This month, we’re looking into the curiosity that is the retail store restaurant
by Alexander Quebec
Edited by Catherina Silva
You’ve seen them before, but I bet you’ve been curious as to what’s inside of them. It seems rather quaint and in congruent with the rest of the place, so why have them here? Are they any good? What do they offer? That’s right, I’m talking about those restaurants inside of retail stores.
It’s actually not a new phenomenon, many department stores have had full-service restaurants and lunch counters for years (and in one instance, they became the place that started a movement that changed the lives of many all across the country), but as the business landscape changes and the need to cut costs, reduce overhead and all that jazz, eateries inside retail stores either become an afterthought or have been closed altogether. In this series, we’re going to be checking out some of the restaurants and eateries inside these places to see how they hold up and how well (or not well) they add to the overall atmosphere of the space. On the first stop of the tour, we check out Bass Pro Shops and their restaurant Uncle Buck’s Fish Bowl & Grill Restaurant.
Holy crap this place is friggin insane! I feel like a place as extra as this does not need to exist and serves no purpose whatsoever, yet here it is and I am living for it. It’s a veritable sea of God Bless America, of pro 2nd Amendment t-shirts, a red drop in the blue sea that is California. It has everything for the American outdoorsman that they could ever need or want, and I have to admit, some of it is pretty sweet just in the sheer amount of American Pride that drips from it all. When you walk through those doors, you are proud to be an American, in spite of all of the socio-political baggage that comes with it.
Not to sound crazy, but I am always down to go to a place that has a large aquarium somewhere on the premises. I don’t know why I feel the way I do. I mean, the one here in San Jose is probably not as huge as some of the ones I’ve seen at other Bass Pro shops, but still, put fish in a large see-through tank and I am there. What made this place pretty cool was the taxidermied animals on the top too. I think this is almost on the same level as Disney theme parks, over the top perfection, and I’ll be back just to check it all out again.
Now, the restaurant carried the theme of the over the top, hyper-stimulating wonder that captivates people enough to shop at the retail portion of the store, but would it be enough to entice people to come, sit down and eat with Uncle Buck for a while? I decided to come in on a slow, weekday afternoon to experience the madness that is Uncle Buck’s FishBowl.
Clam Chowder – the clam chowder was so salty, it kept complaining about how its ex-husband left her for something younger looking in bottle-blonde hair and patent leather pumps. I actually used the oyster crackers to help cut down the saltiness of the chowder, but to no avail, as there simply wasn’t enough to go around. I think this was also the first time in recorded history that I’m aware of anyone actually eating those things with chowder. I do have to give props for the mouthfeel though; I like my chowders on the thick side and the consistency of the chowder was exactly what I like: not too runny but not so thick I could eat it with a knife and fork.
Crab Cake Sandwich – Grey and lifeless like a corpse (but not as dressed up as one), with minimal seasoning, although given the chowder situation beforehand, some of that chowder didn’t go to waste after all. Seriously, why did Europeans conquer the world for their spices and never use them? What is so scary about using a little bit of seasoning? There was a bit of the tartar mayo sauce thing they had going on, that made everything a bit more palatable, but overall, the sandwich was very underwhelming.
Oh yeah, the restaurant has a full-service bar, and a bowling alley in it too, which had an undersea theme that made my mind jump straight to the Under The Sea musical scene from The Little Mermaid (I like Homer Simpson’s version better though). It was interesting to see that it was being heavily utilized on a weekday afternoon by some tech company here somewhere in the Valley (lots of folks wearing a shirt or paraphernalia from some tech start-up or random tech conference) for what I guess was a team build or something. The bowling alley itself was pretty cool but kinda seemed a bit gimmicky from my first impression. Overall, this place is definitely an experience for the entire family or as a company getaway for the afternoon. Personally, it’s not one for me, but I’m not one to knock down someone’s good time, so why not give this place a shot?
Then again, the taxidermy animals and fish tank for me more than make up for the food.