About 10 miles east of Oakdale off Highway 120 sits the small community of Knights Ferry. Located along the Stanislaus River and famous for being the site of the longest covered bridge this side of the Mississippi River, it is also home to the oldest operating general store (circa. 1952) in California. Today that general store also includes Rick’s Saloon/Café run by proprietor Linda Osborne. A bartender for the last 24 years in the Central Valley, she took over the business in February of 2023. Originally owned by Rick Maisel, who purchased the bar in 1985, Osborne hasn’t changed much of the aesthetics inside, even down to the over 300 baseball caps neatly hanging from the ceiling, a collection started by Maisel about 40 years ago.
“Rick had a 200-hat collection so he put them all behind the bar and since, it’s just grown,” said Osborne, who cleans and maintains the array of hats once owned by Maisel and those donated by customers over the years.
Offering a full bar and ice cold beer, two of their most popular drinks at the saloon include an Orange Tic Tac, a shot that Osborne concocted many years ago made with orange vodka and orange juice, shaken well and topped with a splash of Red Bull. The Lemon Drop Cocktail is a vodka-based drink that is very refreshing and the perfect drink for any hot summer day.
Featuring all types of music from country and folk to ‘80s-‘90s rock, live music can be enjoyed on most Sundays.
“Music is huge here, it’s a huge music venue, there’s so much talent in this area and they really want to play here and I really want them to play here,” Osborne explained. “That’s been the heartbeat of this entire establishment since long before I was a twinkle in my daddy’s eye. People here just love music.”
Run by Osborne with help from her family and friends and buoyed by community support, Rick’s Saloon has that close knit, Cheers “where everybody knows your name” feeling. Locals are greeted by name with an occasional hug and if you’re lucky you may even get the chance to meet the bar’s namesake, Rick, who when asked if he had any favorite memories from the 38 years he owned the bar, replied with a laugh: “Most of those memories you can’t remember.”
Osborne added, “This would never have been possible without Rick trusting me, caring about me and knowing that I would take care of his baby … he made my dreams come true.”
With a clientele of locals and folks just passing through on their way up to the Sierra Foothills or having just spent the day rafting down the river, they can come in Tuesday through Sunday and enjoy the weather and a cocktail outside on the newly updated patio area where there are plenty of picnic tables with umbrellas. The family friendly Saloon/Café is also pet friendly. During the colder months, enjoy the fire pit and a hot toddy or come inside and rack up the table for a free game of pool and pick out your favorite songs from the old school compact disc juke box.
Bartender Audra Hogwood said, when asked what’s special about working at Rick’s, “The people, definitely just very relaxed.”
Tuesdays are “Taco Tuesdays” from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., with your choice of chicken, beef or fish tacos made in house. The regular menu includes many appetizers, burgers, and sandwiches, just to name a few of the delicious options.
For all upcoming events, you can follow them on Facebook at Knights Ferry General Store/Rick’s Saloon & Café and on Instagram at rickssaloonknightsferry.
17701 Sonora Rd., Knights Ferry
11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday
11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday
11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday
Facebook at Knights Ferry General Store/Rick’s Saloon & Café and on Instagram at rickssaloonknightsferry.