Buck Hill for year-round destination dining?
That’s the hope of Dave Solner, owner of what’s more commonly known as the winter ski and snowboard destination in Burnsville (15400 Buck Hill Road, Burnsville, 952-435-7174, buckhill.com).
Solner took over the restaurant on the north end of the property this summer, which had been previously run by a third party. Now the restaurant is under new management — his — and with a new name: Buck ’54 Bar & Grill, with a nod to the year the ski slope opened.
“We’re trying to create a local establishment not just for skiers and as a ski resort, but for the community,” said Solner. “My vision is a year-round entertainment destination.” That means four seasons of activities, all building on what Buck Hill already does post-winter: concerts, car shows, mountain biking and catered events.
And when mealtime comes along, Solner wants the guests to stick around.
“We want people in the city to come down here and check out these sight lines of the hillside and sunsets. It’s an oasis in the middle of an urban environment,” he said.
To make that happen, Solner has had a major deck built on the second-story restaurant, one that seats up to 175 guests with its 20- by 60-foot expanse, with a new sound system attached.
“There’s nothing in the south [Twin Cities] with a patio like that. The nearest patio this size would be Maynard’s [in Excelsior] or Fletcher’s [in Spring Park, both on Lake Minnetonka],” said Nate Birr, chief financial operator of Buck Hill. “We want to be a staple in the south suburbs.
“COVID gave us an opportunity to step back and figure out what to do,” Birr said.
New chef Corey Haglund hails from D’Amico and Sons and Woody’s Grille in Eden Prairie.
“It’s a comfort food environment, American Casual with a little flair,” said Solner. “All custom sauces and recipes.” That means chicken wings and quesadillas, burgers and pizza, pasta and chef’s specials (think prime rib and fish fries).
The public is invited to the grand opening on Sept. 24, from 5 to 11 p.m., with live music, and drink and food specials throughout the weekend, which includes its Bucktoberfest festivities on Sept. 26. Regular hours are from 11 to 11 p.m. daily (Friday and Saturday until midnight), with happy hours Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. and 9 to 11 p.m.
As for the ski/snowboard season, look for an opening about the second week of November, or when it’s cold enough to make snow. There will be new coronavirus-centric rules, “though skiing is COVID friendly, from tips to tails,” said Solner, who has been working with the National Ski Association and the Minnesota Ski Area Association.
The new rules include required face coverings in buildings and, at the lifts, social distancing in the lines (“That means longer lines, not side-by-side waiting,” Solner said). Those waiting for lifts can ride by themselves or with their own group. Lift tickets and lessons must be purchased in advance. Outdoor participants must get ready at their vehicles. Indoor capacity is limited to 50%.
See the website for more details, buckhill.com/covid-19).