Pioneertown wasn’t always a real town, but it is now. Only a real town would have its own honky-tonk, right?
Pioneertown was an elaborate film set built in the 1940s deep in the high desert, a Wild West facade used in several Western films including the famous The Cisco Kid. Its remote location made it more efficient to build era-appropriate lodgings for the talent right there on set, creating a tiny but functional town that served as both a shooting location and an unincorporated community village.
One of the most notable additions to Pioneertown was, of course, the cantina: a dusty-colored brick building that screamed “Old West Watering Hole.” Stars like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers would belly up to the bar in several productions, and all in all the saloon would serve as a place for stars to drink on camera in over 50 films.
In 1972, long after the film companies had moved on to greener pastures, the cantina was purchased by Francis and John Aleba, who turned the joint into an outlaw biker burrito bar—so basically the coolest place in the entire desert. After 10 years of serving burritos to the rowdy, leather-clad clientele, Francis passed the cantina on to Harriet and Claude “Pappy” Allen, her daughter and son-in-law. The bar expanded its appeal and became a popular spot to see live music, though the biker vibes were never totally erased. Even now, under new ownership, the Palace still attracts diners, local performers, and A-list acts looking to play a more intimate set. Robert Plant, the Arctic Monkeys, and Rufus Wainwright are just some of the stars who have taken the stamp-sized stage for semi-secret gigs.
Accessed via California State Route 62 and just four miles northeast of Yucca Valley, Pappy and Harriet’s is a welcome site to locals and strangers passing through. Make sure to wander around the rest of Pioneertown while you’re there—but for the love of God, be careful around the bikes. You are in the middle of the desert.