent, if one really likes black olives. Fortunately, I do like black olives. The crust was a bit doughy, especially around the crimped edge. And the marinara sauce on the side would have been good, if it were not lukewarm.
Chuck’s Boothill burger was o.k. We remarked that as soon as one crosses the border from New Mexico to Arizona, the heat level of the green chili is reduced by about half. The pepper jack cheese helped, but this was a pale imitation of the New Mexico style green chili cheeseburger.
But all was not lost. As we seated ourselves at the bar, we heard someone doing a great cover of Bob Seger’s “Against the Wind.” Looking around, we spied an older man sitting on a small stage playing the guitar. We learned that his name is Rusty and that he is a frequent daytime performer at Kate’s. As we ate, we heard Rusty sing Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make it Through the Night,” Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” and two Willie Nelson numbers – “You Were Always on My Mind” and “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.” Now I have always been a big fan of Willie Nelson, and this was the best cover of his music I have heard. (As an aside, doesn’t Willie Nelson have the fascinating facial bone structure? I’ve always thought that his profile should be carved on the side of a mountain.)
So, while I thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment, lunch was of the sustenance variety and only earns a 3.0 Addie score.
I can’t wait to get to Phoenix where the options are limitless.