Posted Under: Entertainment,History,Nevada County Information,Restaurants
Driving out two and one half miles north on Highway 49 from Nevada City you might notice a non-descriptive building with a sign “The Willo” along with a small florescent martini glass. You may wonder why there are so many cars and trucks parked outside. Your first thoughts might be, this must be a really great watering hole! So unless you live in Nevada County or a good friend has told you about this restaurant there is no hint that this has been voted the best steak house in Nevada County.
Once you park and start to walk inside, you will notice a sign near the left hand door that finally tells you that this is a steak house. Walking in, you are in a different world, with dark paneling, cedar walls, pictures hanging in some kind of random order and a picture of the Bay Bridge with lights flashing on the wall. Once your senses have gotten acclimated to the scene, you are in for a treat with excellent service and good food. You have a choice of three portions of New York Steak, small, medium and large (16 ounces). You also have a choice of pork, chicken and three kinds of fish, or even a garden burger. You can cook the steaks yourself, but for an extra fifty cents, they’ll do it for you. By the way, the prices are excellent and won’t break your budget.
The Willo is owned by a very friendly, very nice couple, Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson. They have kept up the tradition of the Willo which started its history at its present location as follows:
In 1947 Bill Davis purchased a surplus WW II Quonset hut from the U.S. Army. The hut was located at Camp Parks in Sacramento and was disassembled and transported to the site of the Willo at the corner of Highway 49 and Newtown Road. It was re-assembled and opened as Bill Davis Hut, a popular watering hole for the lumber and mining work force. It was later sold to a local couple and it became The Hut.
In 1963 Bob and Peggy Tucker purchased the Hut and renamed it Tuck’s Hut. With a truck load of lumber from a local mill they enlarged the bar and added a covered structure on the east side where they built a grill pit and served hamburgers through the window to the bar patrons. A “Gold Miners Special” (burger and beer) cost sixty cents. In 1969, the Tuckers leased the property to a local tavern owner, Frank Williams, who was forced to move from Grass Valley to make room for construction of the new “Golden Freeway”.
Together with Veda Folden who with the help of her husband and brothers, converted the covered structure into the main dining room and the Willo Steakhouse was born. The banquet room was added in 1973. How did the Willo get its name instead of the Willow? What happened to the W on the end? Well, it’s a combination of one of the prior owners names, Frank Williams last name and his wife’s first name Lola. I advise you to call ahead for reservations, for they are always packed. Their telephone number is (530) 265-9902
Google shows two locations for the Willo. Don’t know why, but location B is almost the true location. You have to drive a little farther from Nevada City then point B, it’s at the corner of Newtown Road and Highway 49.