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Published: Thursday, 7/2/2009

Restaurant review: Yeeha's Buckin' Bar and Grill ***

Pardon Yeeha's Buckin' Bar and Grill in Oregon if it has a bit of an identity crisis.

Is it a sports bar? Looks like one, what with all the TVs broadcasting sporting events of all varieties.

Is it a country music bar? Can't deny that, given the big dance floor, ample band stand that regularly features local country bands, and rustic decorations.

Is it a place for dinner? With a menu that features entrees such as salmon, ribs, steaks, and chicken in huge portions, no doubt.

Is it a lunch joint? Most definitely, thanks to the fast service and breezy walk-in, sit-down, and get-fed vibe it has around the noon hour.

Yeeha's pulls it all off, but something has to give a little if a restaurant is going to be so many things to so many different constituencies, and for my companions and I, it was on the quality of the dinner, which needed some refinement. Lunch, on the other hand was excellent.

For dinner, we started with an appetizer of deep-fried mushrooms ($4.99), which were mostly bland and could have come from a frozen package. They were served with an unremarkable spaghetti sauce for dipping. Best to try Yeeha's onion rings, which were crispy and fat and well worth the $4.99 price.

The large dinner salad was filled with fresh ingredients, but it comes as a side dish, which the waitress took literally and brought with the meal rather than before it.

We tried the eight-ounce New York strip steak ($11.99) with mashed potatoes and a side of vegetables. The steak was slathered in butter and seasoning, which robbed it of any natural meat taste. The potatoes also were overwhelmed with seasoning, and the vegetable medley plate was large but uninteresting.

The 11-ounce Pacific salmon ($12.99) was fat but a bit dry and overseasoned. You shouldn't bite into a big peppercorn when you're eating fish, but I did, and the overall impression was of someone in the kitchen getting carried away with the spices. In a dining market where bland often tries to pass for good, it's nice to see the effort to jazz things up, but the folks at Yeeha's might want to be more careful around the spice rack.

Also on the dinner menu are ribs, chicken, walleye, a porterhouse steak, shrimp, and a number of chicken chunk (basically boneless wings) varieties.

Lunch was considerably better with a top-notch, half-pound Angus mushroom and swiss burger that was truly exceptional and a bargain for $7.99 with fries, which were equally good. We also tried a chicken Caesar wrap ($6.99) that was fresh and perfectly proportioned for lunch.

The lunch menu also includes turkey, grilled cheese, BLTs, and fish sandwiches.

The service was solid on both visits, and Yeeha's gets you moving pretty quickly. You can picture this place cranking up the energy on a Friday or Saturday night with loud music and boisterous partying, so if you're just there for dinner you might want to clear out before it kicks into gear.

Contact Bill of Fare at: fare@theblade.com

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