In doing some research for Gross' Burgers in Danville, IL (see my entry on Gross' Burgers here), I found out about another place in the Danville area that is high on the list of many of the locals for having a good burger, the Moon-Glo. On a trip by Danville this past fall, I stopped in at the Moon-Glo to try one of their burgers.
The Moon-Glo is one of those old time supper clubs that you found on the outskirts of Midwestern towns in the 50's and 60's. They feature cook-you-own steaks on the weekends, but they're famous around Danville for their big Moonburgers.
Getting off Interstate 74 just after getting into Illinois from Indiana, I took a series of backroads south and east of Danville before I pulled up to the Moon-Glo at the corner of Perrysville Road and Markley Road complete with their distinctive blue crescent moon on top of the place. (see map) It looked exactly like an old time supper club should - stone-base exterior, awnings over the windows and a big stone fireplace on the side of the building.
Inside the Moon-Glo, you'll find a bar to the left, some open grills (for the cook-your-own steaks) on the right and a number of tables with chairs in an L-shaped dining room. A handful of men were situated around the dining area when I got in. No one was seated at the bar, so I took a seat there. There was a menu sitting on the bar, so I picked it up and took a quick glance at it. Even though I was there for one of their burgers, I saw they had other sandwiches and appetizers through the day. I understand their deep fried pickles are pretty good at the Moon-Glo.
The server behind the bar came over to greet me. She was also working as a server in the dining area, running back and forth with another younger girl between the kitchen and dining room. She asked me what I wanted and I told her that I'd take a Moon-cheeseburger with a beer. She asked if I wanted everything on it and I asked what everything was. She said, "Lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, mustard, ketchup. You know, pretty much everything." After I told her I'd go with that she cheerfully replied, "Comin' right up!"
The kitchen at the Moon-Glo isn't all that large and there was a man back there helping out with the noon time orders. It turned out the guy was the owner, Phil Adams. A group of men came in and almost as soon as they sat down Phil Adams delivered a tray of burgers to the table and sat down to talk with them while they had lunch. It turned out they had phoned in their orders before they got there - something that I found probably comes in handy.
The Moonburgers are pretty big - at least 3/4's of a pound, maybe larger - and it takes a little while for them to cook. Also, the grill is only so big and if they have a lot of orders for lunch - which the Moon-Glo did that day for both to-go and eat-in - then the orders get stacked up. It took about 20 minutes for my burger to show up. My server sat it in front of me, wrapped in wax paper. When I opened it up, juice from the burger was already on the sheet.
The burger was huge. It featured a thick and fluffy bun crown with an ample amount of green lettuce leaves on the bottom. Thick slices of fresh onions and and a tomato formed the bed for the burger. Pickles, ketchup and mustard were on the top. It was so big I had to cut the burger in half. The meat was cooked through, but the burger was still pretty juicy.
The first bite I had of a Moon-Glo burger was - well, have you ever taken the first bite of something you've never had before and gone "Mmmmmm...."? That was exactly what happened with me. The taste of the burger was outstanding. I mean, it was just excellent. Even though it was cooked medium to medium-well, it still had a lot of juiciness to the taste of the burger. It had that flat-grilled taste to it where the grill has probably been seasoned from thousands of burgers cooked on it over the years, but it was hand-pattied and not spatula pressed to draw out some of the moisture in the meat. It suddenly became one of my all-time favorite burgers, it was that good.
I'm glad I didn't get any fries or fried pickles to go along with the burger. It was a full meal in itself. I ate the last bit of the burger even though I was fairly full after finishing half. The bun was a wonderful complement to the burger, once again backing up my opinion that the key to a great burger is the bun.
After finishing up and paying at the bar, I got up to take a look around at some of the items they had on the walls around the dining room and to take some pictures. It appeared that Phil Adams is a big Indiana Hoosiers basketball fan and continues to revere former coach Bobby Knight as there were pictures of Knight on the wall along with other Indiana basketball paraphernalia. In taking pictures of the place, Phil Adams interrupted his round-table discussion with the men seated there and asked me where I was from. I told him I was from the Quad Cities. He asked if I was traveling through and I said that I was. "Shwew," he said in mock relief. "I thought with you takin' all those pictures that you were from the health department or a tax man!"
I asked Phil how long he'd owned the place and he said, "My daddy bought it in 1962 and I took over for him about 20 years later. We had everyone in our family workin' in here at one time or another."
One of the guys at the table asked him how long the place had been opened before his dad bought the place. Phil said, "I think it's been around since the 40's. The original owner, a guy by the name of Willett, was the guy my dad bought the place from."
Phil explained that this Willett guy was sort of a notorious person in and around the Danville area. "First of all, he was Dick Van Dyke's father-in-law. (The actor Dick Van Dyke grew up in Danville and married Marjorie Willett in 1948. They raised four children before divorcing in the early 80's.) But this Willett also spent time in prison for killing a guy. When he got out, he couldn't own a bar because he couldn't get a liquor license because he was a convicted felon. So, he put everything into the name of the gal he was livin' with. So, technically, my dad bought the place from her. But he was the guy runnin' the place and callin' the shots."
I sort of quizzically looked at him and stammered out, "Uh, no..."
"Before you leave, you've got to go in there and look at our urinal. Urinals.com called out urinal a Top Ten urinal. You can look it up! Go ahead, take a look at the urinal!" He seemed so proud of the urinal that I had to go in and take a look at it.
It was basically an old Kohler wash-down urinal with about three pounds of crushed ice in the bottom. I guess I didn't see what was so special about the urinal, even wondering how it could be a Top Ten urinal. After I got home, I was wondering if what Phil Adams was telling me was B.S., so I looked up Urinals.com. It turns out that there is actually a site - Urinal.net - that showcases urinals of all sizes and styles from all over the world. (Ya gotta love the Internet!) They did have a Top Ten list of urinals, but the one at the Moon-Glo was not on the list. That's not saying that it may have been at some point, but it wasn't on the Top Ten list when I looked it up. But digging a little deeper on the website, sure enough, there was an entry on the urinal at the Moon-Glo. (Click here if you want to see it.) Phil Adams was telling me the he got the idea of putting crushed ice in the bottom of a urinal from some place out in Las Vegas - I believe it was at the TPC Las Vegas golf course, if I remember what he was telling me - a number of years ago. "Since then, I put ice in the urinal three to five times a day," he told me. I had to chuckle as Phil was certainly proud of that urinal.
The urinal aside, I have to say- barring two or three other burgers tasting better - that the Moon-Glo burger will easily make my Top Ten Burger List when I update it later this year. The taste of the burger was outstanding and, if you go, make sure that you bring an appetite. It was a huge burger and very filling. But I found myself unable to stop eating as it was so good. Phil Adams is a true character and while the Moon-Glo is showing some age, it's a fun place to go. I may have to try the deep fried pickles at some point in the future.