It May Be Called "Moonshine," But The Brunch Is Totally Legit

There is a magical land filled with sun and alcoholic beverages and easy living. A place with ready-made campsites where all you have to do is pay an exorbitant rental fee, build your fire and spend the rest of your life riding bikes, listening to alt-country and checking out new bars. This place is called Austin, and if you are not careful, you will end up there forever, blissfully involved with some pseudo-greenie hipster who will teach you to separate your trash and suggest your beautiful, tanned children attend the Unitarian day school down the street. Bumper stickers will be a thing. You will forget what it is like to cry at anything besides a well-played Waylon cover.

Clearly I don't have to warn you that you shouldn't spend too much time in this place lest you become entangled in this web of happiness and booze, which is why I only allow myself a trip to Austin every few weeks to visit my Best Lady Susan, with whom I went to graduate school in the aforementioned magical land and who is presently reading books and drinking beer all summer long before she gets "Dr." put in front of her name. Sunday, as a reward for our hard weekend of floating the river and eating breakfast tacos, we brunched at Downtown's upscale-Southern restaurant Moonshine, home to one of the finest brunch buffets in all the world. Consider today's Brunch Drunk Love a Very Special Austin Episode.

Simply thinking of the food -- everything from waffles and bread pudding to pasta salad and grits -- is enough to make that awful drive down Interstate 35 seem tolerable, even pleasant. Sadly, contemplating Moonshine's Bloody Mary does little more than inspire fantasies of a trip to the liquor store for some cheap vodka and Zing Zang. One wins some, one loses some, at Moonshine. But let's talk about the good times first, shall we? Won't you join me after the jump? Because we have some ham to discuss.

Moonshine's sugary, sliced ham is a deceptive dish. Carved into bite-sized pieces, the ham will seem to say to you at the buffet, "You should get a lot of me, for I am extremely small!" And then you walk back to your seat and realize you have got enough ham on your plate to fill a pair of vintage cowboy boots. But you will eat all the ham, nonetheless, because it oh-so-tender and flavorful and the highlight of the buffet.

Whatever your food-oriented brunch poison, Moonshine has it and more on the way. We sampled "green eggs" with basil and cherry tomatoes, King Ranch casserole, migas, Belgian waffles and fresh fruit with drizzly-yogurt. Deviled eggs? Ate 'em.Cheese and salmon spreads on tiny bagels? Several, happily.

But delicious as the all-you-can-eat buffet is (and at $15 per stomach, not too bad a deal), the spectre of a woefully inadequate Bloody Mary hung over our meal. Patrons expect to wait 30 minutes or an hour for a brunch table at Moonshine, and they like to spend that wait time with a little hair of the ole' dog. Alas, most people we saw upon entry were carrying around mimosas, and I thought, "Oh no." Because mimosas are naturally less delicious than Bloody Marys, it worries me to see large groups of people choose them over a 'Mary. But in this case, I don't particularly blame my fellow Moonshiners.

Firstly, the 'Marys are short, served in piddly little cocktail glasses. Secondly, they are not rimmed with salty anything and thirdly, they come only with a lime and olive garnish. Still, a decent mix could make up for these things. Moonshine's does not. It lacks spice, and while I sensed a hint of green olive twang in its depths, my drink was largely watery, making a small drink seem even smaller.

Moonshine's certainly worth a stop if you're tired of heading to Trudy's or Tamale House for your Austin hangover mornings, but I'd hold off on the booze until after the meal -- Rio Rita is just on the other side of the highway, and its 'Marys are well worth the trip under the bridge.

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Andrea Grimes
Contact: Andrea Grimes