The Cherokee Tavern started back as a speakeasy in 1933. After numerous owners, in 1970, at the age of 50, unemployed with five children, Bob Casper, asked two marine sergeants to sell their restaurant to him.
They did, and the rest is history!
Soon Bob’s restaurant became the most popular place on the west side, due in large part to Dorothy, Bob’s wife. Their faith, friendliness, and famous ‘prayer’ touched every customer who walked through the door, which can be found on the cover of our menu. As part of this caring for the community, Dorothy started the annual Thanksgiving Tradition. Dorothy and Bob wanted to provide a wonderful, sit-down dinner to any that asked for it. The first year saw one hundred people served: today, twenty-five years later, the number has grown to over three thousand. The whole Casper clan, as well as a host of volunteers make this day exceptionally thankful to the people who enjoy their generosity.
In 1975, the oldest son, Tom, joined his dad full-time. He brought a lot of ideas, enthusiasm, and innovations. In no time, business doubled, and they expanded their space by purchasing Gleweves’s Liquor, next door. In 1983, Rick, third-born son, returned home from the Peace Corps, and joined the team. Finally, when Bob decided to retire in 1991, the baby of the family, Jim, came on board. That’s when the brothers decided to expand to a second location in Eagan, and they purchased the successful ‘Durnings’ Family Restaurant. From there, many family members joined the team: daughter Nancy, grandson Danny, and granddaughter Tracey. All have been a major part of the restaurant’s success. Over the next few years, both locations enjoyed much success and prospered.
Later, Tom went on his own and became owner of the Ciatti’s Restaurant in Woodbury. In 2005, Dan started a new restaurant concept with the help of Rick in Blaine called ‘Hankerin’s’. After a major road construction project, a decision was made to sell that restaurant.
During that time, Tom and family friend, Pete Runyon, purchased the ‘Nook’, a neighborhood bar and restaurant in St. Paul, across the street from Cretin-Derham High School, for their sons, Ted and Mike, to own and operate. A second location quickly followed, which they named ‘Shamrock’s Irish Nook’ on West 7th Street in Saint Paul. Today, both locations are the hot spots in St. Paul for a fabulous burger experience.
Coming full circle, in 2009, the Cherokee Sirloin Room in West Saint Paul underwent a major renovation to get back to their roots as the ‘neighborhood gathering place’. Complete with the name change back to the original from the 1930s, The Cherokee Tavern reflects the growing trend for a place that keeps up with the times. Today, they are known for their craft beers, signature steaks, and made-from-scratch food that features family recipes.
The Cherokee in Eagan has always been a mainstay of the community, and hearkens back to the 1880s. The original settlers of the area were a few determined Irish sodbusters, the ‘entrepreneurs’ of their day. They discovered a money maker. Raising onions… “The pearl of the earth”. Putting every member of their large families to work became a profitable endeavor. Averaging ten tons of onions per acre, the telegraph lines became ‘lit up’ with orders from all over the country. Nicols’ station was built right here on Nicols Road, providing Eagan a railroad connection for the onion shipments. To celebrate the end of the onion harvest, a great onion festival was held each year. It became such a popular event that word spread throughout the whole country and Eagan became the “Onion Capital of the United States”.
The Cedar Avenue Bridge was built in the 1900s to connect this fast-growing area south of the river with the cities. In 1991, the Casper family purchased ‘Durning’s’, a historic restaurant that is a perfect replica of the barns built in the 1800s. The legacy of this restaurant brings people from all over to enjoy homemade food, and celebrate the family. Casper’s Cherokee of Eagan is family-owned and operated, . remembering the entrepreneurial spirit of those few Irishmen who started it all with just an ordinary onion.
On October 9, 2011, a fire broke out at the restaurant during the early hours of the morning. Smoldering ash from a cigarette burst into flame and if not for a passer-by calling 911, the whole barn would have been destroyed. As it was, the whole interior of the building was lost, but the barn frame survived. The Casper’s decided to rebuild and restore the barn to its original glory. The new outdoor patio, and full-service bar will be a new introduction to the Casper’s Cherokee of Eagan experience. There will be lively entertainment, featuring DJs, karaoke, bingo and trivia, all complemented by two 10’x13’ TV screens. Alternatively, right around the corner you can experience our intimate lounge area or enjoy a family meal in our fresh new dining space.