Over the course of about eight months I watched almost every episode of the ’90s television series Northern Exposure. I was obsessed. That might explain why I recently felt so at home in a booth at The Blind Moose.
Though it has a different feel than the Brick, the popular restaurant and bar on the show, The Blind Moose does have a stuffed moose head on the wall. Add to that the overall lodge-y ambiance and ’90s music and I half-expected to run into Dr. Fleischman and the gang.
But like I said, it doesn’t look like the Brick. The walls are painted nightclub blue and assorted artifacts on them suggest mountain life. The design can only be described as “random chic.” There’s no extreme miscellany like you’d find at York Street Café or Bucca di Beppo, just an orderly sense of randomness. Of particular note are the light fixtures at each booth. Galvanized beer pails with small holes in the pattern of a moose head illuminate your table. A full bar is tucked into the corner and there are lots of TVs.
The Homemade Cheese Stix ($5.99) sounded interesting: a piece of provolone wrapped in a wonton and fried. They were pretty awesome. They were more like cheese-filled spring rolls; a big hunk of provolone wrapped in a crispy wonton, served with marinara. I don’t know why I never thought to make something like this. Maybe I’ll try it out at my next dinner party.
The other appetizers sounded pretty typical: Wings, tenders and fries, onion rings, potato skins and chili fries complete the lineup. If I went back, I might try the Moose Breath Chili or the Beer Cheese Soup, both served in bread bowls.
The rest of the menu is simple. Choose from half a Rotisserie Chicken, four “Famous Stuffed Burgers,” two “Real Sandwiches”(BBQ Brisket or Grilled Chicken) and two Wraps (Fried Chicken or Buffalo Chicken). My girlfriend Casey settled on the Blackened Bleu & A Little Cajun ($7.99) after expressing her discomfort with saying that out loud. But she apparently liked it because it was gone before I knew it. I had a bite of it and it wasn’t bad. They have to use a lot of beef in those things in order to make a pocket in the center to stuff full of cheese and such. Hence, a big juicy burger is achieved every time.
I was leaning toward the Blackened Bleu, but I decided to ask the opinion of our server instead. He replied immediately, “the Texas.” If he felt that strongly about it, I had to order it. The Texas Cheddar Bacon & BBQ ($7.99) is another stuffed burger. As the name implies, this one was topped with melted cheddar cheese and a little bacon and barbeque sauce (along with the usual lettuce, tomato and onion). I couldn’t tell what it was supposed to be stuffed with, other than maybe bacon pieces. I wasn’t that impressed with the burgers, but the fries were great — fresh and flavorful and maybe just a touch on the soft side. The other burger options are the All American, stuffed with American cheese, or the Buffalo Sauce burger, stuffed with — you guessed it — buffalo sauce.
I have a theory about service in casual dining establishments. It goes like this: The fewer the number of parties seated in a restaurant, the slower or more inconsistent the service will be. The rationale for this phenomenon is that if the restaurant is busy, all the employees are theoretically working very quickly and are “in the zone.” When a server only has one table he has time to think about a lot of other things: side work, sex, drugs, Rock & Roll, etc.
Our service wasn’t slow, but my theory might account for why our server didn’t offer us dessert. Not that I would’ve wanted to try a delicious frozen chocolate Mile High Moose Pie with Hershey’s syrup or Apple Pie with caramel syrup (both $3.99).
The Blind Moose’s drink menu boasts that their draft beer is kept just above the freezing point and is served in a frosty Mason jar to ensure utmost coldness. My bottle of Sam Adams seemed normal, but I have sensitive teeth so it was probably for the best. What I’d worry about, though, is one of their “Top Secret” drinks, the Cosmoose. It’s a cranberry and vodka chemistry-lab concoction that emits a frosty cold fog. Check out the demonstration on their Facebook page. The Moose’s other specialty drinks are the Moosetini, the Moosegarita and the Moosejito.
If I lived in the area I’d stop by often to try something new, but given the cross-county drive involved I’d rather rent Northern Exposure DVDs and drink at home in a parka.
THE BLIND MOOSE
Go: 37 East U.S. Route 22&3, Maineville
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday- Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday- Saturday
Entrée Prices: $6.99-$8.99 Payment: Major credit cards
Red Meat Alternatives: Salads, soups, chicken