The weirdest thing about the Buck—and quite possibly the weirdest thing in the world—is found in the bathroom. And it's not so much "found" as it issues a shock to the system from which one may or may not ever recover. And it's not so much an "it" as a "she," or maybe an It-She. And it's not giving away the surprise to tell you what It-She is: You cannot be adequately prepared. Even if someone has just told you, looking completely undone, "There's a COMPLETELY HORRIFYING MANNEQUIN-LADY positioned in a COMPLETELY HORRIFYING WAY in the semidarkness of the BATHROOM ON THE LEFT such that IT-SHE GIVES YOU A GODDAMN HEART ATTACK IMMEDIATELY UPON OPENING THE DOOR," when you open the door, there is very little chance that you won't scream.
Other than the mannequin-lady (who wears a cowboy hat), the Buck is the anti-thesis of horrifying. Where some Seattle bars affect a saloon aesthetic that seems intended to be mistaken for vintage reality (some great bars, e.g., the 9 Lb. Hammer, Linda's, Redwood), the Buck is so preposterously, virulently Western themed that its very existence is both funny and winning. Nearly every bit of wall (the poor, marooned metal fuse-box door excepted) is paneled in very high-gloss faux-log-cabin paneling. This may sound terrible, but the paneling is a warm blond color, and the place is all squirrelly shaped with two little bars shoehorned in, and most of the seats are upholstered one-person booth-style (such that if you push two tables and the accompanying seats together, voilà: Frankenbooth!), and furry cushions are available. The decorating does not stop with the paneling, not by a long shot. There are horseshoes deployed in different ways (some wear miniature cowboys hats), at least one bull skull, ambient wagon wheels, saddles made into stools, a tiny illuminated stagecoach, and much, much more. (Most misplaced item: a stuffed seagull standing atop a life preserver.) Sign-age is rampant: BUNKHOUSE, FEEDROOM, COWGIRLS/BOYS, LIL BUCKAROO, CANOE RENTALS Oars Free, VACANCY (this one in neon). Several signs are in the windows, already fomenting confusion about what the place is called (it opened, softly, on Capitol Hill's Olive Way a week or two ago).
The Buck's siblings are Bleu Bistro and Chez Gaudy, so the decor is all-in-the-crazy-family. The food at B.B./C.G. has met with mixed reviews, but the Buck's snacks—pesto pizza, nachos made with the right amount of cheese, rich barbecue brisket—are quite good. (The brisket could use less sweet, more heat.) Presentations include cast-iron skillets and planks; service is still finding its way but doing so gracefully. Bottled beer poured into frosty mugs, specialty cocktails, and shots served in boot-shaped shot glasses are available. Bonus: The proprietor offers your choice of miniature plastic stallions as a keepsake.