Why you should go: It's your best bet for good bar food and a cool jukebox on the near west side.
Blue Moon - a dream in your heart, a love of your own?
Schmock: The original dreamers were the Arians, who built it and named it for themselves in 1936. They lived upstairs, in what's now our balcony. Later it went through a couple of seedier incarnations. When we bought it in '94 it was the Trophy Tap. My family's owned Smoky's since the '50s, but this was a first venture on our own for my brother and me. Now we also co-own the State Bar and Grill, and Larry's got other ventures under his name.
Mrs. Arian came in one time after we'd been here awhile. We were talking about the mirror over the bar. It's the original. We named the place after it, and it inspired our logo. Turns out Mrs. Arian always wanted to call it Arian's Blue Moon.
We've got Blue Moon beer, too. It's a Weiss with a hint of coriander and orange. It's actually distributed by Coors. We've got 10 beers on tap altogether, and most of them are local.
Tell about your famous chili and burgers.
Reeve: They're my own inventions. Lots of chilis don't have tomato, but I make mine a little saucy and accommodate it so it's not too hot, not too mild, just right in the middle. I got the expertise on the burger down pat. It's about a good grind of meat and getting the proper sear on it. I put my imagination to work on the combinations. The Blue Moon burger with blue cheese and fresh chopped garlic has a little zing. The Pile Driver's a monster, with fried onion, ham and three cheeses. The Spanish Burger's got pico de gallo with pepper jack cheese and black olives. It's simple stuff, but it works good for us.
What's up with the special Friday menu?
Reeve: It's good, that's what's special about it. The clam chowder and bouillabaisse recipes came from chefs I used to work with years ago at Madison's old Hoffman House and the Quality Inn dining room, but I tinkered and tweaked to make them the way I wanted them. The salmon's a great plate. The fish is seasoned lightly with lemon and herbs. I do a light poach on it and serve it with dill sauce, mashed potatoes, coleslaw and a roll. I also do a salmon sandwich plate with fries.
Got a "once in a Blue Moon" story?
Schmock: It's pretty much just a working-class neighborhood place with a diverse mix. I can't think of any wild stories, except one afternoon two or three years ago when the bar was packed, a terrific storm hit and knocked the power line down. Look, you can still see where the live wire melted on the sidewalk. The fire trucks came, and the captain says nobody comes or goes. We had a captive audience for a few hours. People were jammed up in the front windows watching that cable pop and burn.
Reeve: But somebody jumped over it to get their cheeseburger!