“That building had a lot of issues,” McKown said. “I had to put a lot of money into things. I didn’t own the building (but) had to redo the walk-in and put a lot of money into an air conditioning unit that wasn’t mine. It was kind of nickel-and-diming me.”
Two years later, the duo felt they had identified their missteps and were looking to get back in business with a food truck, but the opportunity to re-launch their restaurant in a location that had seen success in the past was too tempting.
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“This place has always been supported. It used to do really well,” McKown said. “Not to be cocky, but I think we’re going to kill it here. Just the buzz — the neighborhood has embraced us and they’re chomping at the bit for us to get open.”
McKown, who was born in Pittsburgh but lived in the Dayton area while working in restaurants most of his life, says Buckin' Donkey will be very similar to his previous location, both in menu and catering to Pittsburgh Steelers fans during the NFL season.
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The original plans called for the business to open in May, however, a number of unforeseen setbacks — including the death of a business partner — delayed the process. In the meantime, customers familiar with any of the building’s previous tenants will note new flat screens, a brighter decor and new booths when Buckin’ Donkey opens. They won’t recognize the food, though, according to McKown.
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"I think adding our food is a home run, because this place hasn't seen food like mine yet. Our food is definitely not bar food. I call it gourmet bar food. Everything's from scratch. We don't freeze hardly anything," he said.
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The menu is massive and loaded with original creations, featuring 16 appetizers, 14 original burgers — including the bacon-laden Triple Bypass Burger — and 15 kinds of sandwiches. Wings, soups, salads and a vegetarian section are also in the offing. Brunch will also be served on weekends from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Buckin' Donkey -- formerly Murray's Place -- plans to open in late July or early August.
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McKown added he and his brother plan to eventually offer boxed lunches — similar to Dorothy Lane Market — for delivery, and go through with their food truck concept.
“The only reason my brother and I are doing this is because we like creating food,” McKown said. “We’re going to be here for a long time. There is no failing this time.”