Many bars have special drink and food menus timed for the NFL football playoffs, but the Half Moon Bar & Grill also has fun and creative foods to celebrate occasions as diverse as Mardi Gras, Columbus Day and even the Kentucky Derby.
"We like to have fun around here," owner Steve Weimer said inside the bar at 714 South Lewis Blvd. "I think that's reflected in our food and spirits."
A former account manager for a software company, Weimer said he was looking for a change of pace from a career that required constant travel.
"I got tired of spending all of my time in hotel rooms and airports in strange cities," he explained. "I needed to be with my family."
For Weimer, that meant moving back to Sioux City.
Getting back to his roots
"I had lived in Chicago for nearly 10 years," the Sioux City native said, "but I knew it was time to come home."
Along with his wife Amy, Weimer purchased a property that had a lot of history with many longtime Sioux Cityans.
For much of the 20th century, a small body of water known as Half Moon Lake was on the north end of what is now Pulaski Little League Park.
The crescent-shaped lake, filled with bullheads and crawdads in the summertime, was filled in by the city by the early 1970s in order to make room for the ball park.
Reviving a piece of Sioux City's history
To the north of the lake was the original Half Moon Inn, which was known as an inexpensive place where Stockyards workers could eat and drink. Eventually, the Half Moon Inn became the Crosstown Tap, a neighborhood joint noted for its fried chicken, gizzards and spaghetti.
Though the property had changed hands many times over the years, some things never changed. That included the cheesy wallpaper on the wall by the bar.
"Yeah, we still have the scantily clad ladies on the wall," Weimer said. "My dad and I cleaned and refurbished everything else but I think the wallpaper allows us to pay tribute to the bar's colorful past."
Since the "new" Half Moon opened its doors in November 2013, Weimer said a day doesn't go by when a patron will relay a story from a bygone era.
"Plenty of guys apparently met their future wives in this place," he said. "I've heard that story passed down by children, grandchildren, you name it."
Still, Weimer said he didn't want his bar to rest on its former glories. Instead, he thought the Half Moon had a bright future.
Creating the modern 'neighborhood bar'
During his corporate days, Weimer would frequently take prospective clients out to dinner at small, neighborhood pubs.
"I didn't like chain restaurants and always felt small, locally owned places had the best food," he said. "A neighborhood bar had a friendlier vibe and I wanted to recreate that at Half Moon Inn."
To create that aesthetic, Weimer adorned the walls with vintage LP record covers from his own collection.
In addition, several big-screen TVs hang by the bar.
"We didn't want the Half Moon to be a 'music' bar, even though we book acts on occasion," Amy Weimer explained. "But we didn't want to be known as strictly a sports bar either."
"Instead, we wanted to create a bar where everyone would feel at home," she added.
That's why Weimer and Scott Wilkens (of Little Chicago Deli) began working on a menu that incorporated new variations on old comfort foods.
Deconstructed comfort foods
"We wanted to create the kinds of food you can't get any place else in Sioux City," Weimer said. "And we wanted to make as much food from scratch as we can."
For instance, Weimer and Wilkens created a dish called "Dublin Nachos" -- corned beef, sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing and cheese served over waffle fries.
"It's the taste of a classic Reuben, only it's served over nachos," Weimer explained. "It's a plate you can share with friends and it's delicious."
In addition, Half Moon serves chicken wings using a variety of different coatings and dipping sauces with a variety of different ingredients.
"All of our sauces are hand-made every day," Weimer said. "That's important to us."
Of equal importance is Half Moon's large selection of whiskeys and craft beers.
"We wanted Half Moon to feel like a neighborhood bar," Weimer maintained, "but we wanted to give it a twist."
A party every night
After all, not many neighborhood bars will serve you crayfish for Mardi Gras, German spaetzle on Oktoberfest, real Chicago hot dogs during baseball season, and Kentucky Hot Browns (an open-faced sandwich served with sliced meats) come Kentucky Derby time.
"Hey, what can I say," Weimer asked with a shrug. "We like food around here."
Plus the people at Half Moon also like football. In fact, tailgaters have been known to populate its parking lot before the bar even opens.
"We have plenty of regulars who come out every Sunday," Weimer explained.
And what foods do they order? Plenty of specialty burgers that are made with fresh ingredients plus plenty of shareable appetizers.
Reflecting on his bar on a recent weekday afternoon, Weimer said he's happy to bring "big city tastes" to a uniquely Sioux City bar.
"The old Half Moon Inn brings back a lot of memories to Sioux Cityans," he said. "It will be nice to see new memories made at the new Half Moon."