Table for Two! – The Northridge – Our ‘locals only’ roadhouse
Back in the old days – way back before the freeway, when Highway 20 snaked eastward through Nevada City – it was a gas station and store called the Last Chance, the final opportunity to fuel up before heading to the high Sierra.
Then it turned into a roadhouse restaurant and bar called The Northridge. And since it was bought by brothers-in-law Mony Monir and David Freeman three years ago this March, it has been packing ’em in like never before. And that’s despite being at a location that, since the highway now bypasses it, somebody might have to give you detailed instructions to find.
“We get very few tourists here – it’s 98 percent locals,” said Monir. His partner added: “And you’d better get here early on Friday night if you want to find a table.”
When I first moved to the county a year and a half ago, I stayed for a month at a cabin down the road from The Northridge. I was told to check out their “New York style” pizza – that it was one of the best in town. And they were right, especially specialty pizzas you won’t find elsewhere, such as Greek Chicken, Creamy Chicken Garlic, Margarita (pesto sauce) and the Popeye (spinach and pine nuts.)
“Our pesto sauce is home-made, and the pizza dough, too,” said Freeman. And Monir, a pizza chef from way back, added: “If you ask me, I’ll even hand-toss your pizza for you.”
The partners make an odd couple.
Freeman was an Air Force brat who moved to Nevada County from the Bay Area at 18 because one of his sisters lived here. He worked for a while at the Bohemian Mill (later the Brunswick Mill) before joining the Merchant Marine and crewing on offshore oil rigs.
Monir was born in Istanbul, Turkey, the son of a teacher who took his family to Iran when Mony was 11. By the time he was 18, though, Monir was at the University of Houston – studying electro-mechanical technology. That’s where he met his wife, Donna – who happens to be Freeman’s other sister.
Soon, Monir was working at an engineering firm by day and a pizza place at night. He helped open a second pizza place, then a kebab restaurant, before moving back to Turkey for a while.
Flash forward to the 1990s. Freeman got so smashed up, falling 40 feet on an oil tanker, that it took him 10 years of therapy to recover. Meanwhile, Donna wanted to return to the States to be near her family, so she and Monir ended up in Nevada County, too.
“It just kind of fell together so easily,” Monir recalls. “I was considering opening a pizza business, Dave was feeling good enough to start working again, and The Northridge was for sale after being closed for a while.”
While pizza is the star of The Northridge menu, it’s far from being the only favorite.
Fish and chips has been a Northridge specialty since long before Dave and Mony bought the place. Lots of folks swear by the spaghetti and meatballs and Fettucini Alfredo, while I’m fond of their Northridge Burger with a terrific bun (from Dupre’s Bakery in Grass Valley). “And we have the leanest pastrami in town,” said Freeman of the Pastrami Piled High sandwich on a French roll with choice of cheese.
There are a lot of little touches at The Northridge, including a game room with a pool table, big-screen TV for sports, 30 different kinds of beer (and about as many beer signs). The back room also features an oddly beautiful wall made from large, smooth river rocks.
“But the most important thing about The Northridge is that it’s a family place – very family-oriented,” said Monir. And that includes a friendly staff led by floor manager Tessie Wilcox. Freeman noted that their second Northridge restaurant, opened last year in the Penn Valley Shopping Center, is run and partly owned by former employees from the Nevada City place.
As I was leaving, the two remembered another Northridge touch: backup generators in case of power failure (which is not unusual when windstorms hit the area).
“We got a couple of generators after an outage cost us two days of business and some food spoilage,” said Freeman. “Now if power goes out and you can’t cook at home, come to The Northridge. We’ve already had to use them a couple of times!”
AT A GLANCE:
The Northridge of Nevada City
773 Nevada St.,
Monday-Friday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., Saturday noon – 10 p.m. (kitchen open till 9 p.m.); Sunday noon – 9:30 p.m. (kitchen open till 8:30 p.m.)
Mastercard Visa, ATM cards (no checks)
$8 – $10 (not including drinks)
Beer and house wines
Parking, deck, daily specials, takeout, catering, private parties, kids’ menu, vegetarian dishes. Reservations recommended.
The finishing touches are being done to the Stonehouse Restaurant in the Old Brewery building at Broad and Sacramento streets in Nevada City. The staff is gearing up for “practice” dinners this weekend to test out all the new stuff: menu, kitchen, computer system, staircase, phone system. We’ll let you know when it’ll be open to the public . . . Nevada City’s George and Suzie Dyer are bringing a branch of their South Pine Cafe to Grass Valley, at the site of The Office, a restaurant at Richardson and Auburn streets that has been closed for a while. . . Also heard on the street: Scheidel’s, the popular German restaurant at Alta Sierra, which shut its doors a couple of years ago, is in the process of being sold.
Have restaurant news to share? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Richard Somerville is a restaurant fan and the editor of The Union. Conversations in Table for Two! are based on the whims of the writer and reader tips, not on ads or freebies. To suggest a conversation, contact email@example.com, or write him at The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, CA 95945.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User