Dating back to the days of the Gold Rush, history books speak of the saloons in the Wild West. What some Sacramento residents don’t necessarily think about is how many of the bars still standing are rich with historical value. Not all were around during the frontier days but we have quite an impressive number of bars that have withstood the test of time. Some of the watering holes you frequent regularly may just be part of a bigger picture you weren’t aware of. One does not have to venture far to find treasured pieces of our past if they live in our area.
River City Saloon
916 2nd St.
Sacramento, CA 95814
River City Saloon is one of the oldest standing bars with stories to tell in Sacramento. Dating back to the late 1800s, the structure has been a saloon. Sometime after 1861, it was called French’s Saloon owned by newspaperman Parker French. The bar went through a dark period in the 1960s, but since becoming River City Saloon in 2007, it is clear the the past will be saved and the future very bright. The bar is one of Old Sacramento’s hottest stops on the list with drink specials and events running constantly.
The Back Door Lounge
1112 Firehouse Alley
Sacramento, CA 95814
The Back Door Lounge is so much more (or less) than a typical “dive bar.” The entrance is an Old Sac alleyway, behind the prestigious Firehouse Restaurant. Many Sacramento natives aren’t even aware of its existence. It is somewhat reminiscent of a Vegas lounge in the 40s with big band music, a guy behind the bar that is older than dirt and a remarkable woman who used to be the piano’s best friend. With red velvet and brass everywhere, you are instantly taken back to simpler times. The drinks are always nice and stiff which is never disappointing.
1901 10th St.
Sacramento, CA 95811
Another great historical bar that screams old school is Old Ironsides. The bar is currently celebrating its 79th year. From being the first place to obtain a liquor license in Sacramento after Prohibition to being a current home for different musical performers and classic cocktails, this spot has a storied past. In the 1960s, businessmen made what was called the Three Martini Lunch a famous practice, and Old Ironsides coined the Five Martini Lunch, which was not for the meek.
Related: Best Bars For Foodies In Sacramento
Sheepherder Bar & Grille
11275 Folsom Blvd.
Rancho Cordova, CA 95742
Sheepherder could have earned its spot on this list simply for being in existence 100 years. Owned currently by the Perez family, this structure has been everything from a brothel to a hotel. Known as Sheepherder Inn in the 1970s, the building closed in 2003 and remained vacant for several years. During its time as an inn, it served as a place for sheepherders to come and rest their weary heads. Now Sheepherder is home to both banquet and a la carte business, celebrating an array of comfort foods.
7395 Frasinetti Road
Sacramento, CA 95828
Frasinetti’s was founded in 1897 and is the oldest producing winery in the Sacramento area (Sobon in Plymouth being the oldest producing winery in California). This family-owned business serves as a restaurant, winery with full tasting room and venue for weddings and receptions. Frasinetti’s is one of the few businesses that has only made subtle changes over the years. For the most part, the business has held on to the old world style of doing things which is much appreciated by its loyal guests. More than just a restaurant or a winery, Frasinetti’s is a one-stop shop run by great people.
As a hospitality professional Andy Soto has worked every facet of the industry. He currently leads the team at Spectrum Restaurant Consulting. He started writing a hospitality blog in 2009 and restaurant writing for Sacramento Press in 2010. In 2011 Andy became a Sacramento Restaurant Examiner for Examiner.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.