I first ate at Moons Kitchen with my mother in the 80s and loved it the tall, busy room, its walls covered with political Americana, the tables and turquoise formica counter full of businesspeople, strangers happily sharing space.
As a kid, I was won over by the unashamedly huge breakfasts, burgers and milkshakes. There was a bit of grease in the air, and that meant the food was going to be good and real. Even then, the diner in the back of a bait-and- tackle shop seemed like something from the fiction of a Rockwell painting.
When Moons moved in 2008 from its original location on Bannock Street to the Union Building on Idaho Street, I was a little sad but understood. Truthfully, I had come to enjoy Moons less over the years. I hoped for a revival in its new venture, but the few times I went to the new place, it didnt feel the same. The food was heavy without being glorious. Moons and I grew apart.
But on the second of a few recent visits recently, I was sitting on one of the original stools at the transplanted turquoise counter and looked up. On the wall was fishing gear for sale bagged bait-and-tackle which made me smile. Though the display itself is just a gesture, it is the right one. Four months into new ownership again, Moons has moved forward with an array of new menu items, yet reached back into tradition.
Many of the new offerings fit in as though they may have been on the menu for generations. A Full Moons German Pancake ($8.50) takes 20 minutes to prepare, baked in a cake pan. The result is a delicious, eggy confection closer in taste and texture to French toast than flapjacks, shaped like a vinyl record left out in the sun. The homespun breakfast version of a Monte Cristo ($8.95) is terrific: two pieces of cornflake-crusted, batter-dipped brioche around scrambled eggs, bacon, ham and Swiss cheese, dusted with powdered sugar. The menu told us this was served with jam, so when syrup arrived, we had to ask, and we were rewarded with especially delicious homemade strawberry preserves. (They should sell this by the jar.) Though served a la carte, the serving size is, as our server told us, abundant, and by splitting the sandwich, a side of eggs and the pancake, my wife and I were full.
On another visit, the Moon Babies ($6.95) were another well-made, new breakfast item. These are somewhere between a crepe and a pancake, rolled up, sugared and draped with homemade raspberry sauce. Not mentioned in the description, these were huge and laid on the diagonal across a wide oval plate. My server told me had never seen them so big, so perhaps this was unintended. Also a surprise, the dish came with two strips of bacon, exactly the bite I wanted after so much sweetness.
One old favorite a split and griddled biscuit with sausage gravy ($5.95 for a full order, $4.50 for a half) was good, but the lone disappointment in my recent visits was that the gravy was lukewarm.
Lunch is still middle-of-the road: burgers, a reuben, a Philly, a chefs salad. One new item, the server-recommended blackened chicken sandwich ($8.75), is a good, safe choice. The iceberg was a little limp, but the chicken was juicy and nicely seasoned, not at all spicy. The fries are thick, hand-cut from real Idaho potatoes, as they should be.
Service is efficient, dinerish, and friendly, though the staff is a little young to call anyone hon. Food is mostly set down in front of you as they are running past to the next table, which is just fine with me when they remember everything youve ordered.
Beyond the fishing gear, new owner Gary Torrey has not done much to alter the space. I could do without the jumble of retro, reproduction diner-themed tin artwork, which has the effect of making Moons feel less authentic, less storied, than it is. I do love the counter and the stools. If there is one artifact I most miss, its the giant board of milkshake flavors that towered over the entire room at the back of the bait shop. The new owner still offers all the old milkshakes ($4.75), but is using higher-end ingredients, including those house-made preserves. For the first time in a while, I trust that the spirit of Moons is alive and well.
Email Alex Kiesig: firstname.lastname@example.org