With a particularly fussy partner I am always in search of new places that I can take him to eat at. One that he would actually like, and one that I can write about for this blog. One type of cuisine that never fails is barbecue. So when I googled “BBQ Vancouver”, and “Buck Stop” popped up as a suggestion I have never heard of, it was decided. Through the course of our meal I eventually learned that, “Buck Stop” is fairly new to the Denman strip. The newest successor at 833, after a long list of failed restaurants before it. So much is the case that its name is still not listed on the directory with all the others. They have only been open for 3 months, but already its looks like they are doing well for themselves. They are definitely the nicest looking restaurant along this street. The decor has them fitting right in at Gastown.
Outside, their sandwich board attracts your attention, as it instructs you to, “Eat Meat Repeat”. A catchy slogan and one that you will soon find fitting. The restaurant is a narrow space. Copper colour walls, dark wooden tables, black chairs, and two dark cowboy hats hung on coat hooks. In keeping with their name sake theme they have metal cut outs of deers and moose around the restaurant; And a bust of a buck and a boar made from corrugated cardboard above the bar. The walls are lined with small framed photos of wildlife. In the middle of all this, their most impressive piece was the mini chandler. It was crafted from wood, and made to resemble a mass of antlers in between all the light bulbs. Looked like it could do some damage if it should fall. Options for seating are in booths or on bar stools. We chose the bar top facing out the front window. I immediately found my seat uncomfortable in its downward tilt and awkward to swivel motion. However their location proved to be the most fun. We people watched as our dinner made pedestrians stop to look at our food, and the name of the restaurant. Whenever there was eye contact we made sure to give a smile and a thumbs up in accordance to our meal. A few came in to ask what we had, none stopped to eat. Guess the price was too much?
Here the vibe is different from other BBQ places. The slow cooked sumptuous food is paired with the drinking, noise, and atmosphere of a bar. All set up against the commonly seen rockabilly type of jazz that plays at most barbecue places. It was Thursday, but with the cocktails and brews it felt like a Saturday. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, but we didn’t have any trouble walking in and being seated right away. This was the best destination for the large group of middle aged men sitting at the back. They were the loudest with pitchers of beers and glasses of highballs from “Buck Stop’s” full bar. And their bellies were full of slow cooked, fall of the bone meat from “Buck Stop’s” in house smoker.
Upon seating our server asked if we have been in before. She explained that the dinner options were on smaller plates for sharing, and that the BBQ ones were served on large boards. The menu was a page for dinner and a separate one for the BBQ. It was the drink list that was most impressive, four pages bounded between two pieces of mahogany coloured wood. For drinks they offered Southern classics with a modern twists. Sweet teas, dressed with fruit or spiked with liquor. And a cocktail list came with exciting names. The “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is made with seasonal smoked fruit, for that hickory aroma in each sip.
Coming specifically for the BBQ, we wanted a share platter to be able to sample all that they had to offer. The “Half Stop BBQ” came with beef ribs, St. Lousie pork ribs, smoked chicken, and pulled pork. The sides were cornbread, hush puppies (deep fried corn bread), honey butter, navy beans with smoked bacon, coleslaw, and kennebec shoe string potatoes with house made ketchup. You can imagine the delight in my face as this feast on two boards came towards our table. A requirement for serving here is definitely arm strength. And if you don’t have any, holding these heavy boards up will earn you some muscle. The price is a little steep at $60. But you get all this food and all this variety. Where as a platter of one item is $15-17. We had 4 types of meats and 2 additional sides, so already this was the more cost efficient deal.
The “smoked chicken” was made with a honey orange brine. It was already pretty moist from just being dark meat, but was made more tender in the process of being hickory smoked. Each piece was succulent and juicy with clear drippings. The spices gave heat, while the honey brought the sweet.
The “St. Louis pork ribs” were basted with their black eko red sauce, then smoked with hickory wood. These were my favourite. Bite size portions with hardly the need to avoid a bone.
The “Beef back ribs” were double smoked Texas style with hickory, and too glazed with their black eko red sauce. The meat required some effort to cut from the bone. The two pieces that we had were a little fattier than what we were use to. Over all, a tough piece of meat to chew through with great flavouring.
The house made coleslaw was tangy and refreshing. It provided the best break in between all rich flavours of the meat, and the taste of oil from the deep fried sides. It wasn’t the best I have ever had, but it served the platter well as a palate cleanser.
I am not a fan of the texture of bake beans. I find their sand like bites irritating to have between the cracks of my teeth. Though I did give two scoops of them a try, for the sake of their smokey bacon essence. Still not a fan.
The hushpuppies paired with the honey butter served as more of a dessert. Both were on the sweeter side, the sauce having cinnamon and sugar in it. It and all the sauces were subtle. They paralleled the dishes, and did nothing to overpower it. For those who frequent often, inquire about their other speciality sauces. Your options are a “Caroline mustard sauce”, a “sweet lime BBQ sauce”, a “pomegranate molasses BBQ sauce”, and a jalapeño honey hot sauce”. Sauce is the easiest and cheapest way to bring new flavour into a dish you have long since found exciting.
I found I couldn’t compare anything tit for tat to other BBQ places. The spice palette used at “Buck Stop” differs for any that I have ever had. It is so different in its zesty flavouring. I am sure there was a spice or two in there I have never even heard of. Nothing tasted as expected from past experiences. It wasn’t bad, just more complexed. We left with enough in our doggy bag for a second dinner.
Our order came with a bucket for bones and a generous helping of napkins. But when done eating, you still felt the need to wash the stickiness off your fingers and the sauce from out under your nails. This is when you use the washroom. The room was a tiny single stall. Going meant doing so with your nose inches from the door knob.
The restaurant was incredibly hot tonight, and as a result we quickly lost our appetite. Luckily our server kept the water in our mason jars in abundance. Between the heat of the place and the saltiness of the food, this was greatly needed. At one point, right after she checked in on us, and we said we were fine; my guest decided he would chug his water and would need more. He got up to ask the bar, only to have our server jump right in to be the one to help us. I was impressed by her attentiveness. Over all she was calm, cool, and collected. She made us feel welcome by speaking to us as if we have been long time friends. Her causal approached perfectly matched the mellow mood of the restaurant. We were within ear shot of the bartender doing any equally fine job. He spent the time we were there, sharing his knowledge of the city with a guest from out of town. He spoke with excitement as he rattled off other places she had to try. Like our server he set a delightful tone for his patron.
Would I come back? – Yes. Now that I have tried their BBQ, I find I prefer others over their rubs and spices. However I would love to come back to try their dinner menu. Fried dill pickles, in house made potato chips, buttermilk calamari, braised pork belly, brisket wrapped scallops, and a BBQ prawn and watermelon salad. This is a listing of half the menu, each sounds as amazing as they are unique.
Would I recommend it? – Yes. For those who think they have tried all BBQ has to offer, give the recipes at “Buck Stop” a try. And for those looking for the perfect marriage between rich food and complex cocktails, this too is your destination. As I have already mentioned, this is an ideal place for a group of guys to get together to eat, drink, and laugh in a comfortable setting. And who doesn’t like a pound of meat? Don’t deny your cravings.