As restaurants across the United States are closing during the COVID-19 pandemic, one is slated to open next week in Waunakee.
Buck & Honey’s announced its official grand opening of its third location at Water Wheel Drive in Waunakee’s Kilkenny Farms, in the space formerly occupied by Boston’s Pizza.
Owner Tom Anderson said he had been asked to open a location in Waunakee, and Kilkenny Farms developer Don Tierney is a friend.
“Obviously, this pandemic threw a wrench in this whole industry,” Anderson said, adding he met with the Kinzels, former Boston’s Pizza owners and Tierney on a new option for the site.
“We came to an agreement and everything felt right to do it,” Anderson said. “We believe in the future. We think the future is good for our industry right now although it’s very challenging, but we do believe Waunakee is a place that fits our model well.”
The grand opening is set for Dec. 15.
Anderson described the restaurant’s model as “on the line between family casual and fine dining,” with contemporary American cuisine and a variety of genres.
“Our menu definitely fits most palate types. I think we’re about 70 percent conservative type of menu options and then 30 percent where we get really creative and have some fun,” Anderson added.
The menu also offers options for most budgets, from a date night with pizza and a beer to an anniversary celebration with a steak and bottle of wine for a special occasion, he said.
Owning two restaurants throughout the pandemic has been a huge challenge.
“What keeps me up at night is my team and our staff. What we’ve seen over the last month, month and half is really, people are obviously nervous about going out,” Anderson said.
“But I’m investing in the future and giving our staff shifts,” Anderson said.
The decision was made to close for lunch at all locations Mondays-Thursdays but remain open for dinner seven days a week and for lunch on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at all locations.
“With that in mind, our staff, even if they have shifts, it’s slower and I’m very concerned about them making it through the winter. By doing everything we can to get Waunakee open, it’s going to allow more shifts for our team,” Anderson said.
Anderson said he also didn’t need to hire or train a new crew.
Anderson grew up in Wisconsin Dells, where his parents owned restaurants that he helped run. After attending college, he decided to move away from Wisconsin Dells and began a career in the banking and real estate business.
“In 2009, the financial crisis came about. I was in the thick of that one,” he said.
He has lived in Sun Prairie for 14 years, and prior to 2010, the city never had a restaurant like Buck & Honey’s. Anderson said he invested “every chip I had left” into opening the restaurant.
“I created a place I’d want to hang out with a scratch kitchen, great craft cocktails and wine list, and a great craft beer list, and then live music…and just a fun place for people to come and celebrate the good things in life,” Anderson said.
The namesakes for the restaurant, which just celebrated its 10th year, are Buck and Honey Birkinbine, who once farmed and owned the land of the Sun Prairie location, and were stewards of the community. They have since passed, and both of their celebrations of life were held at the restaurant named after them, Anderson said.
Anderson said he has been careful about expansion. The location in Monona opened in 2019. Each of the locations, including Waunakee’s, is decorated with local memorabilia and décor specific to the community’s heritage.
The Waunakee location underwent some renovation, with the wall between the dining room and bar removed, and photographs tell the history of the community.
Anderson said he has commissioned an artist to build what he called a “huge chandelier tree” suspended from the 20- to 25-foot ceiling.
“We’ve added a very unique style to this restaurant,” said Aimee Anderson, director of operations. “But at the same time, we’ve kept all the characteristics our guests have come to expect from Buck & Honey’s, most importantly, Chef Sammy’s amazing menu. We can’t wait to share it with Waunakee.”