Server Chad Fisher displays some of the MoonShine Tavern’s latest offerings. Inspired by moonshiner culture, the Boston St. restaurant offers Southern cooking and craft whisky. Diehards can keep their own Mason jar at the bar. Photo by Danielle Sweeney
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Theme bars tend to be known for their liquor and not their food.
And you would think that the stereotype would only be reinforced by a theme bar inspired by a reality-TV show called “Moonshiners.”
But the MoonShine Tavern, which opened at 2300 Boston St. in Canton about a month ago, bucks the trend.
If you can get past its “hooch- in-the-holler” vibe, the self-described “dive bar with upscale food” has, well, some pretty decent Southern-inspired food.
Shanna Cooper, who co-owns the bar with Jacob Millisock, says yes, the Discovery Channel show “Moonshiners”— for those who are not fans, a docudrama about modern-day bootleggers in the Appalachia region–inspired the theme and moonshine-shack-influenced décor.
“Moonshine is whimsical, and whisky drinking is huge in Baltimore,” Cooper says.
The bar pays more tribute to the independent spirit and individualism of the moonshiners than the still-in-the sticks and hillbilly antics associated with the word.
“We’re not over the top. Moonshine is a theme that can appeal to diners of all age groups,” says Cooper.
MoonShine Tavern features at least 20 ever-changing varieties of its namesake liquor—probably more kinds of corn whisky than anyplace else in the city—from the highly quaffable 40-proof Ole Smokey brand Apple Pie, to the undeniably potent 176-proof un-aged oat whisky from Park City, Utah. Customers can even buy mason jars of booze, kept on a shelf for in-house consumption.
For those of who prefer their hooch diluted, moonshine is the base in many of the bars craft cocktails.
MoonShine’s chef John Navarria, former executive sous chef at Kettle Hill, has a broad culinary background, including French and Creole cooking.
The tavern delivers surprisingly well-priced and beautifully presented southern-inspired food. Take Jason’s Catfish Po’ Boy with hand cut fries ($11) or a Bordeaux burger: nine ounces of Roseda dry-aged ground beef with Old Bay slaw and tomato served on a brioche roll ($12). There’s a decidedly fine-dining rendition of “Chicken” and Waffles—savory date bread pudding-stuffed quail or chicken breast, two “cherviled” Belgian waffles, blackberry coulis, black pepper, white gravy, and maple syrup, for $16.
The French influences are most evident on MoonShine’s current brunch menu: pain perdu, a French toast ($11) made with almondine croissant, tangerine custard, ricotta mousse, and whipped cream, or a sassafras andouille gumbo topped with a fried frog leg. Moonshine’s menu is full of such surprises.
The menu changes often, and Navarria offers weekly and seasonal specials. MoonShine had a crawdad boil for Mardi Gras.
The tavern, which seats about 200 on two floors, is open from 4 p.m to 2 a.m. Mon.- Fri., and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sat. and Sun. It offers dinner, a late-night menu, and brunch on the weekend.
Cooper says she hopes to offer live acoustic blues within the next several months, drinking membership clubs, sidewalk seating, and eventually a balcony—so patrons can sip their cocktails by the light of the moon.
Hopefully, they won’t be howling too much.
by Danielle Sweeney