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Feed Your Spirit at Buck’s Grill House

Tim BuckinghamYou always hear about those people who leave home to study, travel, or make it big in their selected profession and then eventually return to their roots where they find true happiness. Tim Buckingham, owner of Buck’s Grill House is one of those people.

Buck’s Grill House

Buck’s BBQ Cowboy Butter

½ lb. bacon—diced
1 small onion—diced
1 6 oz can tomato paste
½ c molasses
½ c Worcestershire sauce
2 TBS Liquid Smoke
2 TBS Tabasco
1 lb butter – room temperature

Born and raised in Moab, Tim left his birthplace in 1984 to travel to California and attend culinary school. He worked at several restaurants honing his skills and learning how to prepare and present upscale California foods. After six years, he decided to relocate to Salt Lake City, open a restaurant and show off his skills in a kitchen of his own, but he took one look at Salt Lake and knew he couldn’t do it.

“I still loved Moab. I’d been coming back all along to visit my mom and I suddenly knew this was where I wanted to open my restaurant,” says Tim.

When he opened the Center Café in 1991 he brought something new to the dining experience in Moab.
“I served California-type cuisine using only the freshest ingredients served bistro-style. Moab didn’t have anything like that in 1991,” explains Tim.

The first year was hard and somewhat frightening as people began slowly trying this new restaurant. But after the first year, his reputation grew and it became a favorite of locals, visitors, and film crews who were, at that time, frequently shooting movies in Moab. For four years the small Center Café could be seen crowded with people enjoying Tim’s creations. Then another idea struck him: to buy his own building, expand, change his menu to something more regional and western. To buy a building and more than double, indeed nearly quadruple, the size of your restaurant, was a bold move, but Tim did it. He purchased the old Sundowner restaurant on north Main Street in 1995, sold the Center Café to former employee Paul McCarroll, and thus, Buck’s Grill House was born. The name “Buck” is an old family nickname of his grandpa who himself was an old West figure.

“I wanted to try something different, again,” says Tim. “I was looking for homey, western cuisine but more updated using grilled meats, game, fresh fish, and some unusual southwest flavors. I try to use regional foods and local ingredients as much as possible.”

His buffalo meatloaf, one of the favorite entrees on the menu, uses buffalo raised nearby in Colorado. Whenever he can, he gets his ingredients from Utah and Colorado suppliers to keep his western theme authentic. Other entrees include roasted whole game hen with roasted tomato butter, pork chops or grilled steaks “cowboy style,” cut thick and heaped with barbecue butter. The menu also features several decidedly southwestern entrees with a “twist.” For example, you won’t find duck tamales on many menus throughout Utah, nor will buffalo chorizo tacos be easy to track down.

The log restaurant is decorated warmly with lots of wood, western paraphernalia and art by local cowboy artist, Pete Plastow. Each year the restaurant changes in character ever so subtly, but coming months will bring the biggest changes.

“We’re putting in an outdoor dining area with a waterfall and a creek trickling by, and eventually we will enclose the front porch to make dining there cool and quiet,” says Tim.

The menu for Buck’s says “feed your spirit.” Lucky for Moab that Tim Buckingham decided to return to his roots and feed the folks who call Moab home along with those fortunate enough to visit our small paradise. Indeed, our bodies and spirits are fed well by Buck’s Grill House. Thanks for coming home, Tim.

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