FOOD- THE DISH- Moon light: Old diner gets new shine
As almost everyone knows by now, the iconic Blue Moon Diner on West Main Street is reopening. But when? And what about the building's new look?
Recently, Dish popped in to talk with husband and wife team Laura Galgano and Rice Hall, who'll be in charge of the restaurant operation, while founding partners Mark Hahn and Rob Gustafson focus more on the Moon's catering business.
Galgano previously sold wine for Simon N Cellars, while Hall used to work at the C&O. And both put in some time at Bizou. When the Moon closed in August 2004, the two were living in Madison, Wisconsin, but after discussing the idea of re-opening with Hahn and Gustafson, they decided to come back and give it a shot.
When Dish arrived, Hall was cooking some bacon to "season the grill," and Galgano was organizing the renovation efforts. According to the duo, the new Moon should be open by November 8 at the earliest and mid-November at the latest.
The biggest change, says Galgano, is the outside. "When we ripped the siding off," she says, "we found a wonderful old building."
Indeed, the decoratively painted brickwork is a vast improvement over the dingy old siding. In addition, local filmmaker and metal worker Johnny St. Ours has attached an elaborate steel counter to the front of the building that Rice and Galgano say they plan to make the focal point of a sidewalk dining area.
They've also moved the main entrance to the side, so customers can enter through the non-smoking area. "But, don't worry," says Hall. "We're still going to have the smoky, dingy diner area, although it won't really be dingy anymore."
Inside, they've replaced the 80-year old "quirky" wiring and added new stools, chairs, and cushioned booths. But they say they plan to keep the old look of the Moon, complete with the familiar objets.
"I've never been a part of something that's created such a buzz," admits Galgano, sipping on her Blue Moon Blend, a coffee that Doug Escalera, who runs Escalera Coffee out of the IX Building, roasted up especially for the new Moon.
Court Square in exile
After the Court Square Tavern caught fire in March, owner Bill Curtis had hoped to reopen in July, in time for the Tavern's 30th anniversary. That didn't happen, and Dish readers have been eager to know when the unpretentious hometown landmark would re-issue its famous shepherd's pie, grilled Ruben, and exceptional beer list.
Well, according to long-time Tavern manager Debbie Weissler, who also manages Tastings for Curtis, the Tavern should be up and running in another four weeks.
"We're just waiting for new equipment and carpeting," says Weissler. "And there's still more carpentry and painting to do."
Weissler says the old electrical system that caused the fire when a spark jumped from an aging power cord on a beer cooler, has been updated, and they're also putting in– believe it or not– new lighting! As anyone who frequented the pre-fire Tavern knows, its odd florescent lighting was a signature feature.
"It's going to be a little cozier," says Weissler.
Weissler also reveals a little-known secret since the fire.
"People kept stopping us up and down the street to ask when we were going to re-open," says Weissler. "So we've been doing a Court Square Tavern's ‘menu in exile' down at Tastings for our regulars."
Blue Moon Diner managers Laura Galgano and Rice Hall, sipping here on the Moon's own special coffee blend, say the diner should be open by mid-November.
PHOTO BY DAVE MCNAIR