A trip to the Moon | VailDaily.com

A trip to the Moon

Wren Wertin

The West Vail restaurant and bar starts serving breakfast at 8 a.m., and the kitchen doesn’t close until after midnight. The menu reflects the Hurley family’s tastes – from a creamy elk stew to zippy chicken enchiladas, they’re a family of foodies.

“The menu has Mexican specialities with numerous influences from America and around the world,” said Patrick Hurley, kitchen manager and partial owner.

He gives a whole new meaning to fusion food, marrying Asian and Mexican flavors without any qualms. They’ve got finger foods – good for drinkers – as well as more elegant dishes – good for diners.

“I think anybody is comfortable here,” said Justin Hurley, owner. “Between the restaurant and the bar and the video games and pool tables in the back, there’s a place for everyone.”

They Hurley brothers share the same favorite appetizer: the tuna carpaccio ($9.50). Pan seared rare with a sesame crust, the large squares of yellowfin tuna come with a pungent and crispy Asian slaw. It’s not exactly bar food.

For more serious appetites, the shrimp Bajas ($7.95) are cigar-shaped packets of flavor. Sauteed shrimp and scallions are mixed with Southwestern cream cheese, rolled into an egg roll wrapper and deep fried. The finger food, oozing cheese, is good on its own or dunked in the chipotle tomatillo sauce. The asiago, spinach and artichoke dip ($7.95) is a top-seller. Good for large parties, the dip is chunky with ingredients and served hot with fresh-fried flour tortilla chips.

Between the two brothers, they’ve won five or six medals locally for their red and green chiles. The pork green ($3.95) kicks proverbial butt. With enough spice to make it downright sassy, the thick stew is served in a deep-fried wheat tortilla bowl. Like a piecrust, the merest layer of tortilla absorbs some of the chile’s flavor, and adds a crunch to the experience. Served with sweet cornbread, it’s easily the deal of the menu.

“I think we cater to everybody,” said Patrick. “We do really well with the locals because we’re priced fairly, and we make sure everything comes out of the kitchen great.”

The Hurley brothers come by their love of food naturally. Growing up, Sundays were spent first in church and then in the kitchen, preparing for the enormous weekly dinner. Justin and Patrick had to peel mountains of vegetables to accompany the roast beef or lamb, and then wash dishes for the rest of the afternoon.

“My brothers and I still get together for dinner,” said Justin, who is one of seven.

It’s a little easier now, with a kitchen staff to help. Both Justin and Patrick are long-time locals, and have worked with some of the same employees for 15 years.

“I think we’ve always done pretty well with our employees,” said Patrick. “And they teach me stuff, too.”

The chicken enchiladas ($11.95) are made in traditional style, and are a study of contrasting flavors. Green chiles, chicken stock, onions, peppers, jalapenos, lemon and garlic are reduced to a paste. They add chunks of succulent chicken, and wrap the whole shebang in blue corn tortillas, topping them with generous amounts of poblano pepper cream sauce and cheese. The result is both tangy and creamy.

Lighter eaters can go for grilled tuna steak ($19.95) with rice and vegies or grilled salmon ($14.95) over a bed of greens with a cilantro sauce and roasted red pepper risotto. They’re known for prime rib ($13.95) cooked to order, as well as Philly cheese steak ($8.95).

For anyone with enough room for dessert, try the chocolate mousse ($5.95). Deceptively light for a creamy dessert, the merest hint of Grand Marnier cuts the chocolate. Its flavor pleasantly lingers after it’s been gobbled up.

The Half Moon Saloon has 10 beers on tap, and about 20 more in the bottle. For those brave enough to drink a pink concoction, the prickly pear margarita is a fine choice. Daily, they serve breakfast from 8 a.m.-1 p.m., lunch from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., dinner from 5-10 p.m. and a late-night menu from 10 p.m.-12:30 a.m. For more information, call the Moon at 476-4314.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at wrenw@vaildaily.com or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.

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