Two guys ordered Manhattans at a trendy Eastside bar not that long ago. When the drinks and a $28 tab were plunked down in front of them, they shook their heads and remembered exactly why they got into the bar business themselves – and it wasn't to sling $14 cocktails. Josh Bumb and Richard Veregge, who came up in the bar biz together down in San Marcos, want little to do with a cutting-edge cocktail program or hacked-to-order ice cubes. Their vision is people – a lot of people – enjoying a cold beer, a good burger, and live music in a beautiful, rustic setting. They wanted to build a place for people to have an uncomplicated, good time.
Such was the genesis for Moontower Saloon: a sprawling chunk of tree-covered acreage way, way down on Manchaca Road. Just south of Slaughter Lane, it offers a terrific mix of farmyard casual and funky modern with lush greenery, clean lines, and stark metalwork. Bumb and Veregge built it all themselves: literally. The "beat-up old ranch house" (as Bumb describes it) sitting on the three acres they originally bought has been renovated with new walls and sections of ceiling, light fixtures that are modern remakes from what was likely old gas tanks, and weathered wooden beams that became the outdoor bar. Still, it doesn't have a patchwork, slapdash feel at all; it was built with precision and care. "There's nothing we didn't build. Except some of the stools and POS system," Bumb says with a chuckle. "Richard did all the welding, plumbing, electric, woodwork, and landscaping. We really learned as we went."
And while some places that really do feel like bars try to appeal to the family set with playscapes and kids' menus, Moontower is strictly 21 and up, which keeps the clientele comfortable to drink and focus on the fun at hand. "We have a great, real Austin clientele."
They built their own food trailer with a full kitchen on a flatbed truck. It now puts out simple bar fare while a shiny Airstream is currently being remodeled to serve pizza by the slice. The Pick Your Poison Bake Shop trailer doles out fancy, grown-up cupcakes.
Bumb and Veregge recently purchased an additional seven-plus acres behind the bar to ease parking issues. Their future plans include the addition of a full-fledged old-school dance hall, and they're hoping to partner with a big-name local musician for this next stage. The hospitality entrepreneurs have their eyes firmly focused on their growing future in South Austin, and it's the absolute flip side to the swirl of handlebar mustaches and handmade bitters Downtown. "It's the same debate we had about paving the parking lot or leaving the gravel. Yeah, your car wouldn't get dusty and it would be easier to walk in those high heels," says Bumb. "But this isn't that kind of place. Moontower's about pulling on your boots and just having a good time." Sounds like a Broken Spoke for a whole new generation.
Copyright © 2016 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.