Like the cycles of the moon, it's not surprising to see a transformation of a restaurant throughout time. After more than 20 years in business, the Blue Moon Café (formerly Blue Moon Bakery) has transitioned to its next phase.
Tim Todd, manager of Blue Moon, gave me a brief glimpse into its history, explaining that the previous owners opened and operated Blue Moon Bakery for many years. They sold it to Alan Fusco (no relation to Michael) and Todd almost six years ago.
"We still have a lot of the same items on the menu but just stepped it up a bit," Todd said.
He also said they have a steady number of clientele who have been coming to Blue Moon for years, and while some of their favorite sandwiches are no longer on the menu, they'll still make them for loyal, long-time customers who ask for them.
Blue Moon Café moved a few blocks north on Peoria and now commands a bolder presence on Brookside. With a larger kitchen and dining rooms, Todd said they are able to prepare more menu items and have begun serving dinner Thursday through Saturday.
It was not dinner that drew me to Blue Moon Café but, rather, the first meal of the day, breakfast.
Orders are taken at the register, and it took a minute or two to sort through the menu. I eventually ordered Huevos Rancheros ($6.95), a bowl of Steel Cut Oatmeal ($4.75) and a cup of coffee ($1.95). As a small extra, I ordered a slice of Coconut Cream Pie ($3.25) and a bran muffin ($1.75) to go.
I selected a seat along the back wall that gave me a view of the entire dining area. Jazz was quietly playing throughout Blue Moon, which added to the pleasant experience.
The décor is simple: Chairs that featured a deep rose fabric sat at wooden tables, while retro and novelty salt and pepper shakers topped the tables. Local artwork displayed for sale along a large side wall, and one wall was glass from ceiling to floor and overlooked the outside dining area.
As my breakfast was being prepared, I reviewed the breakfast menu again and found a variety of items. The selections can be as simple as the Blue Plate Spesh ($6.27), which is a traditional meal of two eggs, choice of meat, potatoes and toast. The menu also featured some Mexican meals--not only Huevos Rancheros but also Migas ($6.95), a Breakfast Wrap ($5.25) and Egg Quesadilla ($7.50).
Migas is a rustic plate of two scrambled eggs mixed with pieces of corn tortillas and then topped with rancheros sauce and cheddar cheese. The Breakfast Wrap is a whole wheat tortilla filled with red cabbage, green chilis, tomato, scrambled egg, pepper jack cheese and salsa. Turkey, ham, bacon or sausage, black beans and avocado might be added for an additional cost. The egg quesadilla consists of a whole wheat tortilla and is topped with two scrambled eggs, bacon, green onion, tomato, pepper jack cheese and salsa.
One menu item that caught my eye was "the Cecil" ($7.95), which Todd said was named after one of their regular customers who is a personal trainer.
This breakfast is a healthy dose of steel cut oatmeal with a side of sliced bananas, a cup of granola and a cup of Joe.
One item Todd said he is happy to serve--yet not found on the menu--is biscuits and gravy.
My breakfast arrived with an inviting presentation. Two over easy eggs were resting on soft corn tortillas (lightly fried) with melted cheddar cheese, and then topped with rancheros sauce and more cheddar. It was also served with home fried potatoes.
This was delicious and very flavorful. I particularly enjoyed the light and crispy edges of the tortilla, which held up well for support under the weight of each bite of egg. The puréed salsa was heated slightly and very mild.
Todd said this sauce was a collaborative effort between himself and Alan that had been tinkered with throughout the past few years. The sauce was thick and rich in flavor and had embedded spices that joined together perfectly with none overpowering the other. The potatoes were very thinly sliced and gently fried, with crispy golden edges.
The oatmeal was rich, coarse-cut and wholesome. "Steel-cut" oats are whole grain groats--the inner portion of the oat kernel--that have been cut into only two or three pieces by steel rather than being rolled and flattened. This hearty bowl of oats was served with raisins, brown sugar, butter and milk with an accompanying slice of toast.
Later in the day, the coconut cream and muffin were a nice snack. The pie's crust was flaky and supported the creamy filling, rich with vanilla flavor and dotted throughout with flaked coconut. Toasted coconut topped the whipped cream topping. The muffin was average with a mellow taste of granola and a little on the dry side.
Todd said, besides some of the recipes carried over from Blue Moon Bakery, "We have added a lot of new items, such as the veggie burrito. It's an 'improv thing' with some of the recipes. Some are Alan's family recipes." Lunch items include a number of sandwiches, all $8.25 or less and salads and quiche.
Todd said dinners include some of the same items on the lunch menu but will also incorporate daily specials. Some of the specials Todd and Fusco have created are fish tacos, pizza, vegetarian dishes and good ol' comfort food. Todd said they have alcohol on the menu now and are proud to support the local folk, offering Marshall's Beer on tap.
Todd and Fusco are looking to get out of the kitchen more to mingle with customers, but with Todd as the main cook and Alan helping, it's a hard situation. They recently hired a cook from Palace Café, which they hope will help them mingle more in the dining room. One aspect that continues at this new location, Todd said, is the family-like atmosphere among the staff. He said it's like "our home away from home."
"The food will keep people coming back. We make everything here--it's all freshly prepared. We are trying to keep it like we did before, maintaining our clientele established the past 20 years. We want that same vibe as before."
Blue Moon Café
3512 S. Peoria
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