World Famous Establishment Nestled in the Sierra Nevada Foothills

In the late 1800s Les Smith opened the Buckhorn Saloon in North Fork. Over one hundred years later the Buckhorn Saloon and Restaurant is still a thriving business and community hub.

The Buckhorn has changed hands at least eight times over the last century and has had its up and downs. It earned a very bad reputation for a several years in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The restaurant stopped serving food and the Buckhorn became a bar that drew a very rough crowd.

It was not the only rough period for the North Fork establishment. Local legend says that the original owner, Les Smith Sr., shot a man through the window from behind the bar and spent a year in jail.

On May 15, 2002, Alice Koda and Curtis Kirk bought the Buckhorn. At 1 p.m., four hours after taking over proprietorship of the Buckhorn, we "threw the first garbage out." Thursday was quiet but Friday night we ejected seven or eight more people who were intent on causing problems. On Saturday, we got rid of 11 more.

"By Monday, everyone in the area knew the place had been cleaned up," said Kirk. "It's very rare for us to have problems in here now."

Alice and Curtis are very proud of the Buckhorn's quality of service.

"We only use certified angus beef for our beef dishes. Only 20 percent of Angus beef is certified, and it's all we use. Even our hot dogs are 100 percent certified Angus beef," she said.

The menu is varied and the portions are large and the prices are kept very reasonable.

"I was a Kansas farm boy," said Kirk. "I believe in giving hungry people enough to eat. If you leave here still hungry then there is a real problem."

Kirk said that he was the first person to bring the flat iron steak into local restaurants. He said the cut is from the high end of the prime rib but has very little fat, while still retaining the tenderness and the flavor. When they first tried to order the meat, the food service representative had no idea what he was talking about.

"Now you can order flat iron steaks in many restaurants here," said Koda.

The restaurant and salon is open 365 days a year. Food is served from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. The saloon is opens at 8 a.m. and last call is at 1:45 a.m. There is live music twice a month.

Mark Binyon, a contractor for Ponderosa telephone, is a regular customer.

"I am here laying fiber optics for the phone company and I miss Idaho. I travel all over the west for work, (and) the Buckhorn is the best restaurant and bar I have found anywhere. It really reminds me of home. The food and the people here are really good, and the beer is really, really cold," said Binyon.

They do close early during Jamboree weekend.

"In the interest of keeping the community quiet and safe, we close the saloon at 10:30 p.m. during Jamboree," said Kirk.

Where the Buckhorn was once a place for drugs and troublemakers, now there is a sign in the window with the number for the Narcotics Association's tip hotline.

Many community organizations meet at the Buckhorn to hold breakfast meetings. The Men's Christian Fellowship meets for breakfast every Tuesday at 7 a.m. and the Chamber of Commerce meets at 7 a.m. on the first Wednesday of every month.

Alice and Curtis have done more than just clean up the Buckhorn; they have become a very important part of the community in North Fork. If there is a community need, They are tthere to find a way to get it filled.

Nate Lincoln, a resident of North Fork said that the owners do not wait for someone else to start moving on a project.

"If they see a need, they just step up to fill it whether the community has started to support it or not," said Lincoln. "They are the catalyst that makes sure that this community's needs are met."

Kirk has been furnishing the tri-tip for the volunteer fire department's fundraisers since he bought the restaurant. He also initiated a fundraiser for a local youth who was recently in a severe car accident. He organized a barbecue with an auction and raffle that raised $20,000 to help the youth and his family.

"Kirk and Koda make a huge thanksgiving dinner for the community cooking as many as 19 turkeys and all the trimmings," said Lincoln. "They also buy gifts for all the small kids in the community and serves a Christmas dinner that they charge next to nothing for."

Alice and Curtis take pride in making sure the Buckhorn will always be there for the community, rain or shine.

"We have a generator here so when the power goes out in North Fork, we are still open. We burn 30 cords of wood in the winter, have air in the summer, and have a huge propane tank," said Alice. "There is always a place to come in North Fork to get warm in the winter or cool off in the summer, get good food and drink, and find good people to share it with."