It all started with a hotdog cart.
That’s what Joni and Clint Pipkin had in mind when they saw the empty spot where a coffee stand once sat outside O’Callahan’s Pub in Key Center.
Thinking it would be a perfect spot for the gourmet hotdog stand the couple had in mind, they approached the pub’s owner, Greg Calahan, in mid-September about renting the space, ending up with more than they bargained for when Calahan talked them into leasing the whole restaurant and he headed off to retire.
Two weeks later in mid-October, Buck’s Steak House and Sports Bar opened its doors, bringing a new menu and new atmosphere to the location.
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“Our focus is to be a restaurant. We’re focused on the food part, rather than the alcohol,” Joni Pipkin explained. “We’re trying to have families feel comfortable bringing their kids it ... (we’re) trying really hard to make it family friendly.”
Our focus is to be a restaurant. We’re focused on the food part, rather than the alcohol. We’re trying to have families feel comfortable bringing their kids in ... (we’re) trying really hard to make it family friendly.
Joni Pipkin, owner of Buck’s Steak House and Sports Bar
Family is important to the Pipkins. Not only is the restaurant named after her youngest child, but with 15 grandchildren they want to provide a place for families to eat together, along with more dining options for Key Peninsula residents.
“One of the things we hear so much about out here is that we’re landlocked and you don’t get the kinds of choices that you do in the city,” Pipkin, a 16-year resident of the Key Peninsula, said.
Family is also included in the day-to-day operation of the bar, with her daughter’s mother-in-law, Cindy Galford, working as the restaurant’s manager.
“She knows the business inside and out,” Pipkin said. “I definitely would have fallen on my face without her.”
One of the things we hear so much about out here is that we’re landlocked and you don’t get the kinds of choices that you do in the city.
Both the Pipkins and Galford have previous restaurant experience. Galford was a general manager for Old Country Buffets from Lakewood to Seattle and the Pipkins have owned restaurants previously.
With plans to remodel the interior of the restaurant — including adding some booths for family friendly seating — and spruce up the exterior for warm weather dining, the first thing that the Pipkins changed was the menu, expanding the food selection from bar snacks to a full menu offering.
Focusing on quality food, Buck’s offers burgers and steaks from Cattle Company Angus Beef, with a Cowboy Ribeye for its signature dish. The restaurant also offers breakfast all day and a children’s menu, along with some bar food and appetizers.
Changing the atmosphere from a pub setting to a family friendly restaurant has been less troublesome than Pipkin and Galford anticipated, largely due to the large amount of community support the business has received.
“It’s calmed down a lot,” Galford said, adding that longtime customers have adapted to the new atmosphere.
Pipkin agreed: “We changed the attitude and that changed the atmosphere.”
With just under 25 employees — three from the previous business — Pipkin is proud to note that many of the employees are local residents.
“We could not have done this without all the help we’ve had. Our employees are awesome,” Pipkin said. “I just cannot say how blessed we’ve been.”
As for the hotdog cart, that dream lives on with plans to open Pipkin’s Gourmet Hot Dogs in the parking lot of Buck’s sometime in late January.
Buck’s Steak House and Sports Bar
The restaurant can be reached at 253-884-9766 and is located at 15610 92nd Street in Key Center.
A menu and directions can be found online at buckssteakhouseandsportsbar.com.