Little Cowboy Bar, Fromberg, Montana about 1994
I used to be a big fan of cowboy bars, saloons, and watering holes, but not honky-tonks.
A cowboy bar is generally a friendly quiet place where you can sit and visit with friends and neighbors. To my mind one of the best towns to find a good cowboy bar is Cody, Wyoming. I've made lots of cowboy, rodeo rider, artist, local rancher, antique dealer, outfitter, and tourist friends there, and would while away the hours in a cozy corner of one of Cody's watering holes.
Buffalo Bill's Irma Hotel has a swell cowboy bar called Silver Saddle Saloon. If you're hungry you can also sit at the fancy Buffalo Bill Bar in the main dining room and eat their famous prime rib washed down with a good whiskey.
The Proud Cut Saloon (above) is another fun place to eat and drink. The taxidermied elk heads and rodeo photos on the walls are part of the genuine Western ambience. Their rocky mountain oysters, jumbo prawns, and hamburgers are legendary.
I haven't been there in over 20 years, but back then there was a pretty nice watering hole called Cassie's just outside downtown Cody. On the weekends it had live music and was usually bustling. In the 1920s, Cassie's was a sportin' house and rip-roaring saloon.
Twenty years ago, my all-time favorite was an unadorned dive known as the Golden Eagle Bar and Lounge. This place wasn't fancy, and they didn't serve food, but it was just plain comfortable. When I took my son there while we were on a fishing trip last fall, I discovered the Golden Eagle no longer exists. it was almost like losing an old friend.
Of course, there still are plenty of good cowboy bars in other areas of Wyoming as well...
Sheridan, Wyoming has a great old cowboy bar on the main drag called the Mint Bar.
Across from the main square in Jackson Hole is the world famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. This one is worth the visit just to see the real silver dollars embedded in the bar, and to belly up to the bar and sit tall in the saddle. It's also another place to get a super-sized, finger-likin' good hamburger.
Honky-tonks, on the other hand, are usually found in the South. Lord knows I visited a few of 'em in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina when I was in the service. The honky-tonks that I knew were generally too noisy, and sometimes had too much action for my taste. In the 1980s when I visited Gilley's Club, a honky-tonk in Pasadena, Texas, I had to step around three fights just to get in the front door.