ELSINORE — For more than 100 years, people have had a place in Elsinore to hang their hat, share gossip and get a hot meal.
That’s all about to change as the Cowboy Corral is set to close its doors as of Friday, Aug. 2.
“I hate to see it go away,” said Arlene Frost, owner of the Cowboy Corral for the past 27 years. “It’s such a fun place.”
Since its construction in 1896, the building where the Cowboy Corral is located has been home to many different things. It may have once even been a haunt for famous outlaw Butch Cassidy, Arlene said.
“It’s a quant old building,” Arlene said. “When I first bought it, it was a pool hall.”
Arlene said some of the patrons of the pool hall were upset to find out their tournaments were going to be replaced.
However, it wasn’t long before homemade soup and rolls from scratch won people over, Arlene said. After all, there are not a lot of places where one can get a cheeseburger and fries for $6 anymore.
“It’s been a good life for me,” Arlene said. Most of the time she works six days a week, usually 10 to 12-hour days. It’s a lot for anyone, but Arlene says she hates the idea of giving it up.
“I’ve worked my whole life,” Arlene said. She said her grandchildren, 20 in all, have also learned to work in the diner — busing tables, washing dishes and taking care of customers.
Arlene also shops for the diner, favoring local grocery stores over distributors whenever possible.
Daily lunch specials draw regulars to the café. A rotating cast of characters sits in one corner of the establishment, providing live music and banter for patrons to enjoy.
A portrait of John Wayne watches over the row of booths that lines one of the walls of the diner, while a large picture of Lane Frost covers the opposite wall.
Lane, a champion bull rider who died while in the arena and subject of the 1994 film “8 Seconds,” is a nephew of Arlene and her late husband, Jim.
“Jim loved to make the biscuits,” Arlene said. She said her husband insisted on fresh biscuits, even when she suggested frozen ones would be easier.
Other pieces of cowboy themed bric-à-brac fill the remaining spaces on the walls as people talk, drink Cokes and enjoy the day’s special — chicken fried steak.
Arlene grew up on a ranch, and spent years working with cattle and riding horses.
“I’ve always been a cowgirl,” Frost said. “I even brought my horse with me when I came to Elsinore.”
As a result of Arlene’s roots, which go all the way to Vernal, traditional cowboy fare is a staple at the diner.
“When we first offered biscuits and gravy, we had people asking, ‘what’s that,’” Arlene said. “Now restaurants all over offer it.”
As much as the routine and atmosphere have meant to her, it’s the people that Arlene said she’ll miss the most. The regulars who come in each day for meals and coffee have become a surrogate family.
One group has its own keys to the business so they can come in anytime and brew up a pot of coffee and hangout, which is advantageous for guys who are irrigating and need a place to linger while waiting for water turns to finish, Arlene said.
The hangout even drew a journalist from Elsinore, Denmark, who wrote an article about the Cowboy Corral and Utah’s Little Denmark. As a result, the diner has also drawn tourists from Denmark, Arlene said.
“They’ll come in at four in the morning,” Arlene said. The guys pay for the coffee on their honor. Other regular coffee drinkers frequent the restaurant on a daily basis.
“It’s a second home to them,” Arlene said.
The idea of the home away from home is something Arlene doesn’t want to give up. She said she plans to open an antique store with places in it where people can sell their own goods. The goal is to still have a place for people to come and stroll through and socialize.
“She’s the caretaker of everyone here,” said Malory Moore, one of the diner’s patrons. Moore said her children love the Cowboy Corral, and view Arlene like their own grandma.
“It’s a place where you always feel welcome,” Moore said. “It’s comforting.”
Moore said the corral is about more than home-cooked food prepared on a grill that dates back a century — it’s also about street dances, friendships and fun.
“She’s one of our favorites,” Moore said.
“All of my customers are favorites,” Arlene said. “I’m really going to miss the people and the music.”