The Happy Steak Then and Now

I know the title of this article says The Happy Steak, but the photo shows Mulligan’s. That’s because I don’t have a photo of the building when it was Happy Steak. But the Happy Steak was the most memorable tenant to me. Even though I was young the one or two times I went there, that’s how I always remember the building. The name and the logo just stick out in my memory. Everything that came after were just imposters.

This sign is not from Carson City, it’s from California.

The Happy Steak was located in the Lucky Supermarket shopping center at the corner of Hwy 50 and Lompa Lane. The shopping center was built around 1979, and the Happy Steak closed around 1990. That’s when Harold Sellers opened Garden ‘N’ Grill in the building. It was still Garden ‘N’ Grill in 1997 when these photos were taken of flooding in that part of town.

Garden ‘N’ Grill closed that same year, and the revolving door in that building continued. It was opened as Tequila Dan’s Mexican restaurant around the turn of the millennium. Tequila Dan’s had relocated from South Carson Street; it used to be located about where Discount Tire is now.

But even by the time Tequila Dan’s had opened, changes were starting to come to that part of town. Lucky Supermarket closed in the late 1990s. And it didn’t close for economic reasons, or declining business. It closed because the State was finally getting serious about building the Carson City Freeway. The freeway had been planned for decades, but by the end of the 20th Century they decided it was time to start working on it. The Lucky shopping center was sitting right in the middle of the freeway’s path. Every business in the shopping center had to close or relocate. Every business, that is, except this restaurant space. Because of its location at the far corner of the land, the freeway would just miss it. Tequila Dan’s was allowed to stay open. In these photos you can see it sitting there in 2004, after the rest of the center had been demolished and freeway construction was about to start.

And in an aerial photo from 2003.

Even though Tequila Dan’s was able to remain standing, that doesn’t mean it was untouched by the freeway. The area of Hwy 50 where the freeway was being built was a construction nightmare for 2 years. Traffic cones were everywhere, roads were blocked off, heavy equipment was active on the site all day. It proved to be too much, and in 2005 Tequila Dan’s threw in the towel and closed, blaming the freeway construction for their failure.

But there were two more entrepreneurs willing to take on the challenge. Nate Lance and Damon George opened Mulligan’s Pub in the summer of 2005, not long after Tequila Dan’s vacated. They were optimistic about being the first restaurant right off of a freeway exit. And they made it work for a couple of years. These photos are from the day of the grand opening party for the freeway, February 11, 2006, and a crowded parking lot shows that at least some of the people who came for the party stayed for some food.

But it was short lived. The State of Nevada owned the building and the land it sat on, a leftover arrangement from when they had bought the whole shopping center. A 2007 article mentioned that the State didn’t want to be in the landlord business and was trying to sell the land. But it also mentioned that Mulligan’s was closed by then, and the building was planned to be demolished.

And demolished it was. The previous article talks about big plans for the land, including housing or expanding the shopping center, but none of that has come to fruition. According to the City Assessor, the State held onto the land until 2017, when they sold it to a developer. The land has been empty for over 15 years since Mulligan’s was torn down. It has become overrun with weeds.

The center being built in 1979.

The shopping center through the years. 1999, 2003, 2006, 2007. The shopping center was torn down and the freeway was built, and Mulligan’s was the last building standing.

But the potential that was seen by Lance and George for this land is still there. It’s a good chunk of land right next to a major freeway exit. It’s across the street from a large casino and a shopping center. There’s a lot that could be done here. We might revisit this in another 15 years, and find that another restaurant has been built on this site.

What are your memories of any of the restaurants that were at this corner?


  1. Sad that all this land and buildings are unused in Carson City. This is the only place that I’ve seen in all the surrounding cities that have this going on something needs to be done or passed to get them filled up and used.

  2. I believe that Tequila Dans was Joaquine Murietta first. He told me that he changed the name because nobody could spell Joaquine to find it in the yellow pages. For people that don’t know what the yellow pages are, that is where businesses paid to have their businesses listed with or without an ad telling about their company or business and the listing was at the back of our phonebook. I also “think” before the owner moved to that location, he was on Hwy 395 close to another popular Mexican Restaurant but the business had another Mexican name with I can’t remember.

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