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Soft Opening for the Holidays at MoonShine on Main

With good food and an extensive wine list, MoonShine works to get the kinks out before the New Year.

After months of construction and anticipation, opened two days before Thanskgiving in the old Restaurant MC space on Main Street and is already attracting regulars.

Downstairs on Friday night, the bar was hopping while a band set up. Paintings of animals hang on the walls, and near the bar, a group of yellow-green chairs makes for a chic, cozy sitting area when the band wasn't there. Upstairs, the walls and ceiings were painted black, and couples and groups were settling in for dinner and drinks.

My husband and I left the kids at home and went for wine and appetizers. The food was good. My excellent frissee salad ($11) came with bacon, blue cheese, and a perfectly cooked poached egg. My husband ordered the Caesar salad ($7) and the truffled gnocchi and meatballs ($14); the salad was nothing special but the gnocchi was wonderful. My friend Terri, who was there with a group of friends, recommended the paprika spice shrimp. Our waitress was friendly and knowledgable, and our drinks came quickly. 

Not everything was perfect: The front door sticks and the waiter brought us bread and hummus both before and after our meal. When I tried to make a reservation, I kept getting sent to voicemail and had to book a time via Open Table. One woman, who went there with her teenagers, was not happy when one of her kids ordered filet mignon for $32, asked for mashed potatoes instead of the French fries that come with it, and was charged an extra $8. "They said they don't do substituions, but this is a high-end restaurant," the woman said. "The restaurant was not full. The prices are comparable to Roots (in Summit) and at Roots, they would have done the substitution."

Joe San Phillip, the director of operations who also owns the Brass Rail in Hoboken, said that he doesn't want Moonshine to be pegged as a high-end restaurant. "The no-substitiution policy sounds like a server error," he said. "That's not something we would upcharge."

He acknowledges that he and owner Victor Delapa are still working out the kinks. "We had to reorder the branzino three different times the first week and the chef underestimated the demand, to say the least. We're trying to refine all our systems and maybe tweak the menu."

In addition to dinner, MoonShine also offers brunch on Saturdays and Sundays: The prix meal is $17 for two courses, with a $10 surcharge for unlimited mimosas and Bloody Marys. "It's well below other places that do brunch in the area," says San Philip.

Elissa Caterfino Mandel, a partner in Collegiate Prep, a local college advising business, was there one afternoon for lunch with her father. She had been there for dinner with her husband and planned to return Saturday night for her son's birthday. Her father had the hamburger and fries and she had the quinoa burger. "I liked it a lot," Caterfino Mandel said. "They had a very cool wine list and the menu was interesting. I missed it when MC went out, and it's great to have a place again where you can go and sit outside."

San Philip and Delapa are happy to hear that. "We've put together exactly what we wanted," says San Philip. "So far the town has been very receptive to us and people know that we're still new and going to get better and grow."

Marley December 11, 2011 at 01:35 PM
My husband and I have been to Moonshine several times since they've opened, and brought friends back to try it. Everyone has been more than satisfied. The food is delicious and the service was good, friendly and knowledgeable- the decor is very city chic. We've tried some of the wines-delicious and the signature cocktails we tried were different and very enjoyable. We have met both owners on separate occasions, who seem like they aim to please. This was a much needed addition to Millburn. We have become "regulars."
Marty Wilson December 11, 2011 at 05:46 PM
Laura - not sure if you do the headline, but "Opening Soft..." suggests that they are having a weak opening, whereas "Soft Opening...' suggests they are not having their official opening. I'm guessing you meant the latter, not the former based on the tenor of the article...
Ruthi Byrne December 14, 2011 at 06:29 PM
Nice to see a new place open in town and let's hope it does well!
Victor Delapa December 14, 2011 at 08:54 PM
Hi -- Victor from MoonShine here -- thanks for the good story; we appreciate your interest. We are working hard on correcting mistakes and are really glad people are starting to feel like regulars. Please say hello next time you're in!

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