Superior Arizona

Apache Leap in the background

Arizona boasts many small towns with fanciful names. I reside in Apache Junction, named for the tribes that inhabited much of Arizona, even though not too many Apache spent much time in this part of the Valley. Show Low is named after a fateful card game, and of course everyone has heard of Tombstone. There is Surprise, Cave Creek, Globe, Top of the World, and the subject of today’s rant, Superior.

Superior, population of less than 3,000, sits under Apache Leap and adjacent to Picket Post Mountain.

Picket Post was called so because the US Calvary built a camp at the base of the mountain. The Yavapai tribe, friendly with the San Carlos Apaches, became known as the Mohave Apaches. Intent on defending their territory against the white-eye intruders, they staged constant raids.

The Mohave Apaches based themselves at the top of the mountain range that is now called Apache Leap. Access to their camp was precarious, and the vantage point afforded them protection. It wasn’t long before US scouts discovered the hidden camp and launched an attack.

One of the many murals gracing the exteriors on Main Street

About 75 braves, upon sensing that they were about to be massacred or captured opted instead to ride their horses off the precipice, hundreds of feet to their death.

A copper mining town, Superior saw its demise with the closure of the Magma copper mine. With little other industry, Superior seemed resigned to the fate of other mining ghost towns. But it survives!

Resolution Copper has begun a controversial project to open a new mine. And Superior is intent on re-branding itself as a tourist destination. Home to many self-supporting professional artists, it boasts a thriving arts scene. It is also home to the Boyce Arboretum.

A local artist residence

Main Street is a mixed box of still abandoned and newly renovated storefronts. Artists, as always, are the pioneers in this renaissance.

The property owners are doing their best to preserve the character and architecture of the buildings, all the while adding their own twist. Murals are plentiful.

This past weekend, Superior hosted a citywide event. The open house walking tour allowed visitors to tour the historic (and not so historic) residences. There was an art show, with permanent galleries and temporary shows throughout the downtown. Also an antiques show with some awesome bargains.


Liz and I were looking forward to eating at Porters, the only bar downtown. We heard raves about their burgers.

The interior is decorated with artifacts of old Superior, including the original Hotel Magma sign. And I was not disappointed with the burger.

Phone booth inside Porters

I was inclined to take into account the huge crowd that was obviously a strain on the serving staff.  One bartender was working the entire bar alone.  However, the extremely poor service pushed my good nature over the edge. No points taken away for the 45 minute wait for our food, that was certainly expected. After all, they had well over 150 patrons and the kitchen had to be stressed to the max with so many food orders.

I don’t mind a wait as long as I have a cold beer in my hand and the patrons were friendly.  A friendly gentleman, apparently a regular, insisted on buying us our first round of drinks. He was extremely hurt when we tried to decline.  Two locals asked us why the bar was so crowded, what was going on that the town saw so many visitors?

Getting refills on our drinks proved vexing.  The red solo cups our drinks were served in may not have helped in alerting the bartender that we were empty. But a crowded bar can not be blamed for my waiting 15 minutes to get a refill, when the bartender instead of working the bar was absorbed in a conversation with two of her customers, then with other staff. She did not even look in our direction during that wait.

Possibility for a new bar?

I am a generous tipper. This was the first time in ages that I did not give the bartender a 20% tip. In fact, I made sure that my tip was just shy of 15%. First rule of bartending is to serve your customers before engaging in conversation with your co-workers, with your back to the bar!

Aztec Jesus

In the end, Porters gets an A+ for the cuisine. The consensus around the bar was that the burgers were first rate. However, there is no excuse to allow patrons to wait 15 minutes for a refill on their drink, unless the bartender is so swamped in filling drink orders ahead of yours. I place the blame squarely on the owners and management for not properly training their staff.

Superior needs an enterprising entrepreneur to purchase and rehab one of the vacant buildings, some of them formerly saloons, to step in and step up the competition.

In the five years since my first visit to Superior, the downtown has visibly changed for the better. The Chamber of Commerce should be rightfully proud of what they have accomplished. We will be back on one of their Second Friday art walks, and I will give Porters a chance to redeem themselves.  After all, Superior is  making the most of its second chance. Everybody deserves a second chance.

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