Our Gourmet

Buckley's Great Steaks in Merrimack lives up to its name

BY OUR GOURMET July 30. 2013 4:52PM

Buckley's Great Steaks
438 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack
424-0995; buckleysgreatsteaks.com
Open: Tuesday – Thursday, 5 to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m. Tavern opens at 4 p.m.
Cuisine: Steak house.
Pricing: Appetizers, $4 to $18; entrees, $12 to $39; dessert prices vary.
Handicapped accessible
The scores for Buckley's:
Consistency: 20/20
Atmosphere/Menu: 17/20
Appetizers: 18/20
Entrees: 19/20
Desserts: 18/20
Total: 92/100

When you think about heading somewhere to have a really good steak, you may start thinking about taking a road trip to Boston to some of that city's well-known establishments. But I'm happy to say that the area's best steaks are right in our back- yard - no T ride required.

Buckley's Great Steaks in Merrimack is serving up some of the best steaks in the state. Our Gourmet had the best steak in many years, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Buckley's is a part of the Michael Timothy's Dining Group of fine dining restaurants, which includes Surf in Nashua and Portsmouth. While Surf has a reputation for fresh and delicious seafood (as recently reviewed by another Our Gourmet team), Buckley's is the other side of the surf and turf coin. A large part of the menu is dedicated to classic cuts of steaks cooked on a wood-fired grill.

On the warm summer evening we made our way to Buckley's, the air was thick with humidity. The intoxicating aroma of a whole lot of meat cooking assaulted us, in a good way, as we approached the restaurant once home to the historic Riddle's Tavern.

We were asked if we wanted to eat in the dining area or the more casual tavern part of the establishment. We chose the dining area, which reminded us of eating in someone's dining room in the 1800s. It's obvious from the décor that a lot of effort was put in to maintaining that ambiance.

To balance out the steak I knew I was going to order, I wanted my appetizer to be on the light side. I opted for the Crispy Crab Cakes on greens with an Old Bay horseradish sauce ($12.) The crab cakes were perfectly crispy on the outside and full of crab, not filler, as I've found in other places. The well-seasoned cakes could have been a meal on their own, and if they ever bottle the sauce, I'll be the first one in line to buy it.

The Dining Companion started his meal with a half-sized order of the Hand Dipped Onion Rings ($4). These panko-crusted, deep-fried tempura rings, so thick you needed a knife to cut them, were served in a wire basket with cherry pepper ranch dressing on the side for dipping. The rings were both large in size and in quantity. The onions were thick and had a sweet flavor; the biting pepper sauce was a strong contrast.

I had a hard time choosing what steak I was going to order, but I decided on the 12-ounce Dry-Aged Strip Loin ($37), which is dry-aged in-house for 21 days and served with red wine demi-glace. I'm not sure if it is possible to fall in love with a meal, but it was love at first bite. The steak, cooked a perfect medium-rare, had that perfect thin crispy fat on the outside and was incredibly tender on the inside. The creamed spinach (the dish is usually served with the vegetable of the day, but I wanted the full steak house experience) and mashed potatoes, also top-notch, were perfect accompaniments.

For the main course, TDC decided to try a cut of steak that he's never had before. The Cowboy Steak ($38) is a 26-ounce, bone in rib-eye cut that is marinated in a house blend and served with red wine demi-glace. From the first bite, he was impressed and knew he had made a good decision. The steak was as tender as he's ever had. The quality of meat was a top-of-the-line choice cut and grilled to a perfect medium-rare. He said there wasn't much fat on the cut, but it was juicy and delicious when presented. This steak is definitely one for those with a big appetite. He said if he had one word to describe the steak, it would be "fantastic."

With a number of chocolate selections on that day's dessert menu, we didn't have to fight over who was having what. I chose the Chocolate Mousse Gateau ($8), a rich decadent creamy mousse served on a thin fudge cake. Having devoured most of my steak, I didn't have much room left, but what I didn't eat was just as delicious as a late-night snack.

For dessert, TDC had the Chocolate Molten Lava Cake ($10). The dome-shaped piece of chocolate cake, covered in powdered sugar, was moist with a warm chocolate center that oozed out of it, living up to its name. There wasn't anything overly fancy about this dessert, but he said it was a nice exclamation point to an excellent meal.

If you aren't a steak lover, although I'll argue that you will be after a visit to Buckley's, there are plenty of other entrees to pick from, including chicken, seafood and pork. You can also ask for many entrees to be prepared gluten-free. There's something for every palate.

This was by no means an inexpensive night out, and in the future we'll reserve it for special occasions, but for sure, Buckley's Great Steaks certainly lives up to its name.

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