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'Rich rodeo history': Buckskin brings rustic atmosphere to Killdeer

Since reopening under new ownership in May the bar & grill has offered two dining experiences and a saloon, with plans for future expansion.

Chef
Buckskin Chef Bill Hocker cooks a steak.
Ashley Koffler / The Dickinson Press
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KILLDEER, N.D — After it sat vacant for two years, Nanette Edmondson brought The Buckskin back to life in May, serving meals and drinks in a rustic atmosphere.

“We are inspired by North Dakota ranchers,” Edmondson said. “I grew up on a ranch here outside of Killdeer with my family, and they settled in the area in the early 1900s. My family raised cattle and helped build this community for generations. I want this restaurant to be a tribute to the hard work and sacrifice it takes to be a successful rancher in North Dakota. All of our beef is sourced from local ranchers and during the summer we support all the local ladies’ home gardens. We love the German hearty food culture that has grown from the hard working people that settled here. I am not German, but enjoy the German food.”

old buckskin crop.jpg
Brothers Anton, left, and Adolph Wetsch in their grocery store, which is now part of The Buckskin.
Contributed / The Buckskin

Many of their daily specials are inspired by local recipes.

“We actually invited some local ladies to come do some of their own specials,” Edmondson said.

The restaurant’s chef, Bill Hocker, said he takes home-cooking to the extreme.

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“I cook the way I like to eat,” Hocker said. “I like doing different things from different cultures. So I don't just stick with, you know, steak and potatoes.”

He makes much of the food from scratch. This includes the dressings, sauces and the fettuccine he uses in dishes.

“They've allowed me to come in here, be creative and do what I do,” Hocker said. “They have their idea, their menus and I make sure that happens; but I also have the freedom to express my cooking ability.”

He hand-cuts and ages the steaks, which he described as "excellent quality beef."

They offer two separate experiences: elegant dining and a pub eatery. The chophouse family dining room provides upscale menu items, including steaks and a homemade special. The walls are filled with photographs chronicling Dunn County's rugged cowboy heritage.

“So cattle and rodeo go hand in hand, and our dining room is a tribute to Killdeer's rich rodeo history,” Edmondson said. “The large frame rough stock pictures are all local people and we want people to visit us to be inspired by our community the way we are. Killdeer is a unique place with a strong sense of the old Western culture.”

Many of their signature drinks incorporate Edmondson’s family’s names. The pub dining half of the Buckskin offers sandwiches and flatbreads. There's also a daily special such as smoked ribs or smoked wings.

Edmondson
Nanette Edmondson pours a tap beer at the Buckskin.
Ashley Koffler / The Dickinson Press

Edmondson said she was drawn to the Buckskin because she loves historic buildings. The Buckskin was originally three separate, side by side buildings that were combined into one bar & grill. She reminisced that during her high school days there was a drug store, grocery shop and a bar in its place.

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Two vintage signs found in the basement of what used to be the grocery store have been restored and now light up the saloon. A scale, dishes and other historic items from the old businesses are displayed throughout the Buckskin. A check from 1928 that was found in the wall while remodeling is also framed on the wall.

“It has all of our history all wrapped up into one building,” Manager Lizzy Strommon said.

Edmondson also owns The Pipe Bar in Killdeer and said they were bursting at the seams when the Buckskin closed in 2020.

“The Pipe is just full of people, like you can't relax there,” Edmonson said.

She purchased the Buckskin on May 1, 2022. Friends and family helped remodel in a little more than two weeks. They put up wallpaper, removed the existing bar and built a new one.

“They spent 19 hours with sawzalls, chopping off the plaster on the walls to expose the original brick,” Strommen said.

The Buckskin has 20 taps with many regional beers, and plans of incorporating a brewery this winter. Dining hours are Thursday through Saturday from 4p.m. to 10 p.m. Brewing hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 2 p.m. to 1 a.m. It is located at 64 Central Ave. S.

Ashley Koffler is a Killdeer, North Dakota native and Dickinson State University graduate, with a Bachelor’s Degree in writing, and minors in journalism and psychology. Formerly working in Community Affairs for Roosevelt Custer Regional Council for Development, her reporting focuses on Stark County and other rural municipality governments, community features, business and agriculture — among others.
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