AURELIUS — The first part of the name of Buck Tucker's Home Cookin' may be distracting, but the second part couldn't be any more direct.
Amanda Pinckney, of Auburn, opened the restaurant Black Friday in Fingerlakes Mall. It takes its name from her father, Tom Eldridge, whose nickname is Buck Tucker. He also played in a local band called Home Cookin'. So when Pinckney needed to come up with a name for her new business, she found a catchy one in her father's backstory.
If her decision sounds spontaneous, that's because it was: Pinckney had no plans to open her first restaurant until she and her daughter, Jani Klein, 14, were eating in the mall's food court. Seeing the "for lease" sign, Pinckney contacted mall General Manager Rene Patterson, who made her a good offer, she said. And the space, previously Dominick's Grille, had all the equipment she needed.
She brings to Buck Tucker's several years in food service, including time as a manager at the Hilton Garden Inn, a bartender at the Springside Inn and a server at Michael's. Pinckney also worked in food service in Florida, from which she had recently returned to Auburn when she went back to the Springside. Because her hours were limited for the winter, she was seeking another opportunity.
Opening her own restaurant solved that problem.
"I'm here 80 hours a week," she said. "I live here."
Pinckney has help during lunchtime from her husband, Rich Pinckey, as well as Buck Tucker himself from time to time. The restaurant has been far busier than she expected, she said.
Pinckney believes that's because Buck Tucker's fills a void in the mall. Joined only by BB's Pizza in the food court, the new restaurant offers a simple menu built on burgers and hot dogs. She sells about 300 burgers a week, she said. She also offers daily specials, like meatloaf on Mondays and macaroni and cheese on Thursdays, plus seasonal items like fish for Lent. Regular features include a breakfast menu and a garbage plate-like concoction called The Full Monty. Pinckney is also open to making requests, which is how some of her regular items became part of the menu.
Most Buck Tucker's customers are mall employees, Pinckney said, coming several times a week from Bass Pro Shops or The Great Outdoors RV Superstore. Though they keep her kitchen humming, they also require her to turn orders around in less than 10 minutes, she said. She also gets good traffic from the many events at the mall, which she compared to a community center.
As Buck Tucker's continues, Pinckney would like to grow its catering and delivery services, she said. But for a restaurant she didn't plan on opening as recently as last summer, it's going well.
"It's running smoothly," she said. "As smooth as 80 hours a week can be."