Goodbye, Buck’s Grill House. Hello, Moab Burger and Atomic Lounge.
Six months after the venerable diner closed its doors, Buck’s longtime owners celebrated the grand opening last week of the revamped and rebranded business.
The lounge side of the business at 1393 N. U.S. Highway 191 officially began to serve handmade cocktails on Friday, May 15, and the burger joint is expected to open this week.
Co-manager Gary Howe said that owner and chef Tim Buckingham put a considerable amount of thought and effort into the remodeling effort, as well as a new menu that features longtime favorites like buffalo meatloaf, along with new offerings.
“To be a great chef, you have to reinvent yourself,” Howe said.
General manager Meghan Kennard said she believes that after 19 years in business, Buckingham decided that the time was right to shake things up.
“I think he wanted a new concept and business,” Kennard said.
While the name has changed, Kennard said the restaurant and the new lounge have the same emphasis on fresh, local and organic ingredients.
“We still want that focus to be on high-quality food that’s made from scratch,” she said.
The restaurant uses local and site-grown produce whenever possible; vendors include the Youth Garden Project and Hole Foods Farms, which will supply the kitchen with freshly grown kale and carrots in the weeks to come.
It will also be harvesting its own herbs and vegetables from expanded garden beds on the property.
Likewise, the restaurant makes all of its sauces, condiments and toppings in-house, without the use of any additives or preservatives.
The restaurant’s menu features burgers made from grass-fed, antibiotic-free beef and buffalo, as well as organic chicken. Moab Burger also offers gluten-free options and vegetarian dishes that will appeal even to carnivores, according to Kennard.
“I love our veggie burger, and I usually don’t even like (other veggie burgers),” she said.
Unorthodox – yet tasty – toppings include cilantro-jalapeño pesto and Sriracha onions; side orders range from the more traditional home-cut fries to braised kale and organic baby greens.
The same emphasis on fresh and homemade ingredients is carrying over to the lounge side of the building, where the bartending staff has gone through intensive training in recent months to perfect the craft of making cocktails from scratch. Notably, they use locally made bitters from Sundial Medicinal’s Emily Stock, who is also an Atomic Lounge bartender.
“We’re really trying to focus on ‘fresh, fresh, fresh,’” Kennard said.
Most of the standards on the cocktail menu pay homage to the Cold War.
For starters, there’s the Manhattan Project, a sweet or dry Manhattan cocktail.
Stalin’s Mule is a combination of house-made ginger beer, Monopolowa Vodka and fresh lime, while The Communist blends Ketel One Vodka with fresh-squeezed blood orange juice, hibiscus and lime.
In a nod to a 1950s sci-fi classic (and Cold War parable), The Thing is a mixture of Grey Goose Vodka, jalapeño, lime and simple syrup.
For dashing and debonair secret agent types, there’s the 007, a stirred (and not shaken) martini that Sean Connery might find shocking – positively shocking.
Apart from its cocktails, the lounge has doubled its beer selection, and it also has a sizable wine list.
As an alternative to the hard stuff, patrons can order nonalcoholic “mocktails” like the Soviet Union – a concoction of locally made grenadine, simple syrup, soda and cherries.
While there’s plenty of grub on the other side of the building, the Atomic Lounge also serves small meal plates, including vegetable chorizo taquitos and grilled boar and buffalo sausage.
Large plates on the menu range from tandoori trout filet to buffalo meatloaf and curried turkey, which is cooked in a coconut curry sauce with butternut squash, apples and raisins.
Moab resident and Buck’s regular Leona Corn came to the lounge for the Cosmos, but she left with a hankering for more taquitos.
“The taquitos were the best,” Corn said. “I want to go back and have some more.”
When she returns, she hopes to sit out on the backyard patio, which features picture-postcard views of the Moab Rim.
“That’s probably going to be my favorite place this summer – especially if they open the patio,” Corn said.
Not only will they open the patio, Kennard said – they’ve expanded it to accommodate more people and events, including live music performances and community fundraisers.
“We love our back patio,” she said. “It’s just beautiful and secluded – you can’t even hear the highway back there.”
Buck’s reopens as Moab Burger and Atomic Lounge
“We’re really trying to focus on ‘fresh, fresh, fresh.’”
For more information, call 435-259-5201, or go to moabburger.com.