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.
History of Friar Tuck’s
Friar Tuck’s was created by Greg Cook in the winter of 1973 as a small restaurant that was in part of the area that is now the bar. 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. Remember, this was the 70’s and old timers consider these fun times to be the ‘burlap days’. Fondue was the original fare along with lots of wines. Steaks, fresh seafood and many other items came later.
In the late 70’s the first major reconstruction took place. The place was shut down and gutted. Giant wood beams and booths were installed with the first of many kitchens and a beautiful bar from Liverpool England was imported and served our guests for many years. In 1982 Greg married Rona who has worked everywhere in the restaurant over the years and is our Chief Financial Officer. In the early 80’s more street area became available and the restaurant doubled in size and a full liquor license was added. The restaurant grew dramatically.
After the fire in 2002, the entire building from the dirt on up had to be rebuilt along with the restaurant. 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 it’s mystical tree and trellis was built here by clever local artists and completely lit, as with most of the restaurant, with fiber optics. The brick you see is from the original demolished restaurant and date back to 1860. Four state of the art air systems keep us warm in the winter and cool in the summer and we now boast a commercial kitchen any chef would die for. It is bigger than the dinning room and we seat 185. We have two wine cellars with hundreds of selections and one cellar can be seen at the end of the bar.
Friar Tuck’s is proud to be one of the oldest privately owned restaurants in the northern Sierra’s and we have put together the most unique professional crew anywhere and many have been with us for years. We welcome you and are pleased to be your hosts.
— Greg & Rona Cook