The Buckeye Tavern

The Buckeye Tavern
by Cathy Kiley
photos by Ryan Hulvat

The Buckeye Tavern is the epitome of a local gathering place. It’s lively, friendly and crowded with a menu offering a cornucopia of snacks to full course meals. The Buckeye Tavern has existed on this site in some form since 1735. It was purchased in 1768 by Martin Speigle who paid a little more than ten pounds for the place. During the next two plus centuries, the building had 19 different owners leading up to the opening of the current version in 1987 by Hope and Terry Bender. Renovations in 2000 created the upstairs dining and party area with an indoor/outdoor double-sided bar as well as indoor and patio seating.

Throughout its history, The Buckeye Tavern has maintained its historic character with fieldstone walls, beautiful plank floors, wooden tables and rustic decor. The first floor tavern and dining rooms are more quiet than upstairs and party rooms. It’s a great place for a beer and dinner after a round of golf, a night out with the family or a gathering of old friends any night of the week.

My husband Tom and I arrived on a Thursday night in time for our reservation. The tavern was crowded and we were lucky to find a parking spot. That’s a good sign. When we entered, the hostess asked us to wait a minute and then showed us to a table outside on the upstairs deck. There, we met Lauren whose friendly, enthusiastic service made for an enjoyable evening. Lauren informed us that it was Fiesta Night and the The Buckeye was offering Mexican favorites in addition to the regular menu items. We both ordered a beer from the many on tap while perusing the menu.

As is usual, Tom and I always try things that are not common to other eateries so we opted for corn fritters and deep-fried pickle spears from the extensive appetizer menus. The tasty bite-sized morsels of sweet yellow corn were battered with just a taste of honey and lightly fried. With either honey or maple syrup for dipping, this starter was perfect with our frosty brews on a warm night out on the deck. Okay, we went out on a limb with the fried pickles but I can say that the breaded crisp dill pickle was good. Served with a spicy “boom-boom” sauce, this appetizer was very interesting and also tasty with the beer. Other appetizers included a large selection of loaded potato skins, unusual fries, wings and many variations on the cheese quesadilla. There were also chips and salsa along with nachos, dips and seafood starters including steamed clams, fried calamari and coconut shrimp.

For those not wanting a heavy meal, you can feast on these appetizers that are perfect for sharing or choose from The Buckeye Broths including homemade chili, lobster bisque, onion soup or a soup/salad combo. There are at least 10 burger choices including the Big Buck – with two burgers  topped with applewood bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion, cheddar and Kickin’ Buckeye Sauce. A diner at the next table was indulging in this masterpiece and it had mouthwatering effects. The menu also included turkey and chicken burgers for those of you who do not eat red meat.

There are well over a dozen specialty sandwiches with all the fixings including Philly steak; Crab Cake; BBQ Pulled Pork; Grilled Chicken Club and the “Mack Attack” – a basic chicken cheesesteak, tossed with Caesar salad and diced tomato, hard-boiled egg and Parmesan cheese served on a hearth-baked roll. All sandwiches are served with Buck Chips. I found the salad menu offered interesting choices that included a Pulled Pork Salad – mixed greens topped with pulled pork, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, peppers, shredded cheese all drizzled with Buckeye bourbon sauce dressing.  There are 10 other choices including a Buffalo Chicken Salad with fried chicken tenders dipped in their famous Buffalo wing sauce over crunchy greens, cucumbers, green peppers and celery sticks. There’s a Brookside Cobb Salad as well as many others to whet your appetite all leading up to the main course menus.

Pasta dishes range from Lobster Ravioli in a creamy lobster sauce to a Vegetarian Pasta Primavera and a spicy Pasta Jambalaya with shrimp and smoked Andouille Sausage with veggies over penne in a herbed tomato sauce.

The “Main Event” menu features plenty of beef, chicken, pork and seafood entrees. Here you are able to indulge in their famous traditional liver and onions sautéed with bacon and finished in a light demi-glaze; slow-roasted Macungie Pot Roast with plenty of veggies in a beef broth; or you may opt for the more health-conscience grilled vegetable platter. There are broiled jumbo sea scallops with garlic butter and white wine or the more dense Tuscan Crab Tilapia with roasted peppers, spinach, bacon and Parmesan cream. Fresh Salmon, Haddock, shrimp and Mahi Mahi are also on the menu.

After much consideration, I opted for the chicken fajitas from their Mexican Fiesta menu. I had been watching the lady at another table enjoying hers so I thought I give them a try. This sizzling dish of grilled chicken, peppers and onions arrived piping hot to the table with fresh accompaniments of warm soft tortillas, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, salsa and sour cream. They were very delicious and the portion so large that I packed up half to go home with me for lunch the next day.

Tom spotted the Whiskey BBQ Pork Tenderloin on the menu and never changed his mind. The pork tenderloin was marinated with Buckeye whiskey BBQ sauce, topped with banana and jalapeno peppers finished with pepper jack cheese. Tom liked this dish but thought there were far too many peppers – which is good if you are a pepper-lover. We both agreed that the BBQ sauce was very good.

We finished off the meal with coffee and the house-made Blondie Brownie recommended by Lauren. The warm decadent combination of rich chocolate and blond brownie was rich and chewy all topped with a generous portion of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. This is The Buckeye Tavern’s house dessert and worthy of its praise.  It is delicious.

Chef Neil Leidheiser is a Lehigh Valley native hailing from Emmaus. He trained at the Philadelphia Restaurant School and continues his education with courses at the Culinary Institute of America. He oversees an immense menu in his busy kitchen and with the assistance of both the efficient table and bar service, The Buckeye Tavern runs very smoothly in accommodating the number of patrons this eatery attracts.

Conveniently located at 3741 Brookside Road in Macungie. The Buckeye Tavern is open every day from 11:00 a.m. to Midnight. There is always something going on at The Tavern including live music and special dinner shows in their “Mischief Room.” For information on these special events plus reservations and menu listings please call 610.966.4411 or log onto:

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