Buckley’s Tavern Opens in Centreville, Delaware

Chef Tom Hannum brings a taste of the Green Room to Centreville’s legendary gathering spot.



Chef Tom Hannum delivers the scallops.

Buckley’s Tavern
5812 Kennett Pike, Wilmington
656-9776, buckleystavern.com

Prices
Small plates/snacks $5-$12, sandwiches $10.95-$16.95, large plates $18.95-$27.95

Recommended Dishes
Foie gras, Buckley’s Burger, mahi-mahi, Thai noodle soup

 

 

As restaurant cult followings go, the horde of regulars who hang their hats at Buckley’s Tavern in Centreville have to be counted among the most dedicated.

How else to explain the pajama-clad congregation that assembled on a cold Sunday in January for the last in what had become a regularly occurring, almost-religious experience? Buckley’s legendary half-priced brunch (provided you showed up in your jammies, of course) was just one of many lovingly held traditions that went on pause for nearly 11 months while the chateau country landmark experienced a change in operators, as well as a much-needed refurbishing.

And for a while there, things were looking mighty anxious for the bar’s many followers. After a targeted August start date came and passed, Buckley’s devotees were forced to the sidelines to wait out a rain-soaked visit from Superstorm Sandy, which pushed the opening back a few days more.

Thai noodle soupFinally, one day before Halloween, owners Bob Applegate and Bob Bolling rang in the Buckley’s is Back era with new partners Vance Kershner, Coley du Pont, and coaxed-out-of-retirement Tom Hannum, who takes over executive chef duties. The group posed together to hang the original pineapple-emblazoned sign, and passed out black-and-white “BIB” bumper stickers for all the pick-up trucks and Rolls-Royces that famously share the parking lot.

Then, the onslaught. In its opening weeks, Buckley’s welcomed back its fans en masse, with a crush of well-to-do customers piling into the revamped copper-top bar, and waiting 90 minutes in the refurbished entrance for a table.

Luckily, for regulars and neophytes alike, Buckley’s Tavern is better than it’s ever been.

A supposedly unspeakable amount of money went into remodeling the building, which dates back to the early 19th century, including updates in the kitchen, electrical systems and infrastructure. And to perform such an overhaul without impeding on the warmth and the sense of home that Buckley’s has cultivated over the past century is an extraordinary trick.

foie gras

The U-shaped bar anchors the front room, along with stately high-top tables and shimmering wood floors. The family friendly Centreville Room resembles a farmstead patio, replete with brick floors, green wooden slat walls, flannel window treatments, and slowly churning belt-driven ceiling fans. In the central dining room, burgundy walls, black banquette booths and woodsy chandeliers create an aura of an exclusive hinterland retreat. 

But what makes New Buckley’s really sparkle is the food. Chef Hannum spent 16 years running the kitchen at the Hotel du Pont’s Green Room, a place that’s intrinsically defined by its impeccably high standards. Hannum’s experience, matched with his cosmically attuned French technique, lead to succulent, perfectly cooked proteins, hard-fought, protracted flavors, and a propensity for wonderful sauces.

It’s an M.O. perfectly suited to an upscale taphouse like Buckley’s, where Hannum can easily slide ripples of tempered elegance into approachable country dining. Longtime Buckley’s operator Dave Weir always spoke of the restaurant’s diverseness—the barons of chateau country rubbing elbows with the blue-collar crowd on any given night

Buckley’s Burger

It’s a notion not lost on Hannum, who seamlessly weaved high-brow swagger into Buckley’s more traditional pub grub. Consider the minty schmear of gremolata that topped meltingly tender lamb shank. The herb mixture underscored the slow-cooked lamb’s inherent pungency and sliced through the meat’s fat-laced heaviness. Or the pork and veal “white” meatloaf that filled two pieces of toast with tender, pliable bites, and a smoky slather of spice-smacked barbecue sauce.

With high-caliber ingredients to match the swanky new interior, even the workmanlike Buckley’s Burger sparkled like a showpiece. Sturdy English cheddar and crispy applewood-smoked bacon seemed like mere sidekicks to the juicy hunk of ground sirloin that dripped its robust beefy manna onto buttery country bread.

And yes, Thai noodle soup, the longtime Buckley’s fave, is back to warming up chilled winter bones, only in Hannum’s hands, it was recast in a curry-laced broth swarming with spice and tender chunks of white chicken while tender soba noodles sopped it all in.

There were occasions where Hannum and his team cut loose from the pub-grub grid and unleashed works of modern, comfort-dining spectacle, and the results were usually dazzling. Foie gras and waffles might sound like a rejected pajama brunch idea, but the pairing of luscious Hudson Valley foie gras—its outer membrane frizzled to a salty crisp—and a sweet potato waffle segment proved impeccable. The liver’s melty center oozed out from within itself and unfurled like lava, mixing with a brandy-spiked maple syrup and smashed pistachio crumbles to compose a rich, salty addictive elixir that coated every crunchy waffle nook.

The bar area is as popular as ever. Meanwhile toothsome white beans, braised and bubbled in a rich, salty pork belly demiglace, underpinned a hulking mahi mahi filet, delicately seasoned and perfectly cooked. The sauce, deeply developed (and pure French) busted with rosemary and thyme while a crispy slaw of green apple and radicchio provided contrasts in texture and temperature.

The formula didn’t always work. Atop a crispy flatbread appetizer, chunks of duck confit clashed amid the clatter of acerbic mole negro, a cumin-and-pepper-laced sauce. It also arrived sans avocado, cilantro and lime, as the menu advertised, and the dish missed out on the balance those ingredients would have provided.

But any meager misstep was forgiven  by dessert, when pumpkin-flavored whoopie pies, apple tarts and almond-studded layer cakes arrived fluffy, rich and piled high with layers of whipped mousses, creams and ganaches.

Even among the chaotic crush of the reopen, the Buckley’s staff kept its collective cool, and service ran in a timely and efficient manner. It was doubly impressive considering how often a staffer was stopped, mid-stride, by the familiar face of a returning Buckley’s regular. Warm smiles were had. Hugs were shared.

Invariably, the reunions followed a similar pattern: “It looks great in here!” “Even the bathrooms!” “I can still wear my pajamas on Sunday, right?”

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January 2017

January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

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The Station Gallery
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Greenville, DE  19807
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January 14, 15, 16 – Saturday, Sunday, and Monday – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Invention Convention Lights, camera, action! This year’s Invention Convention features hands-on video...

Cost: $8 for adults, $6 for children between 4 and 14, and free for children under 4 a

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Hagley Museum
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Telephone: (302) 65802400 x 238
Contact Name: Jessica Eisenbrey
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Cost: $15-$42

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Take the Lead Studio
320 Lantana Drive
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Elements of Nutrition
4710 Kirkwood Hwy
Wilmington, DE  19808
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The Pond Ice Arena
101 John Campbell Rd
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Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
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Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
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World Cafe Live Wilmington
500 N Market St
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Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Cost: $20 for Members, $25 for Non-Members.

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

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Cost: Free with Admission

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Telephone: 130-265-89111
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January 14, 15, 16 – Saturday, Sunday, and Monday – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Invention Convention Lights, camera, action! This year’s Invention Convention features hands-on video...

Cost: $8 for adults, $6 for children between 4 and 14, and free for children under 4 a

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Hagley Museum
Telephone: (302) 65802400 x 238
Contact Name: Jessica Eisenbrey
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

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Cost: see description

Where:
The Annex
501 Chandler Mill Rd
Kennett Square, PA  19348
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Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
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Cost: frr

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Rd
Millsboro, DE  19966
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East Coast Garden Center
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Cost: $30

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805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Cost: $9

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
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Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

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Cost: FREE

Where:
Legislative Hall Library
411 Legislative Ave.
Dover, DE  19901
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Sponsor: Division of Public Health
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Do you want to learn how to make soap? This is your chance! Join me for a fun and informative class @ Liquid Alchemy. I will teach you how to create your own recipe and the in-and-outs of soap...

Cost: 45.00

Where:
Liquid Alchemy
28 Brookside Dr.
Wilmington, DE  19804
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Sponsor: Rocker Soaps + Herbals
Telephone: 302-544-0391
Contact Name: Rachel Binkley
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Do you want to learn how to make soap? This is your chance! Join me for a fun and informative class @ Liquid Alchemy. I will teach you how to create your own recipe and the in-and-outs of soap...

Cost: 45

Where:
Liquid Alchemy
28 Brookside Dr.
, DE  19804
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Sponsor: Rocker Soaps + Herbals
Telephone: 302-544-0391
Contact Name: Rachel Binkley
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30AM-12:00PM Fall session: Thursday, Dec 1st thru Thursday, December 15th Winter session: Tuesday, January 17th thru Thursday, March 30th   Drop in on Nature is...

Cost: see description

Where:
The Annex
501 Chandler Mill Rd
Kennett Square, PA  19348
View map »


Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
Website »

More information

Thursdays from 4:00PM-5:30PM Fall session: December 1st, 8th and 15th Winter session: Starts January 19th, every other Thursday until March 30th This program is based entirely outdoors and is...

Cost: Cost: $30 for TLC members / $40 for non-members

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Bucktoe Creek Preserve
432 Sharp Rd
Avondale, PA  19311
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Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
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Guest speakers Patty Dailey-Lewis, executive director of the Beau Biden Foundation, and Delaware Family Court commissioner Loretta Young will discuss how participation in social media can too...

Cost: Free

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Wilmington University - Doberstein Admissions Ctr.
320 N DuPont Highway
New Castle, DE  19805
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Telephone: 302-295-1164
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Cost: Free Admission

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The 3rd Place
1139 W. 7th Street
Wilmington, DE  19805
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Sponsor: West Side Grows
Telephone: 302-690-9459
Contact Name: Delaware Permaculture
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January 19 – Thursday – 6:30 p.m. Research Seminar: Amyrs Williams (Wesleyan University) – Reimagining the Modern Farm The seminar is open to the public and is based on a paper that is...

Cost: $0

Where:
Copeland Room, Hagley Library
298 Buck Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Sponsor: Hagley Museum & Library
Telephone: (302) 65802400
Contact Name: Carol Lockman
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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
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Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
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Cost: $15

Where:
World Cafe Live Wilmington
500 N Market St
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 215-222-1400
Contact Name: MP Intern
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

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Where:
Tutto Fresco
514 Philadelphia Pike
Wilmington, DE  19809
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Cost: $10

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World Cafe Live At The Queen
500 N Market St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
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Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
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Cost: $29-$59

Where:
OperaDelaware Studio
4 South Poplar St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Sponsor: OperaDelaware
Telephone: 302-442-7809
Contact Name: Mary Wilcosky
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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

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Cost: $30 per person

Where:
Delaware College of Art and Design
600 N. Market St.
Wilmington, DE  19081
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Sponsor: Delaware College of Art and Design
Telephone: 302-622-8000 x 123
Contact Name: Mark Tajzler
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Cost: FREE for TLC members / $10 for non-members

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Bucktoe Creek Preserve
432 Sharp Rd
Avondale, PA  19311
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Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
Website »

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1250 Kings Highway
Lewes, DE  19958
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Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 130-264-59095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
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Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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Cost: $30. Ages 10-18 and one adult per youth.

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Bethel United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall
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Lewes, DE  19958
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Sponsor: Coastal Concerts, Inc.
Telephone: 888-212-6458
Contact Name: Edna Ellett
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Cost: 45

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Ballroom at University and Whist Club
805 N. Broom St.
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Cost: $20 General Admission

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Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
Website »

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Cost: $10 + FEES

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World Cafe Live Wilmington
500 N Market St
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 215-222-1400
Contact Name: MP Intern
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