In February, I took my wife up to Winnemucca and stayed overnight at the Winnemucca Inn, so we could have dinner at “The Martin”, The Martin Hotel Basque restaurant. The trip was kind of Valentine get away.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, why in the world would anyone take their wife to Winnemucca for a Valentines get away? The truth is, Winnemucca and The Martin, have been a tradition in my family since the early 70’s, when my dad, my brother and I were invited to come along deer hunting with some friends in the Pine Forrest mountains near Denio.
When we took our first trip with our friends, we were told by our friends, with much reverence that the hunting trip would officially start with lunch at The Martin Hotel, when we get to Winnemucca. I remember telling myself, “How and why would going to a hotel be so revered”? Seeing The Martin Hotel when we pulled up in our pick-ups didn’t go far to ease my skepticism.
When I walked into The Martin Hotel, it was like stepping back in time. Cowboys and miners were standing and sitting at the bar along with some well-dressed men that seemed to be men of importance. We were welcomed as if we were old friends and asked if we were here for lunch. My dad’s friends replied “yes, but we would like to have a Picon’ punch before we eat”. Because I wasn’t quite of age, I had a Roy Rogers while everyone had their Picon’. As we sat at the bar, two men at a table were playing dominos and two other men were playing cribbage.
When we finished our drinks we were escorted into the dining room and seated with other people, what I now know as “family style”. The men and women that sat with us were cowboys, a sheriff, a miner and some hunters. The friendly conversation that ensued was some of the best I have ever been privileged to have.
I had never been at a restaurant that served family style or a fixed menu before. I can still remember my brother daring me to try the beef tongue and the look on his face when not only did I try it, but I had seconds. Although my favorite that day was the lamb, I really enjoyed salad the tongue and the French fries as well. The Basque food and conversation that afternoon would spark a family tradition that is still enjoyed by my family to this day.
The Martin Hotel is located on the corner of Railroad and Melarkey Streets in Winnemucca. Established in 1898, the Martin is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Martin has unique stucco exterior, familiar veranda, and hitching posts, and its interiors covered with an amazing variety of pressed tin walls and ceilings.
About the Author: Martin T. Smith
Besides being an authority on the Nevada state flag, Martin is the creator of 'The Nevada Trivia Game', author of 'The Nevada Outhouse Trivia Book' and longtime owner of 'The Flag Store Sign & Banner' in Sparks, Nevada.