Rare 1883 Indian Head penny.

Bar Covered with Pennies - Penny Bar

Field review by the editors.

McKittrick, California

A few miles west of the Central Valley's efficient but dull I-5, California offers a landscape that most travelers never see. If you can be lured off the 5 at Lost Hills, perhaps in search of the Last Place James Dean Stopped for Gas, you might notice a sign for "The Petroleum Highway." Take that south -- it cuts through fields of oil pump jacks, and you'll eventually find yourself in the tiny town of McKittrick.

The Penny Bar.

The McKittrick Hotel, a two-story brick building, is home to the Penny Bar, a monumental work of singleminded, obsessive gluing. It took Mike Moore over six years to affix pennies on every surface -- the bar, the pool table, the television, the bathroom doors, the floor...over a million, with dabs of Elmer's and endless patience.

The Penny Bar.

Mike and Annie Moore bought the old hotel in 1999, after long careers running a pest control business. They moved to McKittrick and began operating the hotel's bar and cafe (BBQ pork ribs and ribeye steaks are house specialities). Annie arrived with a huge collection of pennies, enough to cover about a third of the surfaces in the bar. The rest of the pennies were acquired or donated as Mike's project progressed.

The bar room is in the back of the building, murky and lit by beer signs. A mounted deer head is surrounded by pennies. Mike used color variations by mixing circulated and mint condition pennies to to spell out words: "Ladies" on the bathroom, "Gone Fishing" under the fish tank (moisture seepage has stained some of the coins). We stopped by early in the day, but two helpful waitresses flipped on a high intensity lamp and slid it around the bar to point out certain rare coins, such as an 1883 Indian Head penny, near an appetizer menu holder.

McKittrick Hotel and Bar.

Old hotel...ghosts? The waitresses told us that yes, the place is haunted (although the owner isn't interested in exploiting them on a reality TV show). Also, that the other main point of interest in McKittrick is "The Chinaman's Grave" -- a roadside burial of a cowboy and Chinese man who killed each other in a gun fight. It's just around the corner and down the road a bit east.

Jan. 2020: Sharon Langan let us know that Mike Moore passed away; his "Celebration of Life" wake/BBQ is at the Penny Bar.

Bar Covered with Pennies - Penny Bar

McKittrick Hotel and Cafe

23273 Highway 33, McKittrick, CA
McKittrick Hotel and Cafe. The town is at the junction of highway 58 and highway 33.
M-F 7am-9 pm, Sa 8 am-9 pm, Su 10 am - 3 pm. Bar open to 10 pm M-Sa. (Virus outbreak may affect access to attraction. Call to verify.)
Save to My Sights

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In the region:
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June 3, 2020

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