Somebody recently mentioned to me that the Martin in Winnemucca is one of the oldest restaurants in Nevada, so I decided to look into it. In fact, according to http://www.onlyinyourstate.com, the Martin is the oldest in the state, opening in 1898. As they put it:
The Martin was established as a rooming house for area cattle ranchers in 1898. Today this beloved family-style Basque restaurant continues to draw travelers and townfolk alike. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Here’s a bit of the restaurant’s history, according to the Martin Hotel’s website:
A lithograph dated 1881 shows a residence on this property. Sometime between 1898 and 1908 Alfonso Pasquale opened the Roman Tavern and Restaurant here. In 1913 Augustine A. Martin and Elisee Henri Martin, both of France, acquired this building and the business was named The Martin Hotel. In 1920, after a fire, the building was reconstructed with twenty-five rooms.
Rene Martin, Augustine and Elisee’s son, wrote in 1980, “My parents catered to the sheepmen and cattlemen. Although they were not Basque, the sheepherders and stockmen made the Martin their home when in town. It was not unusual for a herder to come in from this long stay with the sheep, be paid off in full for his work and give the entire sum over to my father. The herder would then stay at the hotel, eat in the restaurant, play cards, visit with friends and drink in the bar. My father, keeping the account, would advance him pocket money when asked for and when the sheepherder’s money started to run out, father would tell them so and help them line up a new job. Then off the sheepherder would go for another long stint with the sheep.”
During prohibition, the hotel and restaurant downstairs prospered while a speakeasy thrived in what is now the attic. The story is told that when the revenuers found the whiskey, they dumped it all down Melarkey Street and people turned out with cups to sample it as it flowed by.
The Martin Hotel continued as a restaurant after Augustine Martin died. It was owned and managed by Basque families stretching into the 1970’s; Yruetas, Bengoa, Bilboa, and Sil and Rosie Uriguen.
The Martin Hotel today is a internationally known Basque and American family style restaurant, still home to stockmen as well as a wonderful cross section of people from Winnemucca and around the world…and as always , “where friends gather”.
Now my point isn’t to make you hungry. Ever since moving to Reno, I have been struck by how so many people know about the Basques and frequent their establishments. Having grown up in California, I constantly had to explain my name, origin, etc. Here, everyone knows about Basques, loves picon punch, and has an opinion. When I visited Winnemucca for the Basque festival a few weeks ago, I was impressed by how many people from the greater community were part of the fun. So, besides recommending you to visit the Martin, this post is dedicated to the strength of Basque culture in Nevada!