Moonstruck in Iowa City

BY CONOR MCBRIEN | JULY 17, 2014 5:00 AM

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Moonrakers Gastropub, 126 E. Washington St., is a small, friendly looking restaurant and bar tucked above One Twenty Six. The place has a slight, almost unnoticeable James Bond theme to it.

Of course, the name comes from the Roger Moore-era Bond film. The house drinks are all named after James Bond villains, such as Blofeld, Jaws, and Galore; none named after Goldfinger or Oddjob yet, though.

The booths are in the back, behind the bar, but the most popular seats seemed to be the tables by the windows, facing Washington Street. The larger dining parties of five or six filled the tables and enjoyed the view as they ate.

Some solo diners opted to sit at the bar and enjoy several kinds of draft beers, wines, cocktails, or specialty drinks. They weren’t just there for the drinks, though; Moonrakers serves high-quality food, as a gastro pub, by definition, should. The price range is affordable and allows diners to have a financially comfortable once-a-month meal, but the menu also features a few pricier specialty entrées, such as the Natural Tenderloin or Smoked Tomato Risotto, for celebrations or just to take care of that cash burning a hole in your pocket.

During my visit, I tried one of the burgers, the Guadalajuaran. The burgers are on the cheaper side of the menu and can be a nice, quick meal if you happen to work downtown and just want to stop in for a short lunch. There’s also a Veggie Guadalajaran and a veggie version of the gastro pub’s namesake burger, the Moonraker.

Like all of the burgers, the all-natural, veggie-fed and hormone-free burger comes on a bun baked fresh in-house. The Guadalajaran seems to be on the spicier end, featuring pepper jack cheese and pickled jalapenos alongside guacamole, lettuce, tomato, red onions, pickles, and ketchup. Don’t let that scare you off, though; there’s no real kick to it. Granted, I’m a sucker for anything spicy, be it mild or unsafe for human consumption. So I might just be resistant to it. Regardless, if you’re not fond of spicy food don’t let that turn you away.

Speaking of fondness, I know some are not too big on guacamole, even with tortilla chips. I assure you, the addition of it isn’t a problem with the Guadalajaran. You’ll barely notice it.

Still not sold on the chips and guacamole? Don’t worry — Moonrakers has other side options, ranging from the $1.50 potato chips to the $5 specialty salads.

The burger I had was a $9.69 half-pound patty. (It can also be ordered as one-third-pound patty for $6.99.) It was absolutely delightful. It was served medium rare, and with such a juicy tenderness to the meat that I was reminded of the magnificent, maternal meatloaves of my childhood. It has a lovely texture and taste to it that will stay on your tongue for hours unless you wash it down with a drink or two.

If I’m waxing poetic over here about a burger, then I feel the rest of the menu must be something truly magical and not of this Earth.

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