With its sleek Mid-century Modern interior, groundbreaking modernist architect namesake and forward-thinking menu, Buckminster’s is a world away from the Point Breeze corner bar that occupied the space at 21st and Federal less than a year ago.
Michael and Jeniphur Pasquarello, the restaurateurs behind Kensington Quarters, Bufad, Cafe Lift and Prohibition Taproom, took over the former Burg’s Tavern, liquor license and all. They saw it all as an opportunity to bring something new to this up-and-coming neighborhood, which is short on eating options.
While the Pasquarellos were in the process of hashing out a new concept for their latest venture, Jonathan Adams of Rival Brothers Coffee linked them up with chef Robert Marzinsky, formerly of Fitler Dining Room.
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Having recently returned from a three-month tour of Southeast Asia and Australia, a trip that combined working at two extremely well-reviewed restaurants in Bangkok and Melbourne, Marzinsky was refreshed and ready to tackle something decidedly different. French-influenced fare had won him an enthusiastic three bells from Craig LaBan.
“My perspective changed a lot while I was away,” explains Marzinsky. “I just wanted to make food that I wanted to eat. Food that I would want to sit down and eat with other people.”
He reminisced about his days of eating and drinking with a friend and his family in Vietnam, starting with early morning rice wine and blood-and-peanut soup and ending with late-night beers and snails at the local truck stop bar. So Marzinsky’s approach to creating a menu shifted from single plates and high-concept dishes to one that revolves more around creating an experience.
“Ideally if you were to come in with four people you could eat half the menu,” he says. “Each dish has its own personality, but at the end of the day the focus is more on eating, drinking and sharing.”
What you’ll eat at Buckminster’s
Begin with Sweet Amalia oysters, a half-dozen served on ice, roasted or stewed. This pays homage to the oyster houses that were everywhere in the city years ago. Ely Farm honey bologna with beer mustard and pork and apples with sauerkraut are both nods to the region’s inherent Pennsylvania Dutch traditions.
And there are pieces of Marzinsky’s own culinary trajectory as well: stuffed cabbage with beef from Kensington Quarters’ in-house butcher shop and Carolina Gold rice are his take on his Polish grandmother’s galumpkis, and a sweet potato Massaman curry with pear pickles was inspired by his time in Thailand. It’s the broad vision that makes sharing a meal at Buckinster’s so appealing.
“I stopped worrying about what it is that I want to cook,” Marzinsky says, “and focusing more on a casual environment with seemingly casual food — but the thoughtfulness and the intent can always be there.”