As mentioned previously, Pioneertown was a live-in western shooting location that thrived in the late 40s and into the 50s when the cowboy was king. But then the western fell out of favor, and the area became more or less a ghost town. By the early 1970s bikers were cruising through the desert landscape of the high desert and up the winding roads to Pioneertown, and that is when Francis Aleba and her husband, John, arrived. In 1972 they purchased one of the old set buildings and turned it into Cantina, an “outlaw biker burrito bar.” Bikers roared in and out, but after a decade things shifted slightly, when Francis’ daughter, Harriet took over, along with her husband, Claude “Pappy” Allen. Both musicians, they transformed Cantina into a family-friendly, Tex-Mex restaurant/music venue called Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.
During Pappy and Harriet’s reign, a New Yorker by the name of Linda Krantz arrived in Pioneertown, spending six weeks while working on a film. She would spend her evenings at Pappy & Harriet’s before crashing at the Pioneertown Motel just across the dirt road of Mane Street. She fell in love, and continued to visit for years afterward, often bringing fellow New Yorkers, including friend Robyn Celia. Then, one day the pair arrived and the whole vibe was different, and it turned out Harriet had sold the place. However, the new owner didn’t last long. In 2003, back in New York, Krantz saw online that her beloved desert haunt was for sale, and she and Celia bought Pappy & Harriet’s, restoring it to its honky-tonk glory.
The likes of Wanda Jackson, Rufus Wainwright, Robert Plant, Rosie Flores, Vampire Weekend, Paul McCartney, Eagles of Death Metal, Arctic Monkeys, Lorde, and Shooter Jennings have all graced the stage. Pappy & Harriet’s is a place where you just never know who is going to walk in. It’s a bizarre utopia where rock climbing hippies, tough bikers, and cowboys can all sit down and get a great bite to eat and grab a cold one, whether it’s a beer or a sarsaparilla.
And if you’re curious about the quality of the food, note that Pappy & Harriet’s was featured on Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, so, yeah, it’s good to say the least. You can catch his visit here.
You can learn more about Pappy & Harriet’s by watching this short documentary here.