Bucky's Poblacion is the best argument for simple food
We had to ask: "Who is Bucky?"
"Oh, that's me," mild-mannered Migs Vargas answers with a chuckle when we dropped by his five-month-old restaurant, Bucky's. A nickname bestowed upon him by politically incorrect relatives thanks to his pre-orthodontic overbite, dessert fans might recognize the name from the thick blocks of heavenly fudge he panders. While his smile has since been straightened, the name stuck and lends a rather endearing brand to his product.
A couple of years after launching his not-a-brownie business, Miguel partnered up with childhood friend—U.S.-bred and trained chef Justin Golangco—to open a small restaurant in Poblacion, Makati. Miguel's wife, Raisa, is an architect and gave the cozy nook a relaxed, industrial look warmed by wooden tables and stools. The counters display different varieties of buckies, their Yardstick coffee, and a small workstation where they put together their popular soft-serve ice cream parfaits.
The low ceiling might be the culprit to the rather poor ventilation, but I doubt diners mind the intoxicating smells coming from the kitchen where Chef Justin is busy bussing out dishes that Miguel describes simply as "food we like to eat." From the deep fryer emerges their best-selling fried chicken—boneless thighs dipped in batter and fried until crisp but still juicy, accompanied by what could arguably be the best mashed potatoes in the city. If the scent of burned cheese has caught your attention, perhaps the baked ziti has just made its way out of the oven. Like the fried chicken, this baked pasta dish is something they cannot remove from their menu, which Miguel says they have already tweaked a few times since opening. Make sure to have it topped with the meaty ragu. Life-changing.
Salads and healthy options here do not come as afterthoughts—that would have been old-fashioned and out-of-character. In today's millennial speak, those are just as much under the "comfort food" category as all things fried and cheesy. Chef Justin's beet salad is well-balanced in terms of flavor and texture—it wouldn't be a laborious task to eat this in case you're one of those types who (good god) count calories. The pretty badi bowl, too, is packed with good things: a fruity yogurt parfait adorned with chia, granola, grains, and coconuts flakes.
The meticulous chef
We almost got to try the grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup, but unfortunately, the was being particularly unhelpful. It looks perfect to our civilian eyes, but before we could even take the shot, the chef has whisked it away with an apology. Twice this happened, until Chef Justin—who worked in Michelin-started restaurants in New York and Napa Valley—decides that it’s not quite up to his standards.
But despite the unavailability of one of their most popular dishes, there is no room for disappointment as we fill ourselves up with Bucky's s’mores parfait—an original bucky topped with their house-made soft-serve, then layered with salted caramel, marshmallows, and brown butter polvoron. Remember that stellar Yardstick coffee? They put it to work in their Buckygato, their version of the Italian espresso and ice cream dessert.
When asked why, despite his success with Bucky's not-a-brownie, he decided to venture into the restaurant game, Miguel answers, "it's just the natural progression of things. Justin and I have known each other so long and we work well together. He's very straightforward and I like that."
There really is so much talent in this tiny space, you have to wonder why this didn't happen sooner.
Bucky's is at 5666 Don Pedro Street, Poblacion, Makati City; tel. no. 0916-754-5140.