Third time means it’s tradition: one of Austin’s favorite bars Nickel City is embarking on its now-annual Halloween custom of dressing up as Moe’s Tavern from The Simpsons again this year, albeit with some changes due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The 1133 East 11th Street bar will offer themed drinks and food for dine-in and takeout services from Wednesday, October 28, through Sunday, November 1, from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. each day.
The Halloween pop-up is something that turned into “an Austin tradition from us to the city,” says bar manager Amanda Carto. Originally, the Nickel City team wasn’t sure if they’d transform into the cartoon bar after the first time in 2018, but after requests, they decided to do it again in 2019. This year, after the bar reopened for on-site services in June, people were already asking about the holiday pop-up. “I just kept thinking, ‘I have to go through with this,’” says Carto. “I can’t cancel the holidays.”
For this pop-up, “we’ve taken consideration that it can’t be a full-on holiday,” says Carto, so they designed “programming to accommodate a safe and socially distanced holiday season.” The pop-up will operate on a first-come, first-serve basis (no advanced reservations). To avoid crowds, the bar will manage the line as well as implement a host system so that people are able to put their names down for the next available table.
This also means Moe’s Tavern’s on-site services will comprise tableside and first-ever bar cart services (the latter inspired by the setup at downtown bar Midnight Cowboy). The Moe Bar Cart will be operated by a server who will presumably be decked out in an outfit resembling the cartoon bartender, who will concoct the fiery Flaming Moe cocktail in front of seated guests. The drink is made with a mix of rums, amaro Montenegro, and what is being described as “Krusty’s cherry Kough Syrup” (it is not actually cough syrup), all topped with a lime that is lit on fire.
Elsewhere, the Moe’s menu includes a larger-portioned version of the Flaming Moe called the Flaming Homer (in the Simpsons episode, Homer is the one who creates the cocktail; Moe steals the idea) in a fun vessel. There’s also the Itchy & Scratchy, which makes use of the bar’s signature Irish coffee topped with Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, and the Malk Punch, a bourbon cocktail paired with a Simpsons-decorated doughnut from local shop Andy K’s Donuts.
For takeout orders, since it’s nearly impossible to create a portable Flaming Moe, the bar concocted a frozen iteration. The Frozen Moe is made with the same ingredients, except, well, served chilled. Offering a frozen version made sense, since it was “easier to package up,” explains Carto, “and people don’t have to wait.” The frozen cocktail program has been doing well for Nickel City so far too; the “frozens have been really fun,” she says. Scope out the full menu below.
On-site food truck Delray Cafe will temporarily turn into the Krusty Burger, serving up a limited on-site and takeout menu as well. This includes Krusty Burgers (made with double-patties, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and a special sauce), and what’s being called Sideshow Bob’s Sides, ranging from Krusty Krinkle Fries to Duff-battered onion rings to Bob’s Cheezy Curds.
Likewise, Nickel City’s physical space will be decked out as Moe’s Tavern, from signage to menus to Duff skateboards, plus other other Simpsons-related paraphernalia. Hours for Nickel City as Moe’s Tavern are from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily. Takeout orders can be placed in person or online.
As part of its COVID-19 mitigation measures, the bar is currently operating between 25 to 30 percent indoor capacities (as opposed to the full 75 percent allowable by the state; Nickel is operating with a food permit so it was able to reopen as a restaurant essentially). so it can properly follow social distancing requirements within its small space. Currently, the bar is seating 12 indoor tables (including ones along the bar, which is separated with plexiglass shields), and five outdoor tables; the total area can fit 40 guests indoors and about 20 to 25 people on the patio. “While it is a compromise, I think it’s one that’s necessary,” says Carto, “and I think a lot of people appreciate it.”
“The staff feels fortunate that we have really understand guests,” Carto explains, referring to following mitigation rules. “I know that hasn’t been the case everywhere. That saddens me every time I hear stories from my friends in different neighborhoods and cities,” describing otherwise.
In late November, Nickel will also participate in the tiki spin-off of the nationwide holiday pop-up Sippin’ Santa. Carto tells Eater that she is using Halloween as a test trial to see how the service model for the holiday cocktail pop-up will work. Depending on how it shakes out, the bar might implement an OpenTable reservations system for the holiday pop-up if needed.
Never one to sit still, Nickel City is also participating in another Halloween pop-up this weekend, over at downtown restaurant Irene’s. The menu will focus on the bar’s popular drinks, from the frozen Irish coffee to the Fruity Pebbles Ramos. Irene’s chef Andrew Curren will offer a food menu inspired by Delray Cafe too, including smash burgers with a wagyu patty, Buffalo chicken wings, and tater tots with Irene’s chili. The bar will also sell special T-shirts and hats from Nickel/Irene’s, with partial proceeds benefiting food and beverage industry nonprofit Southern Smoke.
This Nickel City/Irene’s pop-up will run from Friday, October 30 through Saturday, October 31 from 5 p.m. to midnight found at the downtown bar’s outdoor bar and patio on 506 West Avenue. The drinks and food will only be available for on-site service, no takeout available.
Nickel also just recently opened a new location in Fort Worth this week too.
- All Coverage of Nickel City [EATX]