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DINING: 'Bucket' pales next to others at busy intersection

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Dining - A&E

This month, we’ll hit a quartet of recent restaurant arrivals near the already competitive culinary intersection of 86th Street and Ditch Road.

Our first stop, the Rusty Bucket Corner Tavern, part of an Ohio-based chain, has a misleading name if you are looking for parking. Situated nowhere near a corner, it’s ensconced in a strip center whose parking lot isn’t connected to its neighbors, which can make for a frustrating turn off 86th. (I got it right; my guest got it wrong.)

Once inside, we felt comfortable not just because of the friendly staff and relaxed environment, but because we felt like we’d seen it all before: The multiple flat-panel sports-churning TV screens (mercifully turned down), the framed Manning jersey, the wacky menu fonts, etc. The Rusty Bucket’s challenge doesn’t come from doing anything badly—at least, not that we found—it comes from doing everything rather unimaginatively.

Blackened Salmon Salad highlighted an overly familiar meal at the new-to-the-city Rusty Bucket. (IBJ Photo/Robin Jerstad)

The Rusty Bucket of Wings, for instance, comes in one-pound ($7.95) or two-pound ($13.95) batches, with a choice of four sauces. If you are going to limit options like that, shouldn’t they be exceptional? We ordered the small and picked two sauces—Joe’s Regular and the Sweet Chili. The wings were slickly coated and unmemorable, but still edible.

The Blackened Salmon Salad ($9.95) won points for its sizable slab of fish and its pleasant mix of baby spinach, iceberg and romaine lettuces, strawberries, candied pecans, red onion and blue cheese crumbles, but in hindsight I wish I had avoided the honey vinaigrette dressing.

Fish ’n Chips ($11.95) offered sizable planks of Atlantic whitefish whose flavor I barely noticed over the course of lunch conversation. The side fries performed admirably. My guest was equally satisfied but unenthusiastic about his provolone-covered Chicken Parmesan ($12.95). We were both baffled by the contrast of the red sauce on the chicken and the alfredo sauce on the pasta. We liked them both, just not on the same plate.

Jacked-up soft drink charges ($2.50 each) aren’t likely to land any lunchtime fans for this acceptable eatery, but I might return to see if Rusty Bucket can make an impression with its hand-pattied burgers.•

—Lou Harry

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First in a month-long series of 86th and Ditch dining reviews.

 

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