Most bartenders in Bend, Oregon are decent at their jobs, but I have endless respect for the ones who make it all seem effortless, who deal with the perks and the bummers of the job with grace, sans cynicism, all while remaining friendly and genuine. They make you feel comfortable the moment you pull up a stool. And you know that if any sh*t goes down, they’ll take care of it. Buck Bales at The D and D is one of those people.
Buck Bales, bartender at The D in Bend, Oregon
The first time I heard about The D and D was on a random Sunday afternoon when I was fresh off the boat from Los Angeles. Downtown, after a mediocre brunch at a not-to-be-named fancy-ish restaurant, I ran into a friend who is a buckaroo (like the real deal, rides wild horses for a living). He was with his pretty, well-dressed girlfriend. They’d just finished brunch too, They asked where I ate. I told them, and the girlfriend perked up and gave her man a “Why didn’t you take me there?” look. I explained that they most certainly had a better meal. The buckaroo said, “Oh, we just grabbed a bite at The D, love that place.” His girlfriend looked embarrassed. And suddenly, I was intrigued, and thought, whatever this D is, “I want to go to there.”
A few weeks later, my brother took me to The D and D (everyone refers to it as “The D”). It’s not much to look at. It’s a full-on dive bar — not the kind of place that has a Twitter account. I immediately liked it. While we drank, my ever-knowledgable sibling informed me that the friendly rockabilly-esque bartender was Buck and that Buck has a blog called Drunksnacks. Interesting. We pulled up Buck’s blog on my phone and I was hooked.
Buck has a warm and humble “aw shucks, I’m just an average guy” vibe about him. He’s a Central Oregon native, grew up in Prineville, lived in Portland for a bit, then came back to Bend in 1990 and hasn’t left since. He worked at Bachelor in the ’90s, back when, as he explained, it was still fun, more of a party atmosphere, and everyone who worked there skied or boarded. He eventually found his way down from the mountain and started slinging drinks. In his twelve-plus years as your friendly pourer of PBR, he’s worked at Cascade West, Mountain’s Edge, JC’s, and Black Horse Saloon (now Maverick’s).
Bartenders in Love
He met his wife when they both worked as bartenders at Black Horse. They’d get home at three in the morning and rehash all the craziness of the night. Then his wife switched careers and Buck found himself missing those late night chats with his honey, so he started writing about it instead. That’s how his blog, Drunksnacks, was born.
Buck’s adventures-in-bar-tending stories are strangely addictive. They usually involve patrons behaving badly, and Buck’s response to said behavior always seems to be decisive, fair and often funny. He keeps the crazies in line. He’s like the Coach Taylor of the bartending world. He has a big heart, but don’t mess things up for the team or you’ll be in a world of hurt.
When I walked into the D last night, Buck was warning someone, “Hey, when you back your car out, don’t run over Tommy.” I thought Tommy was a pet, but no. Tommy is a regular who had just been 86ed. See? Capable of tough love, but still looking out for his players.
Coach, er, Buck is a musician (guitar) too, and makes killer bacon white-chocolate-chip pancakes — his daughter won’t eat anyone else’s pancakes. (Why would she?) He’s a former river guide, and is working on a book based on his blog.
Oh, and Buck was nominated for The Source Weekly’s Lust List as “Hottest Blue Collar.” He says his wife is getting “quite the chuckle” out of it all. The Source reveals the winners next week. (Go Buck!)
Here are a few more fun facts about one of Bend’s raddest bartenders, Buck…
Outdoorsy stuff he does: Snowboarding, golf, softball.
Favorite bartender in town: His sister-in-law, Rebecca, who works days at 900 Wall.
Something that might surprise his regulars: He played guitar in a few Bend punk bands back in the day.
Personal motto: Be as good as you can to people and hopefully they’ll do the same for you.
Buck works Wednesday through Sunday night, every week. Stop in for a pint to see what all the lust is about, but be nice and don’t be a douchey drunk. You don’t want Coach coming down on you (or using you as an example in his book).