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Sunday, March 30, 2014

#2165 - Wagon Wheel Restaurant and Lounge, South Prairie, WA - 5/17/2013

It's 1:00pm on a Friday afternoon, and the back bar in the Wagon Wheel restaurant is rocking. It is near full, 15 to 20 people, which is enough to make it feel fairly packed in the tiny bar space behind the cafe in this town of less than 500 people. Some of the conversations are loud and rollicking. It's a working man's crowd, notwithstanding the number of people kicked back sipping beer in the middle of a weekday (blue collar white people a world away from the diverse, martini-glass toting hipsters in the stock image on their web site). One of the older patrons feels comfortable peppering his conversation with a kind of use of the n-word you're not likely to hear in a city bar.

It seems like a fairly typical small town dive, with a customers in baseball caps, plaid shirts and coveralls, mountain landscapes painted on a saw blade and a milk can, pulltabs and bingo nights, and an old west cowboy shootout painted on one the doors. Some posts on the Facebook page point out that back in the 70s the place was owned by Betty and Eldon Gadberry, and the performing "Gadberry Family" would play things like old Hank Williams tunes and Suzy Q. From the moment I passed the conestoga wagon wheels embedded in the flagstone out front, it all seemed to so perfectly fit the image of a quaint old timey cafe and dive bar that I was fairly surprised to see that current owner Donna regularly hosts punk shows by bands like Violent Occurrence, Americommies, and Judas Fucking Kryst. I'm reminded again that you can't really know a bar unless you visit it at least on one lazy afternoon and one busy weekend night.

I chat with Jean the bartender and customer Jeannie. One of them tells me that the place dates back to 1930, and indeed that's when the Pierce County tax records say the joint was constructed. Of course they would not have had a liquor license or openly operating bar at that time, but I'd guess the bar was added shortly after prohibition ended.

Maybe I'll come across more information on the bar portion some day. Or maybe I'll just come back for a night of Judas Fucking Kryst.

121 State Route 162 West, South Prairie, WA - (360) 897-9987             
Est. 1930s? - Building constructed: 1930
Web site: wagonwheelrestaurantandlounge.comfacebook
Reviews: bikerfriendlybar

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