WORCESTER – An intimate, country modern-themed burger and whiskey bar will soon open its doors in Worcester’s Canal District.
Nicholas Panarelli, owner and manager of Buck’s Whiskey & Burger Bar, is aiming for a mid-February opening at 62 Green St — formerly the long-time home of the Tara Pub, and most recently, The G Bar.
The opening for Buck’s will likely coincide around the time of Worcester Public Schools’ February school vacation — something Panarelli hopes to capitalize on with the new Fidelity Bank Worcester Ice Center just a few hundred yards behind his location.
Panarelli said, “Hopefully that will kick things off for us. Location is the most important thing when you’re looking to open up a restaurant — along with your concepts and ideas. When I saw all of the construction and new buildings and businesses in the Kelley Square, Green St. and downtown areas, it just made sense. To have that rink down the street, it’s perfect. It’s always busy. We hope we’re a destination location for parents and families when they’re kids are skating to come in and have a burger and a beer.”
According to Panarelli — whose family formerly owned the Lakeside Bar and Grill in Shrewsbury — he got his inspiration for Buck’s after visiting The Goat Bar & Grill in Hampton, NH.
“I fell in love with their style and saw their success with it. I found out they were getting ready to open a second location [in Portsmouth, NH] within a two year period, which is really impressive for a concept restaurant. I saw that, a lot of things I liked, a lot I didn’t like and with my past experiences, I’ve molded it all into something I want,” Panarelli said in an interview on January 10.
Panarelli, 30, of Shrewsbury, said that Buck isn’t actual person, but that the name for the restaurant was created by his sister, Francesca.
“We wanted something country-sounding, and easy to remember,” Panarelli said.
The menu at Buck’s will be a one-page menu featuring burgers (of course), appetizers, sandwiches, salads and some entrees. Over time, Buck’s will introduce specials a few times a week.
“Our aim is to keep the menu simple with good pairings of whiskeys and not overwhelm people with too many choices,” Panarelli said.
According to Panarelli, he is in talks with bringing a chef with a solid following in the area to Buck’s. He asked that the chef not be named, but said the chef “is one of the best in New England and is key for a concept restaurant.”
The previous tenants at 62 Green St didn’t have a kitchen installed in their bars. Panarelli is currently working on gutting the existing space and installing an open kitchen area in the back of the restaurant.
Panarelli said, “It’s tough doing business with just booze. You look up and down Green St and there’s eight places with same cold Bud Light. It was missing food. It’s a cool, little spot and if I can get people in there, update it and make it comfortable and country-modern, and I can put good food in it, I can write my own ticket.”
Panarelli said that there will be ten draft beer lines, and a wide selection of domestic and craft beers from local breweries, as well as craft cocktails.
As far as whiskeys go, Panarelli said that he is still deciding on the whiskey selection and are looking for the best whiskeys that pair well with the menu selections.
“We’re in the process of considering a wide range of whiskeys. There’s Japanese whiskey and Italian whiskey making its way here,” Panarelli said. “I want to start branching out more. There’s so many different options. Whiskey is taking that next surge and it’s time for people to really appreciate that spirit.”
In terms of nightlife, Buck’s will be open until midnight seven days a week (Mon-Thurs 4 PM to 12 AM, Fri-Sun 11 AM to 12 AM) and will get things going on the bar and restaurant end before working in planned country music acts.
“At first, I won’t do too much live entertainment, but down the road I plan to. There’s really no place for country singers to play — and there’s a lot of musicians that perform country in Worcester. Some places in Worcester require cover bands and classic rock to appeal to a larger crowd. We’re only going to have 55-60 seats, so we’re hoping for a more intimate setting for local performers,” Panarelli said, adding that Buck’s won’t strictly do country music, but will have local acts that have a following.
Like many Worcester residents, Panarelli is also hoping to hear a major announcement of the Pawtucket Red Sox moving to Worcester. The location of the proposed stadium would be right down the street from Buck’s.
Panarelli said, “This would be an added bonus if [the PawSox] could come here. I’ve been telling people about the new place, new location and my idea. They always ask if I’ve heard anything about the PawSox. I know Worcester has a good shot of them coming here, but I know Pawtucket will put a good fight. It would be awesome for Worcester and the Canal District. Adding the PawSox in there with the Bravehearts and the Railers, it will become bar heaven.”
For more information and to following it’s progress, check out Buck’s Whiskey & Burger Bar’s Facebook page.