Moe's Crosstown: A local watering hole with widespread appeal

Moe's Crosstown Tavern is at 714 Rutledge Ave. in downtown Charleston.

Grace Beahm

A local watering hole with widespread appeal

Esquire magazine voted Moe's Crosstown as one of the "50 Best Bars in America." When it shut down operations for nearly a year to refresh and renovate, its fans set up the Facebook page "We Want Moe's Crosstown Back."

And in November, they did get it back.

Moe's Crosstown was fastidiously refurbished to look almost exactly as it was. It reopened with its funky patchwork of kitsch, neon "Moe's" in red light and "wallpapered" in signage of America's favorite brews.

The bathrooms received a much-needed paint job, and the new flooring provides safe support for the many neighborhood patrons who call Moe's their watering hole home.

A visit on a weekend evening found most of the crowd calling out to each other

by name.

Families and friends, couples and singles, black and white, young and old were shoulder to shoulder, three deep at the bar. Most, if not all, are nursing a beer, from a transparent PBR to a cloudy Blue Moon wheat beer and opaque imported porters and stouts.

You will find 12 beers on tap and an assortment of bottled beers as well as wine and a full bar.

A Polish flag honors the heritage of owner Mike Tronoski, and the menu tips its hat with Papa T's pierogies ($7.50) and a snappy kielbasy ($7.95) sandwich loaded with sauerkraut, braised onions and peppers and spicy Polish mustard to gild this old-school sausage.

The menu is divided into the basic four groups of bar food: wings, burgers, fries and beer. Moe's ups the ante with better cooking than most beer-centric establishments.

Its chicken wings (12 for $7.95; 18 for $11.75 and 24 for $15.95 and half-price during happy hour) are among the best in town. They are meaty and moist, not dehydrated by frying, dipped in sauce and finished with a dusting of a salt-and-pepper spice blend. The "hot" is not incendiary, and the blue cheese trumps the Ranch dressing. Save the celery stick for the Bloody Marys.

Buffalo strips ($6.75) were the fan favorite at the time of our visit: all meat, little mess.

Vegetarians may enjoy panko-crusted fried squash and zucchini ($5.50) or house-made black bean dip with pita points ($5.50) as well as the Polish dumplings plump with potato and cheese ($7.50).

A vegetable-based quesadilla ($7.95) and toothsome portobellos ($7.50) make for a great vegetable "steak" sandwich with peppers, onions and mozzarella on a hoagie roll.

Moe's does justice to the burger. Eight-ounce patties of ground Angus chuck ($6.95-$8.25) are char-grilled and served on toasted buns with lettuce and tomato. Have it your way for 50 cents a topping and choose from seven cheeses, two sauces, five vegetables and bacon. Add a fried egg or fried tomato for $1 each. Grilled chicken ($7.25) can be had burger-style.

All burgers are served with your choice of hand-cut fries, house-made potato chips or pasta salad. The latter made with rainbow fusilli pasta tasted like macaroni salad with red onions, chopped green olives and a bit of grated cheese.

An extensive sandwich menu ($7.25-$8.95) as well as wraps ($7.50-$8.25) keeps the cooking uncomplicated for the staff. The sound of a horn alerts the servers the order is up, and the staff at Moe's runs interference for each other and jockey for tables for the crowd that begins to form later in the evening.

The house salad is made with a mesclun mix of greens ($5.25), and like the Caesar ($5.25) can be topped with blackened chicken, grilled shrimp or grilled steak for an additional charge.

Soups change each day, and chili by the cup ($3.25) or bowl ($4.50) keeps it simple.

Stop by Wednesdays, when the Charleston Crepe Company is in the house 6-9 p.m.

Homemade ice cream ($4.25) and the dessert of the day, a bacon-banana fritter with caramel sauce, provide a benevolent salve for those who care for sweets. But when it comes to Moe's, stick to bar basics and you won't be disappointed.

For the Wagener Terrace neighborhood and beyond, Moe's Crosstown Tavern makes it easy to buy local and be a local, too.