AN EVENING OF WESTERN FOOD AND ENTERTAINMENT - The Explorer: Import

AN EVENING OF WESTERN FOOD AND ENTERTAINMENT

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Posted: Wednesday, March 27, 2002 12:00 am | Updated: 7:47 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

In the 1930's it was a watering hole for cowboys herding cattle to midtown Tucson. Eventually a stone house was built. Outside grills were added so that along with the cold beer, the cowboys could be fed. In the 1960's a restaurant was constructed. It burned to the ground in 1995 and was rebuilt in 1996. The current Hidden Valley Inn, one mile south of Sabino Canyon on Sabino Canyon Road, has evolved into a huge restaurant, bar, dining room with entertainment, and gift shop. All in an Old West atmosphere. We attended the dinner show and found it to be one of those pleasant surprises that Tucson provides.

We passed the Red Garter Saloon, a true western-style saloon with swinging doors, an impressive bar and wooden dance floor enroute to the Crystal Palace. Charles Russell and Frederic Remington reproductions grace the hallway walls to the Crystal Palace, our destination for the evening.

Reminiscent of a mining town's dance hall, red walls, red curtained backdrop for the stage, and strains of "I'm Headin' for the Last Roundup" greeted us as we headed for an extraordinary evening of entertainment.

The "Hidden Valley Inn Gazette" was presented as we were seated. This tabloid size newspaper gave the Dinner Show Menu and coming attractions for the live shows. We learned that the most popular items from the Hayloft dining room menu (keeping quick service in mind) were chosen for the Crystal Palace. Management asks that dinner orders are place by 6:30 so that dining may be completed and tables cleared before the show.

We began with a "Tumbleweed" appetizer ($5.99), a deep-fried whole onion, and "Shrimp Poppers" ($5.99). My partner relished the onion as he gave each leaf a quick dip in ranch dressing. The Shrimp Poppers were a thoroughly distinctive addition to the appetizer scene. Shrimp stuffed with jalapeno and cream cheese-dipped in light batter and deep-fried. Crispy, not too much oil.

Our entrees arrived promptly so that we would not feel rushed to be finished by showtime. I ordered the half rack pork ribs ($12.99) and my partner the deep fried cod ($8.99). The entrees were served with steak fries and cole slaw. The food was reminiscent of eating in the favorite caf in a small town anywhere in the USA.

In the line of duty we ordered dessert. Mud Pie ($4.29) for my friend would have served the party of 10 celebrating Briana's 12th birthday at the adjacent table. (I learned that the dinner show at the Crystal Palace was Briana's request). A chocolate crust held a mile high filling of coffee ice cream showered with chocolate sauce. The warm apple pie ($2.99) poised on a fine line between tart and sweet. Few desserts are worse than a bad apple pie. None better than an excellent one.

The Crystal Room is open for seating at 5:30 prior to the 7:00 p.m. show. Show tickets without dinner are also available. There is a 3 p.m. matinee one Sunday a month. The shows vary and include Murder Mystery, Magic, Portrait of a Chairman (Frank Sinatra) and Howdy from Hollywood. Call 299-4941 for the schedule or go online www.hiddenvalleyinntuc.com. You won't be disappointed at one of Tucson's best kept secrets.

SHOW TIME

"Howdy from Hollywood" the Hidden Valley Inn's new show, begins April 7. The show stars Walter Belcher, Erin Booth, Katherine Byrnes, Drew Humphrey and Monte Ralstin. For show dates and reservations, call 299-4941.

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