History of Friar Tuck’s
Friar Tuck’s was created by Greg Cook in the winter of 1973. The initial investment was about $5,000. Half sawn, stained 2×4’s in star shapes with small lights stapled to the ends served as chandlers. Service was on torch burnt plywood tables and rolled out burlap served as our soft ceiling. Old timers consider these fun times to be the ‘burlap days’.
Greg had a passion for two things. Wine and music. Friar Tuck’s was created from these two passions. We were one of the first wine bars in Northern California and are honored to have received the Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator magazine for the past 15 years running. Live music is also a huge part of Friar Tuck’s. Greg was one of the main founders and supporters of the local music scene in Nevada City and we’ve featured local musicians 7 days a week since the 70’s.
In 1982 Greg married Rona. Together, they owned and operated the restaurant & bar. In the early 80’s the restaurant doubled in size and a full liquor license was added. Steaks, fresh seafood and more were also added. The restaurant grew dramatically.
In 2002, a huge fire burned the entire building to the ground, leaving only a few teetering brick walls. The entire building had to be rebuilt. Miraculously, the entire project took only 14 months. The gorgeous solid mahogany bar you see was custom made for us in Arcadia, California by Wallace and Hinzs craftsmen who specialize in building authentic reproduction bars that were classics in the 1800’s. The Sherwood Forest Room, with its mystical tree and trellis, was built here by clever local artists and completely lit with fiber optics. The brick you see is from the original demolished restaurant and date back to 1860. We have two wine cellars with hundreds of selections and one cellar can be seen at the end of the bar.
In 2015, Greg & Rona’s daughter, Carissa Cook, moved back to Nevada City and was hired on as the Director of Operations, giving Greg a break after 43 years. Not only did she grow up in the Restaurant, she also spent 14 years working in various aspects of the hospitality industry (all over the west coast) during which time she also became a sommelier.
On December 30, 2016, we lost our founder, Greg Cook. He gave this community many gifts and here at Friar Tuck’s we continue to carry out his passions and visions that have made Friar Tuck’s an institution for 44 years. Today, Rona and Carissa Cook continue to own and operate Friar Tuck’s Restaurant just as they did when he was still with us.
Friar Tuck’s is proud to be one of the oldest privately and family owned restaurants in California. We welcome you and are pleased to be your hosts. —Rona & Carissa Cook
HISTORY OF THE BUILDING
The building that Friar Tuck’s restaurant is in is a bit of a misnomer in that the historic building is really new. The building on the corner of Pine and Commercial Sts. in the downtown historic district was originally two buildings built out of brick in the heart of Nevada City c.1860.
By 1911, when gold fever had cooled, one building had become the home of Nevada City Hardware and the other Newton’s Shoe Store. That year, the Nevada City Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks #518 (BPOE) purchased the two buildings, joining them by removing both roofs, connecting them, and built a second story lodge hall which was the Elks Lodge for over 100 years; one of the oldest Elks lodges in the west The lodge hall had numerous street-level storefronts which changed often over the years.
In the mid 1990’s the Nevada City Elks built a new facility on Hwy 49 just outside of town and the first new owners in100 years took over the building. The new owners, a local engineer and local builder purchased the building and did a major remodel converting the upstairs former Elks Lodge into the offices of the Nevada County Probation Department.
At 4:20 am on March 20, 2002 a monster fire gutted the entire building including Friar Tuck’s Restaurant, the Herb Shop Boutique next door, Off Broad Street Theater behind us, and, of course, the upstairs Probation Department. Absolutely nothing was left except for a few remaining teetering brick walls. It took 100 firefighters, 25 fire agencies and 17 hours to extinguish the fire. The water needs to extinguish the fire nearly drained Nevada City’s reservoir that is the source of the city’s drinking water
It was no surprise that CNN had helicopters overhead all day and the front page the next day on the S.F.Chronicle featured the fire. The entire town almost burned down.