Some things are exactly what they appear to be. Other things are not what they appear to be. Somehow, Buck Wild manages to be both at the same time.
Buck Wild is Wilmington’s newest entry into the “breastaurant” craze. Made most famous by Hooters, they are eateries where the food typically plays second fiddle to the spectacle of attractive, scantily clad women. Buck Wild has more than its share of attractive, scantily clad women.
But the food does deserve some notice. The menu is more innovative than just mindless pub fare. For the most part, it tastes pretty good. The onion rings come battered to crispy perfection, with just the right touch of pepper. Fried ‘til the sweetness of the onion comes through, the pepper strikes a fantastic balance. There aren’t many better fried onions in Wilmington.
The bacon-wrapped BBQ meatballs taste a bit over-processed, giving them a mealy texture. The sweet barbecue sauce, with hints of Jack Daniels’ smokiness, makes the potent flavor forgive the mushiness. Add to it bacon, and everything improves, making it an appetizer worth another bite. Really, if they just put the meatballs through the grinder one or two fewer times, they would have a winner.
The fried gator might be trying a bit too hard. For anyone who hasn’t had alligator tail, you’ve almost certainly heard the old canard: “tastes like chicken.” While true, in that it is a rather bland white meat, gator actually is greasier and tougher than chicken, so it has a less pleasant mouthfeel. This is too bad because, much like with the onion rings, the batter is fantastic. The kitchen could probably save itself a couple of bucks by going with chicken instead of gator and put out a more likeable dish. Additionally, the sweet chili dipping sauce is a bit too sweet, but still worth trying.
The burger, while not necessarily worthy of a lot of column inches, comes perfectly tasting with all the standard trimmings. The menu offers a couple of variations, but nothing stands out memorably; I have had better and I have had worse.
Then there’s the sirloin steak. Listed as “Topless Sirloin” to keep in line with the breastaurant theme, the steak tastes quite remarkable. Tender and juicy, seasoned heavily but not unnecessarily so, it is really an excellent entrée. I still can’t believe I’m writing these words even as I type them, but it may have been the best steak I’ve ever had for under $15. Let’s be clear: Buck Wild won’t be rivaling Peter Luger’s anytime soon. Still, for a good steak at a low price, I’m hard pressed to name a better one.
Buck Wild also offers an ample display of side dishes. The macaroni and cheese, stuffed with brisket, is a meal in and of itself. Though a touch bland, it could sustain sharper cheeses; however, the shredded beef is a nice touch. The baked potatoes are monstrosities, loaded with the fixings of any choosing.
What’s really on the menu at Buck Wild is spectacle. The waitresses will periodically jump on the bar for a well choreographed Texas Two-Step. While sitting at the bar, looking up at these girls and their daisy dukes, I couldn’t help but feel a little creepy—like I should be making it rain or something. But moving back a step or two, I have to say it’s a pretty good dance number. And, yes, their boots are on the bar, right where the plates go, so germophobes beware.
By the way, here’s a fun fact about the Texas Two Step: It comes from Fire Island, New York. It was designed by gay men in the 1920s to get around a local ordinance banning men from dancing together.
As to the spectacle, Buck Wild is more than just pretty girls with bare midriffs. The giant carving of a bull’s head, which snorts steam while the girls dance, will garner attention. The actual head of a longhorn steer, currently decorated for the holidays with two large Christmas balls and a Santa hat, is just the sort of tastefully tasteless décor one would hope to find in a local breastaurant.
Buck Wild is a remarkable place to catch a game. While at the bar, every angle in which one turns will showcase a TV. (I lost count around 30 of them.)
It’s fair to call Buck Wild what it is: a titty bar sans nipples. It’s tacky and ugly girls need not apply, but I can’t call it exploitative. Every one of the women dancing onstage looked as though she were having fun at work. The staff is pleasant and cheerful and, to the best of my knowledge, if they’re not happy, they can quit at any time.
Not everyone is going to like Buck Wild. I certainly won’t be taking my mom there. But the food is worth a try. Plus they have “Lucky 7” lunches, offering seven items for $7. As for the dancing girls—let’s just call that a matter of taste.
Buck Wild BBQ and Saloon
29 Van Campen Blvd.
Hours: Mon. – Sun., 11 a.m. – 2 a.m.