6361 W. Seltice Way, Post Falls, Idaho * (208) 777-8312
Everything I know about cowboy bars I learned from watching The Blues Brothers -- no less than 20 times. So my point of reference here is drawn directly from Bob's Country Bunker, a rowdy roadside honky-tonk with strict adherence to "both kinds of music -- country and western." This is what a cowboy bar should be: a little bit dangerous and a whole lotta fun.
If the idea of whoopin' and dancing on tables stirs your inner cowpoke, then giddy-on-up to Big Al's at Stateline, Idaho, where their motto is "Truckin' Country Back Into Your Life." Just opened in November, Big Al's has some big boots to fill, occupying the same location as Kelly's, the hugely popular country bar that closed this past June.
Last week, I went to check out Big Al's and, other than a muddy car from the parking lot, came away with some new friends, a souvenir shotgun shell shot glass and new-found respect for women who ride mechanical bulls. The first thing you notice when you enter the cavernous, 12,000-square-foot building is the mechanical bull. It was kind of looking at me, daring me. I briefly thought about paying the five bucks and jumping on his back until I noticed a certain trend. Most of the riders were women. Sexy, suburban cowgirls looking like they're straight from central casting of Urban Cowboy or Coyote Ugly. At one point, two women mounted the bull, and, facing each other, began to ride the bull together. At first, slowly, rhythmically, much to the delight of the mostly male onlookers, then with a flick of the control knobs, the two were ejected from the bull, landing softly on the air-cushioned landing pad. Whether it was being used as a test of rodeo skills or erotic dance prop, that bull didn't get a break all night.
At the other end of the bar was the stage and the Texas-sized dance floor full of folks dancing (mostly swing) to a band called B.W. Bovine. The crowd was a mix of ages, half of them decked out in some type of cowboy gear: boots, hats, big buckles, leather fringe coats, you get the idea.
"So are you guys into partyin'?, urged the lead singer. "Now it's your turn to earn your free liquor!" With that, they broke into Garth Brooks' "Friends in Low Places," wherein groups of people stood on the dozens of tables which outlined the whole room, singing along, loud and rowdy as could be. The loudest group would win a free round of whiskey shots.
The atmosphere was good-natured pandemonium. "People say they feel like they're at home here," says owner Twylla Robinson, who purchased the bar with her husband Joe. She named it Big Al's in memory of her late father, whom she describes as a "trucker and a cowboy from Nebraska.
"Some places have a lot of restrictions," she says. "Here, we don't care. You can dance on the picnic tables, drink out of the pitcher, do as you please. You can get as crazy as you want. The only thing we say is, 'No fights.'"
As I got ready to leave, I was tempted by an announcement from the stage. "Don't forget, there are $3 bull rides the rest of the night!"
Next time, for sure.
321 W. Sprague * 624-4549
Big Al's isn't the only place with a mechanical bull - Trick Shot Dixie's (where Banana Joe's used to be) -- is where Spokane goes for its gyrating, whoopin' and hollerin' cowboy fun.
800 W. Seltice Way, Post Falls
Don't you just love the name of this place? Well, pardner, it's a lot more than a funny name -- it has live music, karaoke and a big ol' dance floor just itchin' for trouble.
125 W. Sinto Ave. * 328-7090
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