Friday, October 1, 2010

Moggers Restaurant and Pub

Moggers has been a Terre Haute tradition in a beery way for ... , well historical records get sketchy, you can make a case for 1855, and you can make a case for 1837, or 1848.  At any rate, Mogger's is an extremely long-standing local tradition, an old brewery that was 7th largest in the nation in 1893, shut down for prohibition, re-opened, shut down again in 1958, became a local brewpub in 1989, and is now just a pub.  These days Moggers is a classic American pub, a place to eat, drink beer, and on some occasions listen to live music.  Now you might be thinking, "American" - "Pub," isn't there a contradiction in there somewhere?  The more usual 20th century American eating/drinking establishment is the "Bar & Grill," which Terre Haute has several examples of, including my favorite 7th and Elm (which is in fact a Bar & Grille, with an "e").  Pub is short for "public house," often called a "local" or "regular" (even in the old US) a place where locals gathered to drink and socialize.  They were common in pre-industrial Britain, but also in the pre-industrial US.  As travel rates rose, some drinking establishments started catering to travelers, often in hotels or railway stations, or near them.  These started using long "bars" to serve alcohol from, to cope with the sudden rush of patronage when a train was about to arrive or depart, and these establishments became known as "bars" and tended to aim for an ambiance of upper-middle class modernity.  The "bar" format became so popular, that eventually even local drinking establishments not catering to travelers started having bars and calling themselves bars.  The British Isles are old enough to have plenty of drinking establishments from before the days of "bars" which still call themselves pubs, and (even though most have a bar) work to conjure the ambiance of long tradition, as well as the ambiance of cozy friendliness.  In the US, it is usually an affectation to older days or to UK ways to call a place a pub.  Sonka's Irish Pub and Cafe, another fine Terre Haute drinking establishment, is a "pub" not because it is old, but because it is trying to be Irish in style.  But, Mogger's isn't trying to be Irish, or Scottish or English.  It is trying to harken back to the days when Terre Haute was a center of brewing, of great beer, a time when everyday American's drank their beer with their friends and neighbors in a local establishment they called a pub (although Moggers too, does have a bar).

OK, enough history lesson, how is Mogger's today?  Well, its got good traditional pub food, and a selection of beers clearly aimed at beer-nerds.  Mogger's sells a dozen or so beers on tap, and probably over 100 more in bottles.  They almost certainly have a larger selection of beer than any liquor store in town.  If you're not already a beer-nerd, you can try a sampler flight of small doses of 5 different beers for a pretty reasonable amount, I've done that before.  Or just start working on whichever beers they have on tap that you haven't tried yet.  They have an MBA program ("Master of Beer Appreciation") for those who wish to increase their beer-education, and are pretty aggressive about training their staff on beers.  On my most recent trip to Mogger's I ordered an on-tap beer, but it was out, so I ordered something that was on "blow-out" sale, which was out, so I ordered a local beer, Clay Co. Coffee Stout, by the Bee Creek brewery in Brazil, IN.  It was nice, a bright, crisp stout, rather than a thick oatmealy stout, almost a porter really.  And then there is the food.  Mogger's food prices are a bit higher than some of their local competitors, but the quality is quite good.  They had a yummy mixed veggie side for Robyn (as in clearly put together competently rather than just re-heated out of a bag), and my french fries were much better than I expect for a restaurant, in line with good home-made fries.  We had a good Italian Beef, and Mogger's own variation on a Burger Melt, both fine.  When I last saw a band there, a guy at my table ordered the potato skins and got tons of well-made loaded potato skins.  Very much American pub standards rather than being particularly innovative, or achingly local, but high quality and well made.  Then there is the ambiance, which really needs to be divided into two sections, the inside and the outside.  The inside is a very old brewery redone as a pub.  Old but well-restored wood furniture.  The whole place emphasizes open space, old wood, and architectural eccentricities.  It might as well have a sign saying "a local tradition" as that is clearly the effect it is going for, but I like it, relaxed but dignified.  The patio is another story, open to the air, but fenced in, with some trees and trellising.  I've only ever been there when there was a band playing and the ambiance was very much, "let us bring you beers and munchies while you listen to this awesome band, oh and get up and dance if you want."  In fact, I'm still hoping for a guest review of a recent band gig at Mogger's patio that I didn't get to see (cough, cough), and another guest post from someone else involving the history of Terre Haute breweries (cough, cough).  Because of the weird legalities of Indiana, you can have kids present if it is outside.  I've never tried to bring my own, but when I've been on the patio there have been a few kids and they weren't intrusive, if anything they added to the vibe.

Every town with any kind of local spirit at all needs a good place for locals to eat, drink, and socialize, relax, and blow off steam, somewhere than can claim to be "a local tradition."  Many towns, especially college towns can claim several such places.  For Terre Haute, Moggers is clearly such a place, channelling the best of the spirit of our past, while living resolutely in the present.  Moggers is

Just one more reason I'm proud of Terre Haute

1 comment:

  1. We haven't been to Moggers in a while, but when we do go, we usually have good service and great food! A little pricey, especially if you want a steak.