Decemburger: Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill

First came 50 Burgers, 50 Days. Then Novemburger. 2011 wraps up with a burger a day for Decemburger.
Day 15: Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill
303 Red River St. 236-9599,
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday for brunch. 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday for dinner.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 12.15.11
I call Moonshine’s special brand of service “successful indifference.” I sat through a watery MGMT song and a Grateful Dead ramble before anybody acknowledged me on the patio, this after the hostess might as well have shrugged when I walked up. I had to do all the talking. At least this time I actually got seated. One time when I was looking for a taste of that vodka lemonade Moonshine is famous for, a waitress told the hostess not to seat me in her section, right there in front of me. Nobody came at all that time. No lemonade, no free bucket of spicy redneck popcorn. I walked out thirsty and perplexed.
I prefer Moonshine at brunch, when your service experience is the first-come, first-served dance of getting a seat in the first pace. The rest is just you and the buffet tables of King Ranch casserole and cinnamon rolls and more kinds of scrambled eggs than there are herbs and vegetables in the garden.
But this time I got my Moonshine Hard Lemonade ($7.50), a pint glass with suspensions of fresh mint and lemon wedges, with the sweet-sour pucker of Paula’s Texas Lemon liqueur and the soul-less back-bite of vodka that will make you dream of the things gin could do in this glass. It made me think of a Twitter post by Austin bar star Josh Loving: “Bartenders work with whisky, rum, gin because they choose to — vodka because they have to.”
The burger: If it seems like a lark to hit up the cosmopolitan version of a Southern grill for something as pedestrian as a burger, consider Moonshine’s connections. Founders Chuck Smith and Larry Perdido are half of the team behind Hopdoddy, the South Congress burger bar that came out of nowhere in 2010 to crack the Top 5 best in town. Moonshine’s burger ($10.95 with fries) is a classic lettuce-tomato-onion model that starts with a half-pound of good beef scored on the grill. It was cooked a full shade past the medium-rare I ordered, but stayed fully rich and marbled without soaking through a soft and dense toasted white bun. The choice of cheese is yours, and the provolone absorbed the flavors around it, in particular a spicy mayonnaise. Spend 95 cents to add three slices of bacon by turns as crisp and elastic as decent pancetta.
Fries or rings? Seasoned steak-fry wedges come standard, in a gallery of sizes that suggests hand-cutting, delicate even under a shell of salt and black pepper, with melt-away skins and the range of textures only a wedge fry can deliver. For $3.50, get a taste of Moonshine South with a dish of smooth elbow macaroni swimming in a loose swirl of pimiento cheese with a broiled scatter of breadcrumbs.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
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