Prescott’s Historic Bistro St. Michael: Cooking with Love and Food for the Soul

Bistro St. Michael

The sandwich board on the sidewalk in front of Bistro St. Michael promised cooking with love and food for my soul.

What more could you want?

It was my best friend’s birthday. We had been planning to go to the Bistro St. Michael since it reopened a year ago. The perfect opportunity to celebrate a birthday and get material for a blog post review.

Bistro St. Michael Sandwich Board

My friends and I consider ourselves gastronomes (aka foodies) and are always looking to try new restaurants.

I recall regularly visiting the St. Michael restaurant years ago. It was and still is an extraordinary place.

To me, dining in this charming eatery is more than just a place to enjoy a meal. It’s an experience. Significant historical events took place at the St. Michael Hotel. Here, the who’s who of Prescott, Phoenix, San Francisco, and New York lodged, dined, and did business. The ghosts of the past are everywhere. Many who have stayed at the hotel say it is haunted.

The St. Michael Hotel restaurant was once one of the finest dining establishments in Prescott. As we were enjoying the establishment’s backdrop and the food, I gave my friends some background on the St. Michael Hotel. We talked about the galas, events, and celebrations that took place there.

I’ll get to the Bistro St. Michael food and restaurant review a bit later, but first, I’ll share a bit of fascinating history with you about the St. Michael Hotel. It will enhance your experience while there, and you will delight your friends and family with the fun and exciting historical facts you’ll learn here.

HISTORICAL FACTS ABOUT THE ST. MICHAEL HOTEL AND RESTAURANT

The St. Michael Hotel has had many different owners throughout its history. Many prominent figures lodged there, and some took up residence.

The building was initially constructed in 1891 by Prescott pioneers Dennis Burke and Michael Hickey. Named the Burke hotel, it burned to the ground in 1900. The hotel was rebuilt and renamed by Dennis Burke to the St. Michael Hotel after his partner Michael Hickey died in 1909.

Hickey’s wife, Kate, died in her sleep there on August 24, 1922. She was 57 years old. Kate lived at the hotel for years following her husband’s death. She said of Prescott: “I thought more of Prescott as a place to live than any other place on earth.” I could not agree with her more.

In 1912, Ed Shumate was a prominent proprietor of the St. Michael Hotel. Shumate is credited with developing the Granite Dells Resort beginning in 1903.

1912 Newspaper ad for St. Michael Hotel

In January 1916, the Arizona Cattlemen’s Association registered guests at the St. Michael Hotel. More than 250 cattlemen and their wives were there for their annual meeting that focused on business and plenty of pleasure.

C. H. Hooker and Lester Ruffner hosted a reception and dance at the St. Michael Hotel for the cattle growers, their wives, and local Prescott residents. It must have been quite a party. Everyone was welcome.

In 1917, during WWI, the St. Michael Hotel served as a recruiting station for the military. Col. J. C. Hacker of the U.S. Army sought to recruit 30,000 men.

But did you know that the hotel and restaurant also served as a jury deliberation location for a famous murder trial?

JURY DECIDES FATE OF MURDERER AT THE ST. MICHAEL HOTEL

Leonard White and Allen M. Cameron were bitter enemies. White was President of the White Gold Mining Co., and Cameron was a goat farmer. Neither man was married, and they had no family.

The two men feuded constantly and were spiteful toward one another. They often appeared before the justice of the peace for all sorts of spiteful acts committed toward each other.

Leonard White claimed that Allen Cameron had poisoned his beloved dog. They also argued over land holdings along the Hassayampa river, where both men resided. The two had adjoining mining claims.

What Happened? The Murder Scene

According to witnesses, it was about 10 am on June 16, 1913, when Leonard White drove into Sayer (near Wickenburg) with his team of mules from his mining camp about four miles away. A short time after, Allen Cameron rode into Sayer on a burro, both men meaning to retrieve their mail from the post office.

At about 11 o’clock, the Wickenburg stage delivered the mail to the post office.

Leonard White entered the post office to collect his mail. Cameron happened to be behind White on his way to collect his mail. When Cameron was within ten feet of the post office door, White stepped out and faced Cameron.

White said something in a low tone of voice to Cameron. Witnesses said they could only hear some discussion between the two men about poison.

Whatever was said caused Leonard White to draw his gun from under his duster. He shot Cameron three times at the close range.

Each shot took effect, and Cameron was soon flat on the ground. White then stepped away and to one side when he again fired two or three more shots into the body of the dying man who was writhing on the ground.

After White had emptied his Colt revolver into the body of Cameron, he quickly replaced the empty cylinder with a new one and was preparing to continue shooting Cameron. A witness to the shooting stopped him.

Bar and Kitchen, Bistro St. Michael

Leonard White was found at his mining camp when Prescott County Attorney O’Sullivan and Sheriff Keeler showed up. He offered no resistance and went voluntarily with the Sheriff to Prescott.

White was charged with capital murder and jailed. A court trial ensued.

On September 17, 1913, shortly after 8 pm, a jury of twelve men entered the St. Michael Hotel and indulged in a sumptuous dinner.

There’s nothing like a good meal at the St. Michael Salon to get those deliberation juices flowing.

Afterward, the jurors were taken to a secret room within the St. Michael hotel and sequestered to decide the fate of the accused for the murder of Allen Cameron.

If only the walls of the St. Michael hotel could talk.

Leonard White’s fate was in the hands of the jury. He faced a life sentence.

After more than 48 hours, the jury finally reached a verdict on Tuesday, September 23, 1913. The twelve men exited the Hotel St. Michael and slowly filed into the courthouse. A massive crowd of Prescott spectators and officials awaited Leonard White’s fate.

Can you picture this scene?

When the jury was seated, Judge Frank O. Smith cleared his throat and asked, “Gentlemen, have you reached a verdict?”

“We have,” replied the jury foreman, J. C. Scott of Jerome. The magic words “not guilty” were then pronounced. Leonard White was in shock. It took a few minutes for those words to sink, and he broke into tears.

Interior Bistro St. Michael

An unidentified thirty-year resident and attorney of Prescott declared that it was the first time a man of Leonard White’s standing had ever been tried on the charge of murder. White was a prominent citizen and was associated with the most influential people in Yavapai County. White eventually returned to his mining interests.

Bistro St. Michael Menu

Consider this: Sixteen years before Cameron’s murder, on September 22, 1897, it was reported that Leonard White assaulted a miner. White was charged with the assault and had a trial by jury. He was found, you guessed it, not guilty.

Do you think Leonard White’s influence and prominent standing in Yavapai County affected the verdict? It would seem from these newspaper reports that White had a propensity to anger and violence. Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.   

These true stories like this one make Prescott a fascinating place for residents and visitors. Each building and historical home you enter has a history that captures the imagination.

Prescott Voice exists to enhance our experience here and share Prescott’s historical significance with the world.

BISTRO ST. MICHAEL RESTAURANT REVIEW

Now that we have a background on the history of the Bistro St. Michael let’s get to the food review.

It was a cold January Saturday morning as we walked down Montezuma Street along Whiskey Row to the restaurant on the southwest corner of Montezuma and Gurley Streets. It was Saturday, and although the weather was brisk, many people were out and about. Prescott is always bustling with activity.

A Character outside The Palace Saloon & Restaurant

I trailed my friends while shooting some photographs to illustrate this blog post. Oblivious, they blazed ahead. I ran into a cowboy at The Palace Restaurant and Saloon. He was all decked out, armed to the hilt, and at the ready for any outlaw that dared show up.   

When we entered the Bistro St. Michael restaurant, I fondly remembered all the gorgeous woodwork. The antique wood floors have the most beautiful patina. It had been at least 15 years since I stepped foot in the place.

Interior Bistro St. Michael

We arrived at 11:30 am. The restaurant is brightly lit, clean, and upscale. It’s the kind of place you want to spend time in. Hang out with friends and drink a glass or two of wine or a couple of beers. And that’s just what we did. We finally left at 2 pm.

We had a great view of the courthouse square. The famous Bucky O’Neill bronze statute was in plain sight.

Interior Bistro St. Michael

We were greeted immediately by a friendly face who seated us in a comfortable booth next to the beautiful cherry wood bar.

Our waitress, Amy, was friendly and pleasant. We never felt rushed, even though the lunch crowd was starting to file in at a pretty good clip.

We ordered drinks and an appetizer. I suggested the wings as an appetizer, but my friend wanted to try the calamari. I usually don’t order seafood unless I am visiting the coast. But what the heck?

Our server, Amy.

Unfortunately, the calamari was unremarkable and significantly overcooked. However, we were hungry, so we devoured it anyway. It was served with a cocktail and tartar sauce. The tartar sauce was exceptionally delicious! It was homemade and seasoned perfectly. It was so good that we ordered a side of it for our French fries. This stuff could easily be bottled and sold, and I would be the first to buy it.

Calamari

Calamari Appetizer with cocktail and tartar sauce. Photo: ©2023Theresa Franks

Next, we each ordered a different lunch item on the menu. I ordered the Black & Bleu burger and French fries. Amy (our server) asked how I would like the burger cooked. Nowadays, many restaurants won’t even ask how you want your burgers cooked. It was a pleasant surprise. I like my burgers medium rare.

Because I had rowed 20,000 meters on my Hydrow early in the morning, I was famished (and I planned to write this blog post—both great excuses for ordering more food and calories than I probably should have consumed). So, in addition to the appetizer and burger, I also ordered a side of jalapeno coleslaw and a cup of tomato artichoke bisque soup.

Black & Blue Burger

Black & Bleu Burger, Fries, and Jalapeno Coleslaw. Photo: ©2023Theresa Franks

Besides, I love tomato bisque soup—the only soup on the menu, so it had to be good, right?

A Whiskey Jam burger, medium rare, with French fries and jalapeno coleslaw, and a Bistro Rueben sandwich with French Fries were ordered by my two friends.

It was only a short time before the plates of food were on the table, fresh and hot. The chef cooked the generous ½ pound burgers to medium-rare perfection. The French fries were hot and crispy.

Black & Blue Burger

Black and Bleu Burger. Photo: ©2023Theresa Franks

The blue cheese on that burger added dimension and flavor to the sandwich. I also had the chef throw on some sauteed mushrooms as well. And, wow, it was delicious.

My friend thought the Rueben sandwich was great, even though coleslaw was substituted for sauerkraut. It didn’t bother her. I’m a purist, however. For me, a Rueben sandwich must have sauerkraut, or it’s not a Rueben.

Our server was attentive and very friendly. We had everything we needed, condiments, drinks, delicious hot food, and especially that side of tasty, out-of-this-world tartar sauce. We couldn’t get over how good it was.

Whiskey Jam Burger

The coleslaw was decent, but it would have been much better with more seasoning and a squeeze or two of lemon to brighten it. It did not come with the burger and fries. We paid an extra charge.

Rueben Sandwich on Marbled Rye

We all agreed that the tomato artichoke bisque soup missed the mark. It was smooth and creamy but lacked tomato flavor; if there was artichoke, we didn’t notice any. The croutons were a nice touch, however. It could also use seasoning.

The bottom line. The kitchen cared about the presentation of the food. It was plated nicely. The burgers were juicy and cooked to perfection, and the corned beef on the Rueben sandwich was moist and delicious. The brioche burger buns were not soggy and stood up well to the burgers. The garnish was nice, with red onion, tomato, and lettuce.

Tomato Artichoke Bisque Soup

The location, service, and atmosphere couldn’t be better. We got out of there for less than $100, with a tip. Not bad at all for all that we ordered. Drinks, burgers, appetizers, soup, and other sides.

Bistro St. Michael delivered what it promised. Food cooked with love that provided food for my soul. We left happy and satisfied. Thanks, Bistro St. Michael. We’ll be back soon.  

Bistro St. Michael

Bistro St. Michaels restaurant is a great spot to enjoy a leisurely breakfast or lunch. The food is delicious, and the atmosphere is nice and casual. The employees are friendly and attentive. I recommend trying it, especially if you are in the area and looking for a tasty meal. Please let me know what you think of Bistro St. Michael in the comments.

Bistro St. Michael is located at 205 West Gurley Street, Prescott, AZ 86301. The restaurant is open from 7 am to 2 pm, Wednesday through Sunday. Like most restaurants in Prescott, they are closed Monday and Tuesday.

About the author

Hi, I'm Teri Franks, the voice behind Prescott Voice. I've spent years immersing myself in all that Prescott has to offer, and I love sharing the unique stories and experiences I've discovered. When I'm not writing, you'll find me exploring Prescott's trails or tasting our local cuisine. I believe that the vibrant lifestyle here in Prescott inspires us to live a healthier, happier life. Come join me on this exciting journey as we explore Prescott together.

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