Friday, June 02, 2006

T.J. Buckley's - Dinner in a Diner

See T.J. Buckley's on Chompster

While in Vermont, we also treated ourselves to dinner at T.J Buckley's in Brattleboro (15 minutes from Newfane). T.J. Buckley's certainly makes for a unique dining experience. The restaurant is housed in a little refurbished diner and seats no more than 20 people. There are 2 seatings a night, one at 6.30 and another at 8.30. The restaurant's menu also changes by the week. As the story goes, Chef Michael Fuller shops for the freshest ingredients each day and builds a menu around it.

Initially I was a little wary since I'd seen varying comments on chowhound. I was also put off by the fact that T.J. Buckley's is a cash only place. They didn't forget to remind me of this when I called to make reservations. Classy. However, we eventually decided to give the place a try after hearing raving reviews from our Vermont based massage therapist.

The outside of the dining car. I thought it was really cool how it looked shabby on the outside but somewhat fancy on the inside.
T.J. Buckley's in Brattleboro Vermont

We stole a shot of Chef Michael Fuller at work:
Chef Michael Fuller

We started off with the pork and veal pate. I was very impressed by the presentation. The sous chef sure pays attention to detail. The appetizer was garnished with a fan of very finely sliced apples. I think golden delicious and another red variety. The flavor of the pate was very good though it fell short on texture. The pate was a tad dry and crumbly so it was hard to eat with the crackers. The dish was also accompanied by some little pickles (not sure what they were) but they went well with the food.

The Pate:
Pork and Veal Pate

Next came the salad. This dish was the highlight of our meal there! It was that good. Well the main courses were kinda lack lustre but don't let that detract from the salad!! Pacman has never been into salads, but he absolutely LOVED this one. Each piece of vegetable was sliced with so much care that you could really taste the flavor and freshness. The beets were sooo delicious, I savored each tiny piece and saved some for the end. :) I'm not sure what kind of beets they were, but they aren't the kind you get in the regular salad bar. Damn I didn't know beets could taste this good. The salad was also sprinkled with just the right amount of goat cheese and tossed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Simple, but omg so delicious.

THE Salad
The Salad

For the main course, I had the grilled haddock while Pacman had the Muscovy duck. The haddock was alright, nothing spectacular. ZZZzzzz. The muscovy duck was *really* rare. The waitress told us that the Chef liked cooking his duck rare. But this duck was so rare it was bloody, cold, and hard to chew. We had it sent back to the kitchen to cook for a couple minutes more. Better, but nothing to scream about. Guess we aren't big fans of rare duck!

Does it look strangely rare? Or are we just intolerant wimps?
Muscovy Duck

We decided to pass on dessert since we were still stuffed from the previous day's meal at The Four Columns Inn. The bill came out to about $120 after tip. We had an appetizer ($15), 2 main courses ($70), and a glass of wine ($8). Thought this would be useful to anyone interested in checking this place out since there isn't a menu and the waitress memorizes the specials of the day.

T.J. Buckley's
132 Eliot St, Brattleboro
Vermont 05301, United States

Chomp Meter:
I might consider going back. The appetizer and salad were very good though the main courses didn't meet the mark. Perhaps we should have ordered the scallops (chef's recommendation), it could have been more enjoyable. Unfortunately we just had scallops and weren't really in the mood for more. Hrmm kinda undecided on the place.


Rubee said...

Nice blog, I'll have to check back here more often!

Anyways, I think it WAS classy to remind customers when they make a reservation that it's cash only. Better than someone not doing their homework, and arriving with only credit cards. OTOH, I've had rare duck (actually the first time was at Prezza in the North End), and done correctly it's delicious and tender. But your dish doesn't look rare to me - I agree - it looks almost raw.

Anyways, great blog!

mini-me said...

Hi Rubee ... thanks, glad you enjoyed it :) ..and yes the raw duck was a little scary. almost like it was gonna walk off my plate hah!

Rose Symotiuk said...


A friend recommended TJ Buckleys and this post came up when you google it, so when we went last Saturday night, I went with your review fresh in my mind, and wanted to give an update.

My fiance had the food you had trouble with: country pate and duck. The pate was orgasmic, amazing a tiny side of some sort of fruit confit and mustard, as well as the amazing sliced apples. We had no issue with the texture: I've definitely had very chunky/gross country pate in the past and this was the finest ground/chopped short of the mass-market stuff. Maybe the chef read this post!

I warned the fiance about the duck, but he's a duck fanatic, and found it amazing. I was also a little skeeved by the "rare" was far closer to seared tuna than roasted poultry. Fiance said the wing was more done, but that the flavor of the duck came through more in the breast.

I went for crab cakes for appetizer. Having gone to school in New Orleans, I love those southern crab cakes that have so much crab meat, and just the minimum of breading and stuff to keep it in cake form. Crab has never been tastier.

I also had the scallops with pork fat (aka big, unhealthy chunk of bacon/ham goodness and those glorious yellow beets). Yum. What is it about scallops? Cooked right, they're so meaty and savory, you could never guess that they're seafood. Which is why they're amazing when cooked with pork. God, yes.

From the 'net, I see this place gets about 70% "Oh lord, I want to buy a house across from this place," and 30% "yeah, its ok." All I can guess is that they have off nights and we were lucky. The meal we had last night was more than worth a try...You could drop $140 for two in NYC for food and 1/8th as good, and the intimacy of that train car made an amazing experience.

Thanks! -Rose

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