Restaurant brings Chicago atmosphere to small town

Published 12:28 pm Friday, November 22, 2013

Bucktown Tap is located at 259 E. Front St. in Buchanan, Mich. Leader photo/AMBROSIA NELDON

Bucktown Tap is located at 259 E. Front St. in Buchanan, Mich. Leader photo/AMBROSIA NELDON

It was about five weeks ago that the Bucktown Tap opened its doors in Buchanan, Mich. Judging by the numbers, the timing was just right.

“It was the second Friday of October, the day of the Buchanan homecoming,” said Dan O’Sullivan, co-owner of the new restaurant and bar that is located at 259 East Front St. “We had 800 people come through the first three days…. It’s been steady. We’ve been able to finally predict, which is nice.”

Natives of Chicago, Ill., O’Sullivan and his wife, Laura, teamed up with long-time Buchanan resident Jennifer Hoover and her husband, Lonnie, to purchase the restaurant.

They met when their sons were on the same Little League baseball team, and the plan for the restaurant grew out of their mutual desire for “a new and different spot close to home where they could meet for dinner with the family or date-night drinks,” Laura O’Sullivan said.

The two couples began an extensive renovation of the bar in May.

“We took it back to the studs and rebuilt it from there,” Dan O’Sullivan said of the building constructed in 1949.

The results are quite attractive — very reminiscent of the bars and eateries that one will find in the trendy neighborhood of Bucktown, Chicago.

A tin ceiling, wooden bar, and a gleaming brass tap rail are all features that the O’Sullivans and Hoovers added to give their establishment a “Bucktown” feel. Of course, the name they chose reflects that style choice as well, but it also pays homage to the longtime nickname for the town of Buchanan.

Their selection of craft beers is also reminiscent of those found in bars in Bucktown, Chicago, but Buchanan’s Bucktown puts an emphasis on southwestern Michigan’s brews.

“One of the things we really wanted to do was to represent… craft beers from Berrien County, and we have a fair amount of them, actually Southwest Michigan, on tap. We have Bell’s from Kalamazoo, and Founders from Grand Rapids. We also have Round Barn, from just around the corner, Tapistry from Bridgman and Greenbush.”

Since their opening weekend, the Hoovers and O’Sullivans have worked to make their restaurant better.

“We’ve made some changes to the menu, and brought some different people in,” said Dan O’Sullivan. “We don’t want to do anything that’s not perfect.”

“One of the things we wanted was to keep a family-friendly atmosphere here all the hours we were open. We wanted a place that would definitely appeal to families,” Dan O’Sullivan said.

To that end, O’Sullivan is also proud to offer a children’s menu that includes burgers with fries, grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, spaghetti and meatballs, macaroni and cheese, and finally, a chicken and cheese quesadilla.

“We just wanted to make sure the kids got protein,” said Dan O’Sullivan.

As for the adult fare that the Bucktown Tap offers, favorites include a range of appetizers and sandwiches.

“We can’t make enough bacon-wrapped poppers for a day.…They’re huge pieces of jalapeno with a special cream cheese mixture, and wrapped in a whole piece of bacon, and it is baked in a special oven so that it’s not fried,” said Dan O’Sullivan.

“The Buck Burger is kind of a staple. It moves a lot. The Bennie Burger is also very popular. We’ve gotten rave reviews….We also have sweet potato tots that go well with anything,” he said.

Bucktown Tap also offers selections for vegetarians, including a black bean burger and a special version of Scottish Eggs.

“Instead of using a sausage coating [around the hard-boiled egg], we use a kidney bean, garlic, and sunflower paste that breads nicely against it, and then we pop it in the fryer for 80 or 90 seconds,” said Dan O’Sullivan.

All of the owners have high hopes for the Bucktown Tap.

“We kind of wanted to make this our favorite place. When you do that, you really can’t go wrong,” Dan O’Sullivan said.

The Bucktown Tap’s winter hours are now in effect. They are open Mondays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Fridays from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. “to better serve the dinner crowd,” said Dan O’Sullivan. (They are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.)

Looking toward summer already, they plan to move Sunday hours earlier to take advantage of the deck for people to have brunch.

“It’s been amazing to watch the revitalization of our downtown and the greater Buchanan area,” Jennifer Hoover said. “To be a part of that means a lot to me. I can’t wait for our family and friends to create some lasting memories here.”