Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dining over the Pequest? Check out Uncle Buck's

Ravenous after exploring the birds of the Delaware Water Gap, we set the GPS to our next destination and agreed to see what the fates would present us along the way.

I drove a bit too quickly along rural Route 46 in Warren County, meaning we missed an opportunity to roll into a rustic drive-through somewhere south of Buttzville. Ivan declined my offer to turn around, noting that something else would make itself known soon enough. Knowing how rare it is to find a place along 46 on that stretch, I had my doubts, but then I also wasn't really sure what route the GPS would take us on. Faith is sometimes just a horse with wings. Besides, if the talking road map was right, we'd be in Phillipsburg within a half hour, anyway.

Things started looking up when we got off the 'main' road and found our way to Belvidere. It's the Warren County seat, so there had to be good options there, right?

We found it, just a few hundred yards down from where the Pequest River feeds into the Delaware: The Original Uncle Buck's Diner. With visions of a tasty lunch and John Candy dancing in our heads, we quickly found a parking spot and walked on in.

Uncle Buck's is the classic storefront diner/luncheonette, but half cantilevered over a spillway on the rushing Pequest. We were hoping for a river-view table and got it, as it was a little past the lunchtime rush and the only other patrons were a few couples of older folks socializing at a corner table.

While it's not a classic manufactured railroad-car type diner, Uncle Buck's seems to be a close spiritual cousin in its layout. Everything's there, just kinda mushed in, as Ivan found out on a trip to the restroom. In getting there, you walk right next to an industrial-grade stove/oven, down a short corridor past the dishwashing station. Without intending to, you could very easily become part of the operation of the place, just by making a wrong turn.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. We seated ourselves and started leafing through the menus that were thoughtfully already on the table. They weren't huge but had all of the diner staples. Breakfast all day? Check. Happy Waitress special? Check. Burgers? Check, check, check. They even had a burger special that included the always-desirable Taylor ham as a topping.

I was half tempted to order the Happy Waitress, but then our human waitress showed up and seemed to be channeling all the happiness in Warren County. Boy, was she cheerful! Instead, I went for the bacon cheeseburger, Ivan got a Swiss burger and we split an order of gravy fries.

Yum on all counts. Both of us ordered our burgers cooked medium, and when Ivan lifted his off the plate, it dripped a pleasant few drops of beef juice. Looked a lot like the way I generally cook mine at home. When I bit into mine, I found the center was cooked just enough, with a little bit of pink still showing. And instead of being melted on the patty, two slides of cheese were placed on the insides of the bun. Only thing it could have used was some lettuce and tomato, but then I might have inadvertently not seen the deluxe version on the menu.

The fries came as we were enjoying our burgers. Straight-cut versus crinkle cut, they stood up nicely to the lumpy and very flavorful gravy. Yeah, the bottom-most fries were a bit mushy, but that's to be expected after being smothered.

To sum up, it was a satisfying meal and Uncle Buck's is a great find we'll keep on the short list for future visits to the area. After all, we'll need to grab another hearty lunch after visiting the shoe tree oak.

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