Li’l Abner Steakhouse

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Losing a personal item keeps a former spectral eyeglass worker looking in vain.

A former maintenance man now in spirit form
continues to do what he liked best in life.


Li’l Abner Steakhouse is a roomy, 5,800 sq. ft. one story, L-shaped brick building in a perfect location, along a main drag that connects Tucson to suburbia. It encourages people on the way home to stop and order take-out, as well as drawing in appreciative barbecue lovers to dine inside. It has encouraged several other commercial establishments to thrive here. It sits on 8.77 acres of former ranch land.

It is amazing what was accomplished with the original old Stage Stop and Cow Building, (brick outside, wood walls inside), to make it usable for more modern purposes. Over the years, each owner put in their own personal touch. One owner added an outside eating area, barbecue grills and pits to cook meats. Another owner added two performance stages.

Walking inside, the patron enters a western-themed establishment. The original wooden walls are in great shape, and showcase interesting western memorabilia, old license plates, graffiti, western pictures and paintings. There is a tiny rectangular check-in area, with an authentic-looking bar located across from the entrance against the wall. The bar stretches from the main dining room into the large eating area to the left. Both of these rooms lead into two other large dining rooms. The kitchen area is behind the wall of the bar.

It has a relaxed, informal aura, making patrons feel at ease. There are small picnic tables with checkered table cloths for in-house and outside dining. Tom and I had a delicious dinner! After all, it is the place to get a mesquite grilled steak, chicken, and ribs in Tucson.

They explained why in a article about this restaurant.
“All meats are cooked outdoors over an all mesquite wood fire ensuring you will get that authentic southwestern flavor with each and every bite.”

“Treating the meat the right way and taking our time ensures that each visit will be as delicious as the last.

We smoke our Ribs for 7 hours, and finish them over the open Mesquite fire, allowing them to absorb as much of that flavor as possible. BBQ Sauce is always served on the side, as we believe it adds to the flavor, but don’t believe it should ever cover it up.”

Li’l Abner’s can also host large events, and has western music and dancing on the weekends, with both inside and outside stage, depending on the weather. It sounds like a great way to spend Friday and Saturday nights! I bet they have line dancing!



Li’l Abner’s structure started out as the Butterfield Express Stage stop in the 1880s. When trains replaced the stagecoach as a preferred method of transportation, it became a cattle station. Some of the old ranch buildings can be seen around the restaurant’s parking lot.

The former cattle barn used one room for pregnant cows to give birth, rooms for staff to store various supplies, an eating and sleeping area, and probably an office. On Sundays during the 1920s, cowboys would have roping competitions for fun after which they would socialize while having meals and drinks together.

Another business was created here when ranching left this location. A local optician, Larry Lewis, and his wife Duchess, a former Hollywood actress, renovated the building and opened a saloon in 1947, calling it “Li’L Abner’s” after their dog. It was the perfect place for a saloon and an eyeglass store, where he used prescriptions supplied by ophthalmologists or optometrists to make glasses for customers. Larry and Duchess built a brick house behind it and lived on the property. It became a popular watering hole for country folks, cowboys and ranch hands.

In 1958, it was sold to a new owner, Pima County Supervisor and Tucson nightclub owner Lambert Krauthammer. He had a great vision for his new property. He kept the name and renovated the structure into a comfortable western-themed Li’l Abner’s Steakhouse and bar. He put the outside to work as well. He built a dance floor and an outdoor grill and BBQ pits. He successfully added to the bar, Tucson’s first barbecue restaurant, offering steak dinners.

The restaurant enjoyed great success from locals, famous folks, and vacationers. Movie stars working on western film projects in old Tucson discovered it as the best place for barbecued steaks. Such acting talent as John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Kris Kristofferson, Tom Selleck, Lou Gossett Jr., Willard Scott and Marlon Brando became enthusiastic patrons of the barbecue menu offered here. Vacationers who came to Tucson’s dude ranches to enjoy the western life also discovered Li’l Abners, that “played into the western experience.”

In 1965, the steakhouse was back on the real estate market. Local businessman Don Norman was the new owner. His twin sons, Mike and Mark, proved to be a handful while growing up. They decided to go for easy money in the early 1970s. They went all out, flying small planes full of smuggled drugs and marijuana that they sold out of the restaurant. Mike was convicted and sent to the federal penitentiary in 1975.

They didn’t learn their lesson. After Mike was released in 1978, the brothers began a counterfeiting endeavor and passed funny money. They were both caught in 1979, when an FBI raid found their stash of phony bills buried behind the restaurant.

The restaurant had to be sold in 1981 to pay the huge legal bills acquired by these two clowns. The Norman family defense attorney, David Hoffman, fell in love with this special place and bought it after reviewing the restaurant’s books. He quit his law practice, and he and his wife Molly began operating the restaurant and bar, keeping the Wild West theme virtually unchanged. Over the years, they added additional meats to the barbecue menu: ribs, chicken and fish.

In 2015, they hoped to sell their beloved business and the acreage for 5.5 million dollars, but took it off the market when son Tucker showed an interest in running it some day. As of 2022, the restaurant is still going strong, with the Hoffman family still the owners.


When people die with unfinished business, their spirits often can’t rest until they reach the outcome they want. Their efforts may be in vain.

Hunt Phelan House, TN (During the Civil War, a trusted servant hid his master’s valuables so that the Yankees couldn’t find them. Unfortunately, he died before he could tell his master where he hid them. Since then, this spirit is on a mission to tell the living where the valuables are buried).

Kenmore Plantation, VA (Col Fielding Lewis spent most of his fortune building a munitions factory to aid the patriots during the Revolutionary War. He spent long hours going over his records, trying to figure out a way to make ends meet. His worrying damaged his health, and he died just a month after the British surrendered. His spirit is still on a mission to solve his financial problems).

Mary Washington House Museum, VA (The spirit of George Washington still visits his upstairs bedroom on occasion, looking for the deed papers to Mary’s house. Because her descendants couldn’t produce the paperwork at her death, the house was taken away from her surviving descendants).

Li’l Abner Steakhouse, AZ (Something in Larry Lewis’s eyeglass office was misplaced, causing a restless spirit).


When people die, they may stay in a favorite place, trying to enjoy the things they loved as best they can as a spirit while still involving themselves with the living’s activities.

Ole Saint Andrew’s Inn, IL (A frisky spectral owner tries to help while continuing to enjoy his pleasures!)

Westover Plantation, VA (While she lived, Evelyn Byrd enjoyed being kind to others, fulfilling her duties as mistress, and was a great hostess, seeing to the needs of her guests. After she died, she continued to be the spectral hostess, kind and loving to the living, especially children, while she holds dear the favorite memories of her life here).

USS Hornet: SEA, AIR AND SPACE, CA (Many spirits who served aboard The USS Hornet, still love it and feel very comfortable jumping right in and being helpful, giving themselves new assignments).

Li’l Abner Steakhouse, AZ (The spirit of a long-time maintenance man, George, resides here and continues to do what he loved to do while alive: eat, drink and tease).



L’il Abner’s has two spirits. One is determined to make the best of it being a spirit here, and one is on a mission that he or she has to accomplish, before he or she can completely rest.

The Spirit On A Mission

When Larry Lewis had his optician’s office in the area that is now the kitchen, someone misplaced a customer’s glasses, causing great annoyance for all concerned, especially the person in charge of managing the eye glasses.

The glasses were replaced to the satisfaction of the customer, but the person who lost them could not forgive himself or herself.

This spirit visits to fulfill the mission of finding them, probably in front of living employees.

No details have been given, but I bet this spirit searches the cupboards and storage areas for the missing glasses.

Perhaps he/she is a seen apparition. Perhaps his/her opening of the cupboards, etc is what is noticed by startled witnesses.

Spirit of George

He dresses in white, and likes to sit at the bar, looking like a living person.

Visitors and employees who sit there think he is a real customer, until he suddenly vanishes.

His Pleasures

At the bar, he is seen drinking milk, or a large coke.

He likes to eat Captain Crunch cereal. People have heard crunching coming from his old room.


He likes to say hello by startling people in a fun way.

Employees working near the bar have heard a disembodied voice calling out their names, after hearing something move behind the bar.

A patron was enjoying her meal when she suddenly screamed, after seeing the spirit, George, hug one of the veteran waitresses from behind.


People for years have experienced the paranormal activity reported at Li’L Abner’s, staff and customers alike.
I couldn’t find any hard evidence shared by paranormal investigators. The restaurant owners admit that they have the spirit of a former maintenance man, George.



Yes indeed! George is still front and center, enjoying himself. Periodically the determined eyeglass person still looks for the missing glasses.



8501 North Silverbell Road
Tucson, Arizona 85743

Li’l Abner Steakhouse is located northwest of the city of Tucson, on undeveloped real estate. GOOGLE MAPS: “Get on I-10 W from I-10 Frontage Road, Follow I-10 W to I-10 Frontage Road W in Marana. Take exit 246 from I-10 W. Follow N Cortaro Road to N Silverbell Road.”


  • Lil Abner’s remains Absolutely Arizona for over 70 years
    Historic Marana steakhouse has a rich history
    Brad Allis, Inside Tucson Business Jul 22, 2016
  • Absolutely Arizona Li’l Abners Steakhouse Oct 22, 2018 Updated Oct 22, 2018

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

Our Photos by Tom Carr unless otherwise credited in sources

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