Buck's excels at quality, comforting grilled food. Chris likes to think of it as picnic food done with finesse. That's not a bad description: the restaurant's staples include roasted pork tacos, dry-aged sirloin steak and hamburgers, a relative newcomer added to the menu a couple years ago after the restaurant's infamous chef Carole Greenwood departed.
Under Greenwood, the restaurant had a very limited menu of often just four or five entrees and a few other starters. Since Greenwood's 2009 departure, new chef Vickie Reh has more than doubled the menu, rotating in seasonal specials while maintaining many of the restaurant's old favorites (the mouth-watering sirloin steak, a favorite under Greenwood, has not suffered under Reh).
One of the best new additions is the hamburger, which is just divine, served with crisp, homey fries. While it may lack the pedigree of the Palena burger, it doesn't lack for flavor, particularly when topped with smoky bacon and some cheddar or blue cheese. I find I crave it frequently.
Buck's is where I learned to love the wedge salad. Theirs consists of a hearty slice of iceberg generously coated in a blue cheese dressing amped up with horseradish and hearty bacon pieces.
The low lighting, natural wood pillars and outdoor-themed decor makes for an inviting space to spend the evening. If you forget to reserve a table and they fill up, there's no shame in enjoying dinner at the bar. A recent Friday night of burgers and Italian wines eaten at the bar really hit the spot.
The only downside I've experienced at Buck's has been the dessert, which isn't consistent. I thought the chocolate cake, which they claim is "famous," was merely fine and I thought the plain whipped cream it was served with could have used some sugar and vanilla. A saffron creme brûlée was particularly devoid of flavor. However, more recently, I had a rather delicious apple crumble, and since I haven't had dessert there for awhile, it's possible things have improved.
That's a minor gripe though for an otherwise fantastic neighborhood spot that takes good-quality, simple dishes and turns them into homey, comforting favorites.