Urban Cowboy Bar and Grill
Eureka eatery is filled with family, fun, and fantastic feasts.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY MEGG MUELLER
Traveling along the Loneliest Road in America—aka U.S. Route 50 or Highway 50—visitors expect barren landscapes and long periods of solitude. That feeling of emptiness, of vast wide-open spaces, is what most adventurers along this road seek…except when it comes to their stomachs.
There are few towns along Highway 50 which, while being part of the appeal, can also make it hard to find a really good meal. Small towns are often notorious for mercurial hours, not to mention the unfortunate truth it’s hard to keep restaurants viable when traffic is low.
The past year gave new meaning to how hard it is for those trying to keep their doors open, and sadly, a handful of small eateries along this route were forced to close.
There is, however, a shining beacon for those who experience hunger pains as they are about halfway across the state: the Urban Cowboy Bar and Grill in Eureka.
Maria Ureña has lived in Eureka for about 30 years, enough time to see the rise and fall that often accompanies Nevada’s small towns. She came to town with her parents, and is now raising her family there. For almost 20 years, she worked at the Owl Club Bar and Steakhouse, but her future was calling.
“My dad, who died 10 years ago, he always wanted to buy this building,” Maria says, of the 1880s property her restaurant now inhabits. “I bought it almost five years ago, now, and I named my restaurant after him.”
The family called its patriarch—whose name was Urbano—the urban cowboy. A picture of Maria’s parents hangs near the front door, a reminder of the importance of family. Maria’s sons work at the restaurant, as does her brother. She is a jack-of-all-trades, like many small restaurant owners, and you can find her waiting tables, in front of the stove, washing dishes, or tending bar on any given day.
“It’s very hard to find help,” she says, “but during COVID it was very scary. I did most of the work, and my son cooked. He’s a really good cook, and he’s only 15. But I’m pretty lucky because we’ve been open longer than some businesses and we made it.”
WILL DRIVE FOR CHILE VERDE
No matter who is cooking, the recipes for Maria’s dishes are ones she grew up with. Her Chile Verde is something of a cult favorite, with more than one local recommending it. Huge chunks of pork laden with a mild yet intensely flavorful sauce is so delicious it would be worth the drive from Reno, just for lunch.
The steak ranchero is another popular favorite, as are Maria’s enchiladas. Her Mexican dishes should not be overlooked, but for those wishing for something different, the menu is packed with steaks, seafood, burgers, and sandwiches. A full bar is available for those in the mood to imbibe, and the atmosphere is casual and comfortable, inviting weary travelers to take the time for a leisurely meal, maybe even shoot a game of pool. It’s an inviting place, ready to make customers feel at home.
“The Urban Cowboy building has been a major part of Eureka history since the late 1800s,” says Dana Lee Fruend, Eureka’s tourism director and a frequent customer. “Today, this building is alive with good Mexican American food and a rustic bar serving lively spirits. Maria is always happy to see each person and makes you feel so welcome. And her Pork Chile Verde is absolutely the best! You have got to try it.”
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Surviving the pandemic, Maria’s goals for the future of Urban Cowboy are down to earth.
“This is my home. I keep praying that everything works out and I can stay. I like this community, and there are very good schools,” she says.
Sitting amid her restaurant, awaiting the day’s first customers, Maria wears the smile of a woman who knows she’s got every chance for success: great food, a solid location, and the right attitude.
“If I can pay my bills, I’m happy,” she says.