Frank Chambers first encounters the Twin Oaks Tavern after being thrown from a hay truck on the first page of the novel. "It was nothing but a roadside sandwich joint, like a million others in California." (pg. 3) At first, it acts as just another place to steal a free meal, but Frank's pursuit of Cora changes everything, including the tavern itself: "It's a beauty, believe me, it is. And it's important. A place is no better than its sign, is it?" (pg. 10). From Nick's perspective, it is a way for Frank to start anew, "Air. Is a nice. No fog, like in a Los Angeles. No fog at all. Nice, a clear, all a time nice a clear." (pg. 4) To Frank, Twin Oaks is a catalyst for the affair, the first murder attempt, and much later, revenge against the blackmailer Pat Kennedy. It also is frequently associated with cats: the cat who electrocuted itself in the fuse box, the neglected puma which helps convict him, and Frank's ongoing comparison of Cora to a hellcat.
The tavern evolves from a common restaurant for people passing through into a unique and dangerous place.
Cora wants to settle down and build a beer garden, but the more she invests in the tavern, the more difficult Frank finds it to stay.
"We kept the place open all the time, and went after the business, and got it. Of course it helped, that day when a hundred Sunday school kids showed up in three buses, and wanted a bunch of stuff to take out in the woods with them, but even without that we would have made plenty." (pg. 28)