On the section of Highway 26 east of Madras to the Idaho border, there are more cows than people. That means you should take advantage of the supply and eat some spectacular cuts of meat. Prineville has two steak houses, and the locals will tell you the one to go to is Club Pioneer (1851 NE 3rd St., Prineville, 541-447-6177, clubpioneer.com). Established in 1942, the restaurant is one of the town’s oldest businesses, but you wouldn’t know it by the looks of the place. The Western false-front exterior is a polished simulacra, like a Disneyland set, while inside you’ll find knotty blond walls and juniper doors that were added during a remodel. But while you carve into a velvety filet mignon wrapped in bacon, or take a bite of earthy flank steak drizzled in herbaceous, sharp yet cooling chimichurri, you can pretend you’re in a wilder era. Long before the renovation, Club Pioneer was a saloon with a rough-and-tumble reputation. It had a bar and dance floor, and fights were frequent on Saturday nights. Evidence of that rowdiness still exists in the lounge, where a painting of men playing poker features a small gash. According to local legend, a man came into the old bar—whether on horseback or not is still debated—and shot an arrow through the crowd. Amazingly, no one was hit, except for a cowboy in the picture. It was a clean shot to the head.
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