TR – Shooting Star Saloon, Huntsville, Utah

| March 18, 2009 | 37 Comments
My mother’s side of the family immigrated to Utah five generations ago, but not for the usual reasons.  Instead, they were here to start a brewery – Fisher Beer.  The brewery has been gone for close to 50 years, but beer in Utah remains a topic which is close to my heart, or liver in this case.  Because of this, I was interested in visiting the historic Shooting Star Saloon in Huntsville last weekend when I was up at Powder Mountain for the kiting festival.

The little saloon that could. Operating in Utah for 130 years.

Starting business in 1879, the Shooting Star is the oldest surviving saloon in Utah, which makes it a glowing beacon of hope in a state known for its obtuse liquor laws.  What makes the Shooting Star even more unique is that it is located deep within rural Utah and not in the sinners haven of Salt Lake City, or worse yet, Park City.

Part of the saloon’s longevity probably comes from it being built out of brick, but on the business end, it serves a mean $3.00 burger, draft beer for $1.25 and is packed with personality.

Welcome to Utah.  Any questions?

Welcome to Utah. Any questions?

There must be over $1,000 worth of dollar bills stapled to the ceiling. I'm sure there's a history to this, but it also just seems to fit right in with the decor.

A rotating illustration behind the bar which depicts the phenomena known as "beer goggles."

The wall of wisdom.

The measure of any self-respecting bar is what kind of dead animals they have on their wall, and in that regard, the Shooting Star is off the charts.

From the men's room - it's almost like not being in Utah.

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Category: Trip Reports

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (37)

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  1. ron says:

    I’ve crawled out of that hole a few times… definitely a Utah classic!

  2. OMR says:

    Speaking of alchohol, whats with the skier-lemming trail to PBR? Even a card-carrying Mormon such as myself knows better suds. But maybe thats the sad irony of Utah – when practicing on the sly (beer not wives) you go right for meat and blow-off the potatoes.

  3. Tim says:

    The Shooting Star Saloon rules. I’ve contemplated committing suicide via Shooting Star Burger (two cheese burgers with a split open hot dog between the patties). That deer butt boars mouth is the thing of nightmares too.

  4. mark says:

    Nice report. Next time I’m in the area, I’ll stop in for a burger and brew. You’ll have to drink the beer for me, though.

  5. Dave N. says:

    Nice report on the ongoing fight against homogenization Andrew. Good to see a few holdouts in the world. Not a saloon, but Mom’s Cafe in Salina is another great holdout.

  6. Montana says:

    But can you get a glass of whiskey there? All the character in the world can’t make up for no whiskey in a bar like that…

  7. keither says:

    A twisted place for sure!

  8. mc says:

    Poor dog must have drank somebody’s beer!

  9. MJ Hall says:

    Good Times, had 2 shooting star burgers one early evening a few years back after a day in the powder mountains. Threw down a couple cold ones, hit the spot.

    Place is a classic.

  10. Andrew says:

    Hi Montana – I didn’t notice if they served whiskey at the Shooting Star, but I kind of doubt it as hard liquor bumps the establishment up into a different category (bar vs. restaurant?). Plus, liquor in Utah is a measured shot with a limit of 1.5 oz per drink, which makes it a bad deal. Visitors are always shocked when they order something like a Martini and get a glass with only a trace of liquid in it.

  11. Andrew says:

    OMR – I think the allure of PBR is that it is cheap, weak and tastes okay, so you can swill a bunch of them without going broke or getting wasted. Utah has some excellent microbrews, but at 2-3 times the price of PBR and the same alcohol content, and being harder to find, PBR usually wins out.

  12. Tavis says:

    That places looks classic! The story I love is when my buddy asked for a whiskey coke at some bar in Utah. The younger barmaid turned to the bartender and asked, “Do we have ‘the whiskey’?” She had no clue what whiskey was. Wow.

  13. Andrew says:

    One of my personal favorite Utah drinking stories involved a friend who discovered Long Island Ice Teas in Utah, which are 90% soda and one 1 ounce shot of liquor. On a trip to Elko, Nevada, after skiing a great couloir, we went into a burly cowboy bar where he ordered a Long Island Ice Tea, which was 90% cheap hard liquor and 10% soda, which just about made his eyeballs spin around backwards in his head. We refused to help him finish it and I think most of it got discretely poured out somewhere.

  14. Dave N. says:

    One of my dislikes of Utah’s establishments is the mandatory “must become a member” in order to enter. Is this still true? (haven’t gotten done there in a while.)

  15. d3 says:

    pbr helps a utahan stay hydrated, yo.

    if you’re a veghead, just tell ‘em to hold the meat on the burger at the shooting star. you’ll get a dirty look but won’t have to explain yourself.

  16. TF says:

    I was lucky enough to live in Odgen Valley and was a regular at the Star and Powder Mountain, damn I miss it !!! Thanks for the cool article.

    Everybody should spend a day deep in powder followed by a beer(s) and a Star Burger. It does not get any better than that !

  17. Robert Jensen says:

    Hey, Wonderful family history. I have a really big favor… I run Red Rock Brewery in Salt Lake City, and we would love to obtain a recipie for Fisher Beer. Do you have any knowledge of a written one or possibly know someone who might help?

    Bob

  18. Rachel Marcus says:

    hi!

    my husband, Eddie, is Margaret Fisher Atwood’s son…how are you related?

    rachel

  19. Andrew says:

    Hi Rachel – yes, although I’m not exactly sure how. My mother is Duse Fisher.

  20. Don says:

    Hi Andrew

    We wanted to brew some beer this summer do you have any idea or old recipes on how to make the old fisher beer. It would pretty cool to brew an old recipe. But can’t seem to find it anywhere.

    Thanks
    Don

  21. Andrew says:

    Hi Don – I wish I knew some of the recipes, but alas do not. If you ever find one, I’d love to see it.

  22. Don says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I will let you know if we ever find it. Very hard to find.

    We have looked in old beer recipe books but it has never showed up anywhere.

    Do you think any of your family members may have it or any suggestions who may know..

    thanks again

  23. Lizzie says:

    I’m going to Utah first week of August. I’m definitely going to make the short trip to try a burger and beer!!!!

    Can’t wait!!!

  24. tom says:

    Hi Andrew:
    Thanks for sharing this with us. My friends and I grew up on Fisher in the qt. size during the 50′s. 2 qts was the limit if you wanted to drive afterward. The Q st. mkt (Thell’s)used to sell to us minors with no reserveation. For a real party we would drive up to Evanston WY where we could buy the 5% Fisher’s. Hanna in the Blue Dress we called it cause the distinctive red label was printed blue for the stronger stuff.

    I met your mother Duse once at a party given by James E. Hogle Jr. We were about age mates. I remember her as being a very pretty blonde girl. Too pretty for the likes of me.

  25. Andrew says:

    Hi Tom – Fantastic! I come across Fisher memorabilia every so often, but don’t know that much about it, which is is shame. The company was sold to Coors right when my mom (Duse, as you correctly remembered) turned 21 and they ended up closing it down. If things had been different, I might have been in the brewing business!

  26. tom says:

    A very sad day when Fisher Beer was sold out. Now the great brewing kettles sit vacant on the W. Salt Lake skyline!

  27. Willy Webb says:

    I own the oldest saloon in Nevada, the Genoa Bar.
    est 1853. Its located in Nevada’s oldest town, Genoa.est
    1851.
    Ironically, When my saloon opened, it was officially in the Utah Territory because Nevada wasn’t a state till 1864. I will definatly come see you sometime. Great Bar!

  28. Moostacho says:

    I used to live in the Huntsville area from 1996 to 2001 enjoyed my share of Star Burgers and draft beer. New Years night was a great party with the owner closing the bar at 10PM for a provate party until after the fireworks were lite off at midnight. I even fell off a bar stool or two and had fun playing pool in the back. Heck I even have a couple dollar bills on the ceiling there as well. Yup those were fun days and nights. Nice people, good party atmosphere, classic country and Rock music and GREAT FOOD!

  29. Bernard R. Wende says:

    Been there just last month and was lucky to meet the ex owner “Heidi”, I thoroughly loved the beer and of course the classig burger, I shall be back next year, as I am currently in Australia, cheers

  30. Bernard R. Wende says:

    Should I ever meet again, it should be the Shooting Star, what a character of a place, and believe you me I have seen many places in my live………

  31. Bernard R. Wende says:

    Well Heidi if you there, “Hallo und Guten Tag”, so for now I shall go for a swimm in Bondi Beach in Sydney, …….cheers

  32. Hayseed says:

    I’m a salty old dog who has been in 3 different zip codes 7 miles North of Park City (I’m in the same old place, but the area around me has gone ape lately).

    I was just introduced to the Shooting Star yesterday, though.

    Had I known it was there when I moved here, I’d have been a regular for almost 30 years now.

  33. Rya says:

    I realize this is an old blog now and has gone unposted to for some time… but I lived outside of Huntsville as a young kid out near the Trappist monastery and can’t help but feel thrilled to have found your splendid article on the good old Shooting Star. I can’t speak to what the actual state law said about children in the saloon back then (late 1970’s and very early 1980′s) but whatever the law, I can state as absolute fact that my brother and I happily enjoyed our fair share of Star Burgers there with our parents… after all… it was the only “restaurant” actually IN town so far as I recall. (There was another “higher class” joint over towards the canyon to Ogden, but that was pretty much it for eating “out” in those days short of driving down to Ogden itself)

    I particularly thank you for the photo of the mounted Saint Bernard head as no one outside of Huntsville has EVER believed me when I shared our family story of the glass eye falling out and landing in my father’s plate one evening. Up until that moment my mom had always assumed that it was a smallish bear’s head that hung above our favorite table (it was exceptionally dim and gloomy in the Star back then… don’t know about now). The looks on my parents’ faces were rather priceless when the truth finally dawned on them after looking up to peer more closely at the source of the offending eye. The story back then, as best I recall, was that the old fella had been the beloved and faithful companion of the saloon’s then current owner and that when he shuffled off to doggy heaven the proprietor couldn’t bear to not see his pup’s face looking after the saloon each day… so… up on the wall he went… may or may not be true… but there’s my two cents of local color.

  34. Rya says:

    Two other short bits… which at the rate of two cents per brings me to six cents of local color in all.

    1) One of the favorite pastimes of my school chums and myself was to sneak up and see if we could actually find something the ornery old cuss of a billygoat (who was tied to the front of the saloon every day) actually would NOT eat. I am ashamed to say… we never succeeded. That old boy ate every last thing we ever fed him… tin can included.

    2) My brother and I once found two kittens out front of the school late one afternoon. My mom agreed to let us keep the male (best cat ever… R.I.P. Felicity Feline) and we gave the female kitten to our friend (and piano teacher) there in town. The young female ran off soon after and we all had given her up as lost after much searching… that is… until we went in for a Star Burger one early evening only to see none other than that (rather uniquely marked) little tabby cat come strolling past the bar… extremely pregnant… and missing all but the bottom 3 inches of her tail (the rest was lost in an unfortunate run-in with the heavy door of the Star’s walk-in cooler… the folks there at the Star got her the best medical care the wonderful town vet could offer tho… conveniently located right next door). The owner was more than happy to return the (newly renamed) Mrs. Stubbs to us once we told our part of the story. I rather suspect the folks there were a bit relieved to not have to find homes for the six kittens she soon thereafter gave birth to. Mrs. Stubbs and 4 of her kittens (we kept two) soon moved in with Father Virgil and all the other monks out at the monastery, and I rather like to think that her many descendants still patrol the barns out there for mice to this very day.

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