Saturday, May 27, 2017

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Belly Up

A bowling alley, a restaurant and a bar

3/1/2017

Ellie Williams, Kyle Holdorf and Amanda Lamb work at Uncle Buck’s; the aquarium behind the bar entertains guests with its aquatic sea life.

Ellie Williams, Kyle Holdorf and Amanda Lamb
work at Uncle Buck’s; the aquarium behind the
bar entertains guests with its aquatic sea life.

Sebastian, the crab from “The Little Mermaid,” summed it up best when he sang how it’s better under the sea.

But the famous crustacean probably didn’t know about an Altoona restaurant/bar that brings an underwater experience to land — with great food and drinks to boot.

Uncle Buck’s is an underwater-themed dining experience with a 500-gallon saltwater fish aquarium, exotic menu items such as alligator, and fish-bowl-size drinks.

The unique watering hole is expanding across the country and even into Canada. But the Altoona Buck’s is the original.

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Kyle Holdorf is the general manager. He and three other current employees have worked there since opening day in August 2009.

Holdorf started as a dishwasher, and he’s made the most of his opportunity, attaining promotions and eventually working his way up to general manager.

“We’re a restaurant, bowling alley, bar,” he says. “In that order.”

The name does not stem from the famous 1980s film starring John Candy.

“It’s from Johnny Morris (owner of Bass Pro Shop); it was his uncle,” Holdorf says.

Holdorf says Buck’s is one of the only places he knows of in the area that serves alligator. And “unique” doesn’t stop there. The bowling alley is adorned with aquatic art, the bowling balls are returned through alligator mouths, and servers come directly to the bowling lanes to serve food and drinks.

The menu’s best seller is the alligator, which is breaded and served with alligator sauce, according to Holdorf. “I think it does taste like chicken, yes,” he laughs.

The rest of the menu has pizza, burgers, finger food, appetizers and traditional food along with seafood and higher end eats like Cajun crawfish, wild sockeye salmon, grits and other unique selections.

The fish aquarium sits behind the bar and is stocked with a wide variety of exotic fish. But the star of the show is the Harlequin Tusk, an eel.

“He doesn’t come out too often, and when he does, it’s kind of a special deal,” says Holdorf.

The bartenders have a nickname for him, but not Holdorf.

“I just call him ‘eel,’ ” he laughs. ♦

 

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