I’m still thirsty three days later. Bacon-wrapped olives were my undoing. They were fine snacks for encouraging cocktails – which they do very well at The Moonroom – or just guzzling water, which is replenished often by a busy, friendly staff. But man, they were salty. Though anyone who orders bacon-wrapped olives should expect as much.
Considering The Moonroom has no kitchen (snacks/tapas/pintxos/small plates are prepared in the bar space during the day) food isn’t the real draw. You come because it is a peach of a place, a little lounge with a homespun feel, filled in with the clutter of a rode-hard bar that serves many – every night of the week – in an impossibly tiny space. Sometimes I return to a space that hasn’t changed and wish that it would. Renovate or modernize… evolve in some way. The Moonroom feels to me pretty perfect as-is.
Anchored by a polished concrete bar, the long narrow room is filled in with pine tables and rounded café counters, barnboard and mirrors, and has a ceiling lit moodily with strung filament bulbs and tubes of LEDs shaded by shear billows of white fabric that subtly, slowly ooze colour all night long. I walked into a pink-lit room to the opening strains of “Rock Lobster.” I paid the bill about 11 pm just as the room was filling up. Bob Dylan ushered me out.
Now in its ninth year and still owned by lounge-maker and sommelier Tracy Turnbull, there’s an easy-going sophistication about The Moonroom that attracts an all-ages crowd. From past visits years ago, I knew that food was prepared at its former sister lounge, Trio, in Westboro. Turnbull no longer owns Trio, and so food prep happens during the day at the bar. “We have a popcorn maker, a panini press and a sort of industrial Easy Bake oven,” says our server. They also have a blow torch – to crisp up things like those bacon-wrapped olives, plus a smoker and a summer garden in the backyard. Still, they manage to plate some tasty stuff.
If you’re feeling too weary to make a decision, order the daily pintxos – something will show up on a crostini, balanced on the rim of a glass. One night it was a thimble of Ashton Brewing Company’s Harvest Brown to match a tasty black bean mash spooned on a toastie and topped with torched smoked cheddar. You could also opt for the ‘Artisanal Board,’ a surprise platter. On mine were slices of smoked cheddar, wedges of a fine tasting cornbread with a side of smoked scallion butter, and a delightful smoked beef tenderloin salad given a chimichurri treatment, then threaded with crunchy pickled shallots. It filled me up for 15 bucks. The grilled cheese comes on a board with red wine roasted carrots, pea shoots, house pickles, and a sticky ginger beer reduction for moistening the sandwich. I could have used some of that green and pickled relief on the plate called Earth, Fin, and Fire – a fingerling potato salad with pickled red onion (earth) moistened with a seedy mustard mayo, with smoked (fire) Arctic char (fin), all of which improved once the chill from the fridge lessened.
Sugary spiced nuts were all the dessert needed, though they do offer some cakes.
The Moonroom is open daily from 5 pm to 2am. Small plates/snacks are $1 (for a stuffed date) to $15 (for the sharing board), 442 Preston Street, 613-231-2525