Ah, another wonderful meal within walking distance of our house!
Our Senior South Portland (Maine) Correspondents, Jon and Nancy Breul, recently completed their move to Maine to be near their granddaughter, Charlie, full time. Oh, and Charlie’s parents. Yeah, them, too. Jon and Nancy were in town to empty out the last of their house. They’ve been close friends for more years than I care to mention, among the very first friends we made when we moved from what the local realtors called Capitol Hill, often with a straight face, to what our most famous mayor, Marion Barry, lovingly called Upper Caucasia. The Breul’s departure is a great loss for us, a gap in our lives.
On the other hand, we scored some furniture from the Breul’s move, as did Liza and Michael (Liza, who’s with Washington Fine Properties, had sold the house for them). So we took the other Jon and Nancy out to dinner, after first meeting at Liza and Michael’s for a drink. We considered several alternative restaurants within walking distance, and settled on Buck’s.
Buck’s is located in the short commercial strip with our local bookstore, Politics and Prose, and several other restaurants, including Rosemary Bistro and I’m Eddie Cano, which are very good, and Muchas Gracias, which is not. Nancy and I have been to Buck’s a handful of times, and each time we’ve been very pleased with the food. We would go there more often, but it’s a few blocks farther from our house than Blue 44 and the other restaurants in what I’ll call the Avalon Theatre strip, and the walk home from Buck’s is slightly uphill. Such are the factors that guide my life.
As the name evokes a hunting and fishing camp, Buck’s decor is rustic, but not all tarted up with excessive fishing rods, nets, and stuffed animals. Of course, there’s no hunting in Washington, except for the occasional culling of the overpopulated deer lest they succumb to the ills that befall species that have no natural predators. Well, none other than SUVs. The city used to use sharpshooters, but the deer here are so nonchalant that the city has farmed out the culling to MS 13 so they can go straight to trophies. Anyway, the decor in Buck’s includes lots of wood. The place is a touch on the dark side, but tables are well lit in a way that flatters the diners. The Nancys don’t need flattering, but Jon and I … I need more help than mere lighting can give.
We had our choice of tables, and service was prompt and friendly but not excessively so — you know what I mean. Anyway, we had a glass of wine and ordered. Jon chose the wood-cooked small steak (there’s a large one, too), which came with some good looking fries.
Nancy T. ordered the half chicken with a pan dripping sauce and green beans.
Nancy B. and I both ordered the blackened halibut, which came served over a salad of chick peas, farro, and red onion in a lemon vinaigrette, and with a little pesto on the side.
Oh, and I started with a very good Caesar salad. Very good — fresh lettuce, nice croutons, anchovies (obscured by the cheese) and beautifully dressed.
Let me say that everything was very good. Jon commented on the tenderness of the steak, and volunteered that he could taste the wood smoke. Nancy T. was very big on her chicken’s tender and juicy breast meat, and I was pretty big on the leg quarter at lunch the next day. And the beans were good and fresh, not at all overcooked. The halibut was fresh and well seasoned. They did a good job with the blackening. Everything was cooked just right, without a hint of dryness or overcooking, just what you expect from a restaurant that knows its business and does it very well.
The real standout for me, though, was the grain salad. What a surprise! I’m kind of a lout, and have been known to make fun of fancy grains. I take it all back. This was delightful, delicious. The only problem was that Nancy T. kept wanting another taste. That’s the sort of problem with which we struggle in Ward 3.
It was a lovely if bittersweet meal. Excellent food with excellent company that we won’t be seeing as often as we’d like. And, I add for the record, we were completely comfortable dining indoors. There was hardly anyone else there, in contrast to the outside tables where people sat much closer together next to outdoor heaters, burning on one side and freezing on the other, and within sneezing distance of pedestrian passers-by, all coughing or shouting into their cell phones. The warm, cozy atmosphere blended well with the great food, great service, and great company.
Go to Buck’s. It may be jammed inside when you go — I look forward to an eventual return, someday, to normal, to thriving restaurants — and, for now, if it’s crowded, sit outside by all means. But if the crowds are outside, sit inside, and enjoy a lovely meal. You’ll enjoy it.
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