It's a one-of-a-kind Hole
Friday, August 29, 2008

By Mark Paxton

The new owners of the 19th Hole kept the old ceiling intact when they remodeled, including tacked up dollar bills.
Photo by: Nick Lovejoy
Vintage posters hang from the walls, giving the 19th Hole the same look it had when it was previously open.
Photo by: Nick Lovejoy
The 19th Hole is now open for dinner four nights a week, and lunch and dinner on Fridays and Saturdays.
Photo by: Nick Lovejoy
An old tradition at the 19th Hole was to pin dollar bills on the ceiling with messages.
Photo by: Nick Lovejoy
Local ranchers stopped by with their brands last weekend to give a new touch to the deck of the restaurant.
Photo by: Nick Lovejoy
The 19th Hole in Tres Pinos recently reopened for lunch, dinner and drinks. The Tres Pinos institution first opened in 1882.
Photo by: Nick Lovejoy

Dinner's served at a slice of local history

Exterior walls have been stripped down to their original bare wood. The old shotgun blast that peppers the front wall remains. The memorabilia and mounted animal heads are on the walls and the ceiling still contains its trove of tacked-on dollar bills.

The 19th Hole is back.

There's dress-up-on-a-Friday-night-and-play-cowboy Western and there's real Western. The Tres Pinos institution that first opened in 1882 leaves little doubt which one it is.

The long-closed watering hole with the false front right out of Dodge City opened early this summer with something it hasn't offered in many years - a menu.

"It's going really, really well," said Shawna Castillo, who operates the 19th Hole with her husband, Carlos.

For the time being the menu remains short, with oak-fired steaks and chicken, tri-tip and sausage sandwiches and burgers, salads and fries.

"We're going to keep it simple," Shawna said. "We kind of just want to be a simple rancher, local-oriented place for families. We're not really looking to compete or take away the Tres Pinos Inn business. He's got a higher end place there."

The Castillos already had deep ties to the community when they opened. Shawna works part-time at Tres Pinos Ranch Supply and Carlos is a farrier.

The main dining room seats 60, and two smaller private rooms can be booked for events as well. One of the rooms is the original meat locker, where local hunters would hang their deer, Shawna said. The other is in the original water tower. A neighboring barn is being restored, and it will be available when completed. The Castillos are contemplating wine sales from the barn as well.

Most patrons assume the 19th Hole takes its name from nearby Bolado Park Golf Course, but that's one part of the establishment's history that remains a bit cloudy.

The 19th Hole was once known as Evilia's, after the family that operated it, according to Ed Valdez of Hollister, who grew up in Tres Pinos.

"I remember when this Frenchman came in and bought half interest in the bar," Valdez said. "That was when they changed it to the 19th Hole. He was a golfer so I guess that's why they changed it."

The golf club on the venerable sign seems to lend credence to Valdez' recollection.

But other historians think the name might have deeper roots. Jack O'Donnell and Sharlene Van Rooy of the county Historical Society agreed that the name is tied to the rails. Tres Pinos was the 19th stop along the rail line from San Francisco and the end of the line, they said.

Tres Pinos at the time was a bustling town thanks to that rail line. Much of the hay needed for stables in San Francisco and beyond was shipped from there. The town had a fashionable hotel, and travelers reaching the end of the line likely needed a place to enjoy a cool drink and some hearty food.

Valdez remembered rail workers hurrying across Airline Highway to grab a quick meal at the bar.

The 19th Hole is so tied to its frontier roots that it is one of only three locations in California licensed for off-sale, meaning patrons can drop in for a cool beer and leave with a bottle of bourbon purchased right over the bar.

But the addition of a full-service dining room means the establishment is no longer just a 21-and-older place, and the Castillos are working to keep the 19th Hole family friendly.

Families will find a veritable museum dedicated to local history.

The restaurant holds more than a century's worth of memorabilia and historic photos. The ceiling is covered in a confetti of dollar bills, most signed by their former owners. "It was in 1965 that the ceiling thing started," Shawna said.

While building owners Florian and Lori Barth's restoration included removing everything from the walls before eventually replacing it, ceiling work had to be done without disturbing anything.

"A lot of the dollars are brown and crispy," Shawna said. "There's no way to remove them."

The 19th Hole is the Castillos' first venture into the restaurant business, and so far the buzz has been good.

"Everybody's coming back," Shawna said. "Everybody's been really happy."

What should a first-timer order?

"The rib-eye steak," Shawna said without hesitation.

The steak is big enough that Shawna said one makes a complete meal for her, but the steak is served with Cesar salad, a baked potato and grilled vegetables as well.

The Castillos are working to keep prices family friendly as well.

"We know the times are tough, so we're trying to keep our prices low and still survive," Shawna said.

The 19th Hole is located at 7071 Airline Hwy. It opens for dinner at 4 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and for lunch and dinner at noon on Saturday and Sunday. To book an event or reserve a table, call 628-0100.

Mark Paxton




(831) 628-0100

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7071 Airline Hwy

Tres Pinos, CA 95075

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