The Bar Tab: Buck’s, a dive with the right ingredients

Buck's

Buck’s is a cozy neighborhood, where in many cases the bartender really does know your name.

At the beginning of this mission, we knew one of the first stops had to be Buck’s Bar. We’d driven by this joint, located at 1511 Central Ave., for over five years and we frequently commented on it, but we’d never stopped in.

So, on a recent evening we found ourselves in a wood-paneled room, lined with gaming machines and smelling faintly of urinal cakes.

We looked out over the picturesque cemetery views, and thought: this is all right. We are officially intrigued. Mind you, we are only two people, so please take our opinions for just that—opinions. But in our view, Buck’s offered a unique dive bar experience with a somewhat distinctive flair.

We took two seats at a bar lined with regulars and were greeted by a bartender who looked like she knew her way around a Jell-O shot. We strive to sample the local specialty everywhere we visit, so we asked if she had any recommendations. It seems that Buck’s isn’t the sort of place to offer a signature cocktail.

However, they do offer happy hour weekdays from 4 to 7, so Olive quickly ordered a vodka soda (with a twist). Two dollars for what seemed to be at least 3 ounces of vodka (three pours through the regulator on the liquor bottle)—awesome.

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Trying to experience the whole scope of the place, Mr. Bitters asked the bartender if she could make an old-fashioned. “Um … no.” At least she was honest. No matter; two hefty gin-and-tonics later and he wouldn’t have been able to taste the difference.

Buck’s has a full liquor license and offers a pretty good selection of alcohol. The liquor bottles behind the bar ranged from bathtub-distilled “spirits” to high-end booze focused on the whiskey/bourbon family. We imagine this suits their regular patrons’ tastes.

The beers on tap are all domestic, and so are most of the bottles in the glass-door fridge behind the bar. We spied one Moose Drool and a few random micros amid a sea of generics, and didn’t even ask about a wine selection. If you come to Buck’s, you can find something to drink but you will have to keep an open mind.

According to Yelp reviews, Buck’s offers “good bar food that won’t make you sick,” which was all the assurance we needed to order a basket of hand-cut fries. Less than five minutes later we were handed a steaming hot basket of actual, house-made fries with delicious ranch dressing, which also appeared to be handmade. Mr. Bitters’ drink was on the low side and was quickly refilled. We received excellent service from every department.

Every wall (really, every surface) is covered with random signs and knick-knacks. It gives the place an established, homey feel that is hard to cultivate—kind of like Applebee’s emo cousin. There is a beer pong machine available in the corner and there are several larger tables for those with friends. The bathrooms are clean, not fancy, but sanitary.

As we enjoyed our drinks at the bar, several patrons were greeted by name upon entry—a rare occurrence outside a “Cheers” set. The regulars exchanged pleasantries, talked about work and discussed their families. Some women enjoyed a fried chicken dinner, which smelled amazing. A young couple played the gambling machines, pinning their hopes on digital algorithms.

A group behind us had seemingly commandeered the jukebox and a selection of recent country hits made the rotation, accented by the group’s impromptu karaoke accompaniment. Not bad, but I would not recommend that any of them quit their day jobs for a shot on “The Voice.” Intermixed with their soundtrack was a pleasant reprieve from pop country that included an Earle classic and a recent Stapleton track—thank you to whoever made those selections.

At one point a gentleman from the aforementioned group got up and left abruptly. The bartender worried he’d walked on his tab, but it turns out he was parked in a handicapped spot and had to check on his car regularly. We grudgingly agreed that his system was slightly better than a total abandonment of established parking statutes.

When it was time to go, we were delighted to find that the tab totaled slightly less than a nice glass of wine downtown.

Buck’s is a fine little watering hole—completely unpretentious, unassuming and entirely accessible for West End dwellers or downtowners. The employees are friendly, the clientele is welcoming and the drinks are cheap. What more could you ask for?

PROS
Cheap drinks
Good (greasy) food
Not unclean
Friendly staff

CONS
Drink options limited to basic mixed drinks and domestic beers
A little smelly, but you get used to it

Previous reviews

Chapter 1The Squire Lounge.

Chapter 2The Alpine Casino.

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