It was a rough week on the local restaurant scene with the sudden closing of Celsius downtown, the continued (and feared permanent) closing of Tin Box BBQ Pub & Grub at Eagle View and the impending loss of West Virginia staples Tudor’s and Gino’s at Yeager Airport.
I needed a pick-me-up to balance all that bad news, so I sought solace in something I knew would do the trick. Greasy good bar food.
After a sunny Saturday afternoon lacrosse game at the impressive new Shawnee Sports Complex in Dunbar near Institute, we made the short drive to the other end of Dunbar near North Charleston to grab lunch on the patio at The Bucket, a casual bar and grill that opened in 2017 in the building that formerly housed The Pour House, just down from Cold Spot.
The Bucket has been on my radar for a while — having received lots of love when I recently asked readers who serves the best burgers and pepperoni rolls in town — so I was excited to finally try it out.
Now I know why so many people love this place.
There’s nothing fancy about it. Simple tables and chairs fill a no-nonsense dining area with a bar at its center and a few TVs scattered throughout. But the food is good, service is great and there will soon be even more to enjoy.
As we dined on the restaurant’s small outdoor patio that day, crews were working to build a much larger adjoining deck they will open this summer, featuring a new outdoor bar and more than 50 additional seats.
With beverages flowing and music filling the air, I predict this will be one of the hottest places to hang once warm weather is here to stay. The Bucket also claims to have the coldest beer around, and my mug of Greenbrier Valley Devil Anse IPA seemed especially icy.
Anytime I’ve asked someone about what to order at The Bucket, they’ve nearly tripped over themselves recommending the pepperoni rolls, so we snagged a basket of those straight away.
Pepperoni rolls are pretty plentiful nowadays, so what makes these so special? They’re deep-fried, baby.
House-made dough is stuffed with tons of sliced pepperoni and mozzarella, then deep-fried until golden brown and dusted with Parmesan for an unbelievably sinful treat. Each piece left a pool of grease on the plate, which we tried to ignore while inhaling every guilt-laden bite.
With our appetite sufficiently stoked, we ordered a trio of items The Bucket is also very well-known for — and each one lived up to the hype.
The giant Hangover Burger would surely cure anything that ails you. Two beef patties with bacon, provolone and American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, mustard and ketchup were topped with an egg inside a towering, toasted bun. Full of juiciness, flavor and toppings that created contrasting flavors and textures, it’s everything you want a good bar burger to be.
The recommended chicken quesadilla was chock-full of chicken, cheese, onions and peppers stuffed in a buttery toasted tortilla. With so many other intriguing options on the menu, I was surprised to hear this was one of The Bucket’s best-sellers — until I tried it.
Make no mistake, it’s worth the hype, as were the meaty wings we had doused in sweet-chili Bucket sauce. You can order them boneless by the half-pound or pound, or get as many (or few) bone-in jumbo wings as you want.
We also enjoyed a buffalo chicken wrap that aced the spicy balance between flavor and pain, a basket of seasoned fries that needed no salt or ketchup, and delicious onion rings featuring a gloriously golden beer battered coating.
Other offerings on the menu include Bucket Balls (fried corn nuggets with pepper jack and crushed jalapenos), Bucket Puffs (a deep-fried twist on pork rinds), pretzels with beer cheese, salmon bites and all manner of traditional fried appetizers.
There’s a selection of burgers and sandwiches (Philly cheesesteak, hot bologna, spicy chicken and more, including a Monte Cristo on Sundays) plus wraps, soups and salads. Heartier appetites can dig into entrees of grilled salmon and the popular Oak Barrel Steak with a baked potato, grilled veggies and salad.
Despite a nice afternoon crowd, our server could not have been better — attentive, funny, friendly and knowledgeable — and was great interacting with my boys.
Speaking of kids, this is a family-friendly place as well — until 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, when it then welcomes an adult-only crowd.
Good food and service in a casual, welcome setting full of people having a good time … what’s not to love?
IF YOU GO: The Bucket at 4030 W. Washington St. in Dunbar is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday (kitchen closes at midnight) and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 304-746-4417 or visit www.thebucketwv.com.