- Julia Thiel
- The brewing equipment, with ghostly reflections from the dining-room chandeliers
University Village’s Moxee Restaurant has included Mad Mouse Brewery since it first opened last May—and the restaurant is named for Moxee City, Washington, the “hops capital of the world”—but until recently the house beers have been brewed in collaboration with Michigan’s Saugatuck Brewing up at the Saugatuck facility. In December, though, Mad Mouse finally got its license, and the shiny brewing equipment that sits behind large windows on one wall of the restaurant became more than just decoration. The first beer they’ve brewed onsite is Aunt Bootsy, a nice spicy rye IPA that tastes quite bitter at first but mellows out nicely as it warms up. I preferred it to the Schnickelfritz kolsch, a collaboration with Saugatuck that’s light and dry but slightly astringent. Both beers, while fairly unremarkable, pair well with food—which is important, since the restaurant’s food is remarkable. If you want a more interesting beer, there are several good options among the 20 on tap (plus several in cans and bottles, as well as a few cocktails).
The food is all-American fare like sandwiches and salads, with a focus on barbecue and Cajun/Creole dishes. It’s an extensive menu, which tends to be a bad sign, but nearly everything we ordered turned out to be excellent. Baby back ribs were tender but not mushy, nicely seasoned and smoky. They came with perfectly decent mac ‘n’ cheese and unbelievably flavorful polenta fries, crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. We asked the server what was in them and learned that besides the cornmeal it’s just basil, chives, butter, and chicken stock. The restaurant should probably warn vegetarians about the chicken stock, but I’d recommend the fries to anyone else.
A shrimp and grits appetizer was another favorite, an unusual version in which tender shrimp and bourbon-cured pork belly are bathed in garlic sauce and served atop a crispy white cheddar grit cake. Shrimp and crawfish etouffee, on the other hand, was done classically, and none the worse for it. The andouille sausage in the blackened chicken and andouille hash was house-made and nicely spicy, though the potatoes could have been a little crispier.
The single disappointment was dessert: chocolate bourbon pecan pie served with vanilla ice cream. The filling wasn’t bad, but the crust, half an inch thick in places, was oddly spongy and chewy, more like dry, dense cake than a pie crust. Our server noticed the virtually untouched crust when she cleared the plate and told us that the chefs had been having trouble with the crust for that pie; with any luck they’ll have worked out the kinks by now. If you want to be safe, though, just order a cocktail for dessert.
Moxee Restaurant and Mad Mouse Brewing, 724 W. Maxwell, 312-243-3660, moxeerestaurant.com