There’s not much Logan Square is short on when it comes to restaurants and bars: the neighborhood is packed with them, offering almost anything you could want. But while there are plenty of places to get a good burger, there hasn’t been a restaurant specializing in them since Parts and Labor closed last December. (And don’t tell me about Kuma’s; that’s in Avondale) Sports bars are also few and far between, which has never broken my heart, to be honest, but it’s a gap that needed filling. The Scofflaw Group’s latest venture, the Moonlighter—a surprisingly pleasant sports bar with an array of burgers—fills both roles handily.
The bar is essentially a neighborhood joint, more casual than the group’s other ventures (Slippery Slope, Heavy Feather, and Scofflaw). Come summer the 200-seat patio will be a major draw, but in the meantime, the inside of the bar is a cozy place to spend a snowy evening, thanks to a fireplace surrounded by bench seating. Flat-screen TVs are plentiful but were mercifully muted during my visit, and warm wood dominates the room.
The menu is devoted to classic bar food, for once without a twist: mozzarella sticks, buffalo wings, loaded fries. The nachos are individually topped rather than served in a messy pile, but that’s about as fancy as things get (and the toppings are classics like cheese, black beans, pickled jalapeño, guacamole, salsa, and sour cream). Even at nearly a dollar apiece—it’s $10 for a dozen—I’d order them again. The same goes for a deep-fried beef taco with iceberg lettuce, American cheese, and taco sauce. It’s the kind of thing you’d find at Taco Bell, made for absorbing alcohol late at night, and it tastes better than it has any right to. The pale waffle fries, on the other hand, were underfried, and a cold corn salad inspired by elotes tasted mostly like mayo (the latter is no longer on the menu, and the waffle fries have been replaced by hand-cut fries).
Burgers are the main event, though, and they’re solid: six options, all with griddled double patties, except the vegan Portland burger, which is a single Beyond Burger patty. None of the toppings get too crazy, but the one to order when you just want a burger—not a concoction with goat cheese or kimchi or whatever’s trendy at the moment—is the Moonlighter. The bun containing the “mustard-griddled” patties with American cheese, iceberg lettuce, tomato, pickle, grilled onion, and special sauce is likely to disintegrate at some point, but it’s a satisfying messiness. Slightly tidier is the Amarillo, a smoky, hearty burger topped with cheddar, bacon, frizzled onion, and barbecue sauce.
Like the rest of the offerings, cocktails are simple and satisfying; most consist of no more than four or five recognizable ingredients. We enjoyed the refreshing Sundowner (Jamaican rum, lime, ginger, allspice, angostura bitters) and fruity, slightly nutty Boombox Foxtrot (bourbon, oloroso sherry, Peychaud’s Aperitivo, raspberry, and lemon). The only misfire was the Surprise Horizon: a base of Peychaud’s bitters with coconut milk, falernum, and lime that looks exactly like Pepto Bismol and tastes like an emo piña colada. (It’s no longer on the menu.) A few cocktails are available by the pitcher, and there’s a couple nonalcoholic options as well as a brief wine list. The extensive draft beer list is heavy on sours and low-ABV options—mostly from midwestern craft breweries, but you can also get a can of High Life.
It’s easy to compare the Moonlighter to other places in the neighborhood: it’s a little like Park & Field without the vintage flair, or Parson’s with burgers instead of fried chicken. I think of it, though, as the rare sports bar that I’m actually looking forward to visiting again.