February 22, 2024
The Trabuco Canyon institution was considered a family-friendly spot.

If Cook’s Corner is a biker bar – and by all accounts it still is – it’s a biker bar that never lived up to the stereotype, even when biker’s bars were (sort of) common.

In the mid-1970s, when Victor Villa and Volker Streicek bought the restaurant and bar from the Cook family, the place was already nearly 100 years old. Under several generations of Cook family ownership the place had served miners and what passed for cowboys in Orange County. And, after World War II, it had become a fun stop for visitors to the county’s still rural canyon areas.

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But Villa and Streicek, who sold motorcycle accessories, saw Cook’s as a biker bar – with a twist.

Motorcycle gang members and their loud rides would be welcome. But biker colors – and whatever biker grudges or disputes any patron might have outside the bar – were not. Fights were rare. Violence was frowned upon.

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That last part broke some hearts Wednesday night. Cook’s – which these days has the words “Children Welcome” on its sign – was home to a mass shooting, when at least four people died and six others were injured in what early reports suggested was a domestic dispute gone out of control. It was, according to the Gun Violence Archive, the 465th mass shooting in the United States so far this year.

Villa and Streicek sold Cook’s in the 1980s. But ownership since has kept the theme – welcome bikers but also welcome families and tourists and anybody else who might want a cold beer and a hot meal.

Wednesday, before the shooting started, was Spaghetti Night. The restaurant calendar suggests Thursday, Aug. 24 might be $5 Chili Dog night, though it’s hardly clear when Cook’s might be open again for business.