It’s pretty easy to fall in love with Hailey, Idaho.
The small town of 7,960, nestled some 5,318-feet high in the Northern Rockies, has a certain charm and appeal all its own.
Tucked snuggly in the southern half of the Wood River Valley, about a dozen miles south of the excitement and pizzazz of Ketchum/Sun Valley, it’s somewhat easy to overlook the place. With its wide, slow Main Street carving its way past an assortment of restaurants and shops, it looks enough like any regular old small town in the Gem State.
Some folks, of course, don’t think of Hailey as being much more than home to the Sun Valley airport. But those who do stop and spend some time in the friendly town, to grab a drink or a bite to eat while waiting for a flight, or to sneak in a little fishing, mountain biking or a hike, or to enjoy a festival at one of Hailey’s numerous public parks, quickly find that there’s a lot to like about the place.
Left: Zou 75 / Right: Power House in Hailey
A bit rustic, with remnants of “boomtown” architecture sprinkled about town, there’s an Old West charm about Hailey that’s balanced by a refined and modern vibe (Hailey is, after all, the largest town in “Little California,” as the rest of the state calls Blaine County). Hailey can also be downright cute in its own way, too, especially when the large population of local kids strolls around town for annual events like the Fourth of July Parade, the Turkey Trot or the Halloween Hoopla.
So there’s a rather sweet yet rugged, girl-next-door appeal to the sleepy town. It is, after all, the “bedroom” community of America’s original ski resort. And a busy bedroom it has been! Hailey’s population has nearly doubled over the last decade-plus, primarily because of its popularity as a great place to raise families. The population boom has helped stir a renaissance in the local restaurant and bar scene. Not long ago there were but a few options in Hailey for food or drinks. Now, there’s a little bit of something for everyone.
In honor of our 40th Anniversary Summer issue—and since Sun Valley Mag has long had offices here—we offer up this tour of the watering holes that line Hailey’s Main Street, places that have no doubt played at least a small role in the town’s population boom.
Left: Sun Valley Brewery / Right: CK of CK's Real Food
Grab a Beer!
The South Valley community’s first settlers arrived around 1865, after the discovery of Hailey’s “Gold Belt” west of town. John Hailey, the town’s founder, was among those early pioneers, and legend has it that he was the first person to raise sheep in the Wood River Valley, starting off what would eventually become the top sheep-producing region in the world outside of Sydney, Australia.
If there’s one thing miners and shepherds like, besides “ladies of the night” (who plied their services along River Street), it’s beer. So Hailey has been home to many breweries over the years, especially when its population was said to be around 10,000 near the turn of the 20th-century.
Sun Valley Brewing Company has been calling Hailey home since 1986, making it one of the oldest craft breweries in the country. Located in an old car dealership, Sun Valley Brew’s flagship “White Cloud Ale” was even the top-selling microbrew in Colorado for a while during Reagan’s presidency.
Chef Derek Gallegos (now of Bigwood Bread) and the late Mark Fisher teamed up to add the café in 1993 and the place has been a dining and beer-drinking staple of Hailey ever since.
In 2002, Sean and Cynthia (Derek’s little sister) Flynn took over the brewery and café and have kept things pleasantly humming right along, adding some much needed regular servings of high-quality live music.
The menu still holds most of the brewery’s longtime favorites, like their homemade Wurst Plate, Pad Thai and Rude Wings—arguably the Valley’s best. Offering a full bar in addition to their craft beer line-up, the brewery’s most popular beers are their Cranky Über IPA and Blonde Pilsner, with more creative seasonal concoctions, like last winter’s Black Haggis Barrel-aged Scottish Ale being big hits, too.
Most of the bar’s regulars have been hanging out there since the days of yore, when I tended bar there and the only other local drinking options were the Red Elephant, the Hailey Hotel and, sometimes, Bruce Willis’ Mint.
“We have our dailies, our regulars,” said Ann Bradish, who’s been bartending at the brewery for a decade now. “It’s a local’s haunt, for sure.”
As for life running a brew pub in a small town like Hailey, Cynthia said, “It’s always fun around here because it’s always challenging.”
The biggest challenge at The Wicked Spud can be finding a seat on their very popular summer patio, especially on Wicked Wednesdays when live music is offered as part of a weekly fundraiser for local non-profits.
“It’s fun. You know everybody who ever walks in here,” said Loren Kernan, who’s been bartending at the small bar and grill for around eight years. The beer-and-wine-only establishment, which was once home to Little Debbie’s bar, offers eight beers on tap, a “Schooner Club,” a pool table and video games. The small, family-friendly Spud also has a solid following for their Black Angus burgers and snow cones in the summertime.
“Everyone from the homeless-looking to the movie stars comes in here,” Loren said. “It’s the beauty of the Wood River Valley; it attracts all kinds.”
When Billy Olson originally opened the Power House Pub and Bike Fit Studio, the one-of-a-kind restaurant was a watershed—and not just for Hailey. Publications from across the country have lauded the unique and well-done bicycle bar. And local beer fans have rejoiced at Power House’s downright stunning beer selection, which includes 20 tap beers from across the globe.
The complete beer menu is heavily European influenced and almost longer than Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea.” Which is only fitting since Hailey is the hometown of poet Ezra Pound, who is credited with helping launch Papa Hemingway’s legendary career. Power House offers everything from cans of Hamm’s to bottles of Deus, a Belgian ale that sells for about $50 a pint—although they don’t allow Budweiser or Coors products on tap.
“I try to cater to everybody, at least everybody who likes good beer,” Billy said, with a big grin. A former professional road bike racer and now local family man, Billy had long harbored a dream of opening something like Power House, a place that could combine a bike shop (which is what Power House originally opened as) and a cool coffee house/beer bar. He expected it to do well. He didn’t expect it to be “Bonkers!” as he put it.
Featuring a small and rather eclectic menu that’s “organic and as local as possible,” and a great patio in the summer, Power House has developed a very strong fan base. “From jetsetters to Happy Hour locals, everybody comes in here. It’s very much become a destination,” Billy said, joking that people from the north end of the Valley will regularly venture down to Power House, even though “it’s only 11 miles to Ketchum, but it’s a hundred miles to Hailey.”
So far the biggest challenge for Power House was just surviving the first week. As soon as the doors opened in the old Gurney’s Restaurant in December of 2009, the crowds started coming in, but an electrical fire one night almost took the place out. Billy was up most of the frigid night trying to save the place. When he finally sat down to do the evening’s books, he came across a dollar inscribed with: “Don’t worry. It will all work out.”
“I knew after that we were going to make it,” Billy said.
Wine—or Sake—and Dine!
Power House isn’t Hailey’s only destination dining and imbibing experience. Named one of the “Top 10 best new restaurants in the country” by Wine Enthusiast shortly after it opened a decade ago, Zõu 75 has a huge and devoted following.
Considered by many to offer the best sushi in the Gem State, Zõu’s fans flock to the remodeled Pizza Factory building for a variety of reasons: fresh sushi flown in daily from places like Hawaii, Crispy Duck Spring Rolls, Dynamite Green Beans, “Locals’ Rolls,” killer cocktails like the Gorgeous George Margarita and a terrific happy hour. Zõu also prides itself on always having an owner (either Rob Cronin or Brendan and Ramie Dennehy) on site.
Besides their food and drinks, Zõu has a hip, Big City-style feel that appeals to everyone from second-home-owning celebrities to local families in search of special occasion meals.
“The following here is very loyal,” explained Holly Trahan, who’s been Zõu’s bar manager for a few years now. “But there’s no specific clientele here. That’s what I love about the place—besides the great food. All kinds of people from everywhere will come in here and you get to meet and socialize with them.”
It’s only fitting that CK’s Real Food has taken the town’s culinary scene to new heights. Owner and chef Chris Kastner has, after all, long been known as one of the region’s best hang glider pilots.
It’s tough to write about CK’s food without drooling on the keyboard. Suffice it to say that between the food, service and the small restaurant’s cozy vibe (and delightfully gardened summer patio), it’s Hailey’s best dining experience. The “very Idaho” menu, as waitress Margot Ros explained, focuses on fresh and local ingredients and always includes daily lunch and dinner specials depending upon what’s in season.
CK’s offers two small bars, including the four-seat “Chef’s Bar” that overlooks the kitchen. Accompanied by their solid wine and beer selection, it’s a great place to watch some true “food foreplay” in action.
The action next door at diVine Wine Bar has always been of a different sort. Compared to the buzz of CK’s and the hustle and bustle of Zõu 75, diVine moves to the beat of a quieter drummer.
The quaint restaurant/retail wine and beer shop offers over 800 wines and an excellent bottled craft beer selection to accompany a small but savory menu featuring items like pizza, paninis and a Create Your Own cheese plate. diVine offers a more sophisticated scene than you usually find in small Idaho mountain towns like Hailey.
“It definitely fills a really needed niche in our Valley,” said Bob Brand. Bob and his wife, Joanne, own the Third Floor Salon atop the Pine Street Station building. They’re big diVine fans and typical of the friendly, predominantly female clientele.
Wally Creviston and Sherry Horton—who teaches at the Sun Valley Ballet School by day—are the fourth owners of diVine since it opened in 2002. By all accounts, it’s never been run better and has, understandably, been growing in popularity.
“It was a secret, but it’s getting out. It’s getting busier and busier,” Joanne said. “When it’s all said and done, it really is a divine place.”
Hay Ho Time!
Folks still looking for fun in Hailey after most other places have turned off their lights for the night have a couple of solid options. Both places harken back to the town’s Old West roots and both definitely cater to adult crowds.
The Muleshoe Tavern and Steakhouse is actually a great spot for more than just late- night action. They’ve got a terrific Happy Hour Small Bites menu (the Thai Wings are downright delicious). The laid-back energy, tasty snacks and affordable bar have lead to numerous Sun Valley Mag “staff meetings” at the Muleshoe since the place opened in 2011.
The Muleshoe was actually the name of the bar “many incantations ago,” according to G.M. Chris Olmstead. Under the ownership of Steve Hogan, the former Red Elephant has been cleaned and brightened up, but has still maintained its rustic, Old West feel. On any given night—but especially if the rodeo is in town—you’re likely to see a cowboy hat or two at the long, wooden bar.
“We have a real local crowd,” Chris said, who prides himself on, among other things, the Muleshoe’s perfectly poured pints of Guinness and great values. “Everything we try to do, we always try to keep what Hailey wants in mind, because if we can do things right, people will enjoy themselves and come back for more.”
The Muleshoe isn’t the only late-night option in Hailey with a solid base of folks coming back for more. The Hailey Hotel has been serving ’em up since 1934, long before Naughty by Nature’s song “Hip Hop Hooray” (“Hey Ho, Hey Ho!”) was a big hit. That’s because when it’s time for folks to get in touch with the naughtier sides of their natures, there’s no better place to go than the “Hay Ho,” as some locals call the Hailey Hotel.
Deceptively named, the Hay Ho hasn’t been associated with an actual hotel in years. The old hotel rooms upstairs have been remodeled and are now home to KSKI radio.
Offering some of the cheapest cocktails in the Valley (but no beer on tap), the hotel is a true drinker’s bar. Popular with Hailey’s twenty-something crowd for their two pool tables, dart board, jukebox and occasional live music, the hotel is a bit deceiving in more than its name.
Tinted windows make the bar look dark, but the simple, surprisingly clean bar is actually pretty bright and open. It’s one of those places where it’s easy to have a few drinks and lose track of time, since it feels like the bar itself is lost in time. They still even give out 50-cent pieces as change.
Bartender of seven years, Deanna Hange, explained the oddly comfortable feel of the hotel. “Everybody is pretty much family here in Hailey,” she said. “But we don’t put up with any shit!”
For nearly three decades Lisa Chapman has been behind the bar at the Hailey Hotel. “Miss Lisa,” as she’s known, said that the clientele consists primarily of locals of a surprisingly wide age range. Serving until 2 am daily, the bar caters to anyone who isn’t ready to call it a night yet.
“We’re the last place they end up,” Lisa said, explaining they’re often packed from 10 pm until closing—perhaps better known as Hay Ho time!