Like most of the brightly signed, fading old restaurants in Chicago, Moon's Sandwich Shop in the Near West Side is the kind of place I deeply, desperately want to be good. But as anyone who had their heart broken and stomach unsettled after a poorly chosen meal at a lesser hot dog stand can attest, more often than not these little old places buckle under the weight of their own garish appeal.
But scratch the foregoing if the place is known for something—a house specialty, or the like. Armed with that knowledge, one marches steel-eyed and stonied past menu duds, confident in a meal whose end will be triumphant. But sometimes that's too easy, and curiosity gets the better of you. Take Moon's as a not so coincidental example. Their corned beef is by now legendary, but how would some of the lesser known menu choices hold up? There's only one way to find out.
Let's start by cheating, though, with a dish only slightly lesser known. Some diners call this dish Garbage, but here it's known as the Jumpball ($8.95). Basically, it's eggs, potatoes, sausage, and cheese, all stirred together on a griddle until cooked through and plopped, unadorned, on a plate. This is a dish you either love or don't. Me, I'm thinking of runny egg yolks the whole time I'm eating this. But give my friend a steaming plateful and a bottle of ketchup, and he's a happy camper.
Served with one yolk already punctured, the Moon's Breakfast ($7.75) started off on the wrong foot. Worse, said eggs weren't salted and the bacon was chewy and swimming in its own grease. For shame.
But once the included steaming stack of Pancakes came in sight, all wrongs were right. Plated with two pats of butter because one really is never enough, these were fluffy and tall and rate with some of the best I've had in recent memory (even with a recent trip to Walker Brothers in Wilmette under my belt).
With its thick swipe of mayo, crunchy iceberg and juicy tomato, the Fried Salami Sandwich with Egg & Cheese ($4.95) had a little BLT thing going on. That's fine with me; the salami itself was surprisingly mild, and I could imagine that one of these would feel pretty good after a particularly hard night out on the town.
With its rotating daily specials and a bevy of breakfast and lunch sandwiches, I barely scratched the surface of the range of options at Moon's. The Monday/Wednesday/Friday Roast Beef on a Hard Roll sounds promising, but next time I think I'm going to play it safe and stick with Corned Beef on Rye. With a side of pancakes.