Honey Moon Spirit Lounge Dazzles with Its Drinks, Dishes & Design
Tucked away on 34th Street, the cozy restaurant is full of wonderful surprises
Sometimes the most surprising things are right under your nose. Or in my case, right next door. Honey Moon Spirit Lounge, which opened in April, is just down the block from our TRIBEZA offices. But, it never crossed my radar until my work colleagues urged me to check it out. And once I did, I wondered how I’d overlooked our stylish neighbor for so long.
Perhaps because looks can be deceiving. From afar, Honey Moon appears to be just another cozy midtown restaurant. Located in a renovated Craftsman bungalow, it seems all rough-hewn wood and rustic charm. But get a little closer, and preconceptions fade. The outdoor space is dazzling with a covered front deck illuminated by crystal chandeliers and flickering votive candles, their light bouncing off suspended vintage mirrors. Sleek marble tables are paired with woven French bistro chairs, instantly transporting you from Austin to a Parisian café.
The side yard is ensconced in manicured landscaping and carpeted in lush green ‘grass,’ lined with intimate cocktail tables shaded by striped beach umbrellas, reminiscent of nautical French marinière shirts and evoking the French Riviera. The cozy backyard is more casual, with a pea gravel floor, funky neon art, rattan wicker chairs, fringed scarlet umbrellas and a private dining area surrounded by walls of twinkle lights.
And then you step inside. Keep your cameras handy, folks, ’cause it’s an Instagram dream. The place is a kaleidoscope of design. The theme is whimsical French vintage: there’s a pressed-tin ceiling; brocade wallpaper; jewel-toned lighting in hot pink, amber and neon green; antique lamps and chandeliers; red velvet banquettes; fading framed portraits and objet d’art. But the pièce de résistance is the gorgeous custom-made, 20th century inspired bar that entices you to pull up a stool and sip on a cocktail.
As its name — and centerpiece bar — implies, Honey Moon Spirit Lounge gives booze the spotlight. Its outstanding bar program is a nod to classic libations, emphasizing fresh juices and bespoke ingredients. Popular choices include the Old School Old Fashioned made with Old Forester bourbon, coffee-orange bitters, demerara sugar and a hint of smoke.There’s also the Spicy Margarita with Cimarron tequila, dry curaçao, lime, agave and herbed salt. A refreshing rift on a Moscow Mule, the Cheeks of a Bride cocktail mixes Rittenhouse rye whiskey, Tubi 60 citrus liqueur, pomegranate, lemon and ginger beer in a frosty highball glass.
There’s also a terrific wine list with options from around the globe, including a ruby red sparkling French rosé and perfectly balanced Italian Barbera d’Alba. The beer list includes mostly local beers on tap plus a variety of cans and bottles from Minnesota, Wisconsin, France, Austria and the Texas Hill Country.
Executive Chef Manuel Rocha (previously of Hopfields, Academia and Bonhomie) offers an eclectic selection of elevated comfort food and modern American shared plates. For starters, there are nibbles like chicken liver mousse with toasted sourdough, fresh raw oysters and elegant pimento cheese made with brie and gruyere. The crab rice is another favorite shared plate, featuring Charleston Gold rice, Pontchartrain blue crab, fried egg and Chinese XO sauce.
Fried in decadent duck fat, the chicken thigh is terrific. It’s crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside and can be ordered “regular” or “Seoul hot” with a sweet and spicy kick. Be sure to order a side of heavenly homemade biscuits to accompany it, which come with the yummy but unnecessary beetroot butter and sorghum syrup.
There’s a messy Texas Wagyu Smashburger dripping with raclette cheese and chive dijonnaise, served on a sweet brioche bun. The thin and crispy pomme frites are a great complement. For a more sophisticated entrée, there’s rabbit confit served with maitake mushrooms, carrots and sunchoke puree in a lemon herb consommé, drizzled with Espelette pepper oil.
For dessert, the popular Valrhona Chocolate Bar was sold out the night I was there, so I opted for the Bourbon Peach Tarte Tatin, crowned with streusel topping, toasted macadamia nuts and a scoop of creamy homemade cardamom ice cream.
Honey Moon owners Adrienne Wiggins and Reed Calhoun were inspired to open their restaurant after their wedding and honeymoon were postponed last year due to COVID. Perhaps I’m the last to know, but what a delightful surprise to discover something so special, so close by.