Dining on the River: Moon Lake Marina
ARTICLE BY NILS BORQUIST PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARTIN G MEYERS
On especially warm summer evenings, when the sun slides behind darkened cypress trees leaving burnt orange and burnished red smears across the purple canvas of the sky, one of the more pleasant pursuits that may be undertaken joins lounging atop the rolling swells of a lake or bayou while sipping a chilled beverage and eating grilled delights. While the majority of people in the region may not reside within such a pastoral setting, they all certainly live near places offering the opportunity to enjoy ideal Louisiana nights. Moon Lake Marina, located at 231 Moon Lake Road, must be included among the most enticing locations to experience delicious food, hearty company and a picturesque environment.
When wishing to avoid the dreary monotony of fast food options, people can choose to journey down the winding road to the Moon Lake Marina. Just getting to the eatery provides travelers with an appetizer of the nature to come. If lucky, the drive will include observing deer bounding through the woods, the outstretched wings of an owl or hawk brushing just past the windshield or turtles perched on a blackened log extending from the dark water. Few restaurants intertwine the beauty of the landscape with delicious food. Upon arrival, visitors can follow the enchanting smells of the grill down the concrete steps and across the floating walkway into the inviting environ of this unique eatery.
The primary reason to visit Moon Lake Marina is undoubtedly the food. With a collection of juicy hamburgers, crunchy and salty French fries and numerous dishes incorporating pulled pork or “pig” as simply stated on the menu, people can find a tasty meal to devour by themselves or to share with a famished group of friends. The difficult choice for many, or not so difficult for most, is deciding whether to add blazing chili, melted cheese, crispy bacon, tender shredded pork, or all of the above to any dish. The availability of Frito pies, mini corn dogs and gooey cheese sticks provides children young and old with savory indulgences. After a long day at work or at play, the entire menu consists of comfort foods sure to relieve any and all hunger. However, the daily list of choices is not the only option, as on Tuesday nights at Moon Lake, owner Joe Neitz gives people the chance to indulge in what is considered by many one of the premier dining experiences in the region.
Steadily gaining in popularity, even flatly labelled the best steak in town by the MLM faithful, the Tuesday night steaks undoubtedly satisfy those cravings for a robust and flavorful ribeye. After one trip to the marina to investigate the claim that they serve the tastiest steak on the lake, guests will return time and again to realize that each Tuesday special outdoes the last. Adding in icy beers or sodas completes the circle of gastronomic glee. An ever-growing crowd certainly attests to the satisfaction provided by feasting on sizzling perfection. In fact, those planning to attend a Moon Lake steak night should consider wearing special footwear that can stand up to water. When the dining room fills to overflowing capacity, and it often does, the weight of the visitors causes the entire restaurant to sink slightly below water level, and that is before they have dinner. There’s no need to worry, though; Moon Lake Marina has been serving customers since 1981, so the location is built to last.
Complementing the fare, the setting, both inside and out, could not be more fitting. The eatery resides above the water where people may feel the waves lapping the floor beneath their feet. On an attached surrounding dock that conjures and image of a wraparaound porch, visitors can dine or converse while seated on stools made from refashioned barrels, while waves lap just a mere few feet away. Or if the mood strikes, splash around while awaiting their orders. Oftentimes, guests find the urge to kick off their shoes and dive into the refreshing lake irresistible, which is fine by the staff. Simply swim around between sipping on a cool can of Flying Tiger or before consuming a filling meal. Boats and jet skis glide around the lake, and a not uncommon sight over the course of the evening involves several skippers mooring their crafts alongside the restaurant to quench their thirst or satiate a grumbling belly.
The natural wildlife may be viewed as well, with turtles poking their heads above the water before diving down with urgency, fish breaching the surface in clouds of white foam and flittering away with a flourish of their tails and birds of many feathers zigzagging from branches to disappear in the horizon. Cypress and pine trees abound, creating a natural boundary between the insulated leisure of the marina and the bustle of the city. A clear view of the sky also allows access to the warmth of the sun as well as a perfect vision of drifting clouds and the encroaching darkness as light fades to night.
Inside, the décor reinforces the relaxation vibe. Oversized picnic tables fill the main dining room, where overhead rafters abound with timeworn water skis adorned with photos of beaming guests singing, dancing and eating in past years. Skis not only linger overhead, providing support for the multicolored lights that weave throughout, but also serve as backing for the bar seating, which amply stretches across the entirety of the space. A stage rises in one corner that is used for local bands on some nights and karaoke on others. On the steak nights, live bands can be found supplying diners with music to eat and dance to. From open to close, the aroma and sounds of a blazing grill cause mouths to water in anticipation. Completing the ambiance when no live band is playing is the stream of classic rock that lightly encircles guests along with intermingling sounds of the talking and laughter of other people relishing a fun late afternoon or evening gathering. The sensory overload invites fun times and fond memories.
The people there to share the time also must be considered an integral piece of the experience. Children rush by, bounding on bare feet, wishing to swim in the warm water or even burn some of their youthful energy by playing with one of the several hula hoops made available by the marina staff. The staff themselves offer attentive service, acting as servers by quickly gathering orders, preparing and cooking the meals and keeping bar patrons joyful by perpetually having a full drink within arm’s reach. Owner Joe Neitz even stays involved by mingling with guests and working the room. The workers are kept on their toes, but they maintain smiles throughout, along with a willingness to make every customer’s time at the restaurant a treat. The guests, whether friends relaxing at the bar or families congregating for an open-air feast, all seemingly appreciate the warm company the restaurant invites. Even pets are welcome. Kids and dogs alike leap from the dock to the water, all enjoying the company of the next. Whether floating on a raft or reclining on a deck chair, people of all ages will be found engaged with the pleasantries of the outdoors. Merriment and hugs prove contagious for all who enter; the best of luck for anyone who spends any length of time at the marina to leave in a sour mood. It is simply impossible.
Making the trek, either by car, by bike or by boat, to the Moon Lake Marina will result in a wonderful evening. All of the elements, from the rustic setting to the jubilant people to the fulfilling meals, combine to form an overall pleasant time. No matter the state in which guests arrive, they will surely leave contented. The surrounding nature of sky and water, the fellowship and the nourishment demand bliss of participants; fortunately, there is a place where all of these primitive needs are met and satisfied with an unparalleled Southern touch.