The Moxie mixes things up on Adams StreetWritten by Joel Sensenig | Managing Editor | email@example.com
It’s not easy blending art into its audience. Just ask Aggie Alt.
She and her husband, Jamie DeKay, recently opened The Moxie art house pub at 1205 Adams St. The establishment is equal parts art gallery, performance space, restaurant and bar.
The Moxie, which opened in January, is 25 years in the making. Alt, a performance artist herself, hoped to open such a business back then, but fell ill, moved away and operated other businesses instead, including a pizzeria and dinner theater. Through the years, she never lost her vision for The Moxie, a venue for a wide range of artists to display their work, as well as a comfortable place to enjoy the arts with food and beverage.
“It’s definitely a niche,” she said during an interview in the middle room of the establishment, located in an 1852 building next to Wesley’s Bar & Grill. “We’re finding repeatedly what an odd duck we are. Because we’ve got really good food, but we’re not a restaurant. We have, obviously, the bar, but I don’t necessarily want to be known as a bar. We are really an arts center that happens to have food and liquor.”
Work from local artists hangs up on The Moxie’s walls, all for sale. In its first couple of weeks in business, the business has hosted live theater performances, poetry readings, a blues open mic session and a comedy night.
“I really want to use this as a place where artists can not only mingle and hone their art, but that they can get exposure, make some money and find a home,” Alt said. “And then I also want to kind of blur that line between audience and performer. I want people who love the arts to not be intimidated by it, to feel that they can come in jeans and engage with the artist, whatever kind of art that is.”
Helping set the mood in The Moxie is its eclectic mix of furniture and décor: An old couch sits parallel to a vintage arcade-style bowling game Alt picked up at a garage sale. The game works perfectly and is available for patrons to use, free of charge. Her favorite piece is an old jukebox she purchased for $163 through an online auction. Among its album selections are Bob Seger’s “Live Bullet,” Bruce Springsteen’s “18 Tracks” and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ “Greatest Hits.”
“Other than some kitchen equipment, there’s nothing new in here,” she said proudly.
Alt, who has a background in nonprofit organizations, would eventually like to establish a program at The Moxie to teach art to inner-city children. Students from the nearby Toledo School for the Arts developed the establishment’s logo, and she hopes to be able to give back to those students by allowing them to show their work there.
“I think there’s a lot of talent out there who are 15-year-old kids,” she said. “How often do they get to perform somewhere? I think that’s important.”
Although The Moxie may not be your typical restaurant, that doesn’t mean its kitchen can’t hold its own in making the location a dining destination.
Chef Jeff Albright has concocted a small-but-diverse menu that leans heavily on creativity.
Starters ($4-$6) include “Bacon & Eggs” (deviled eggs topped with bacon jam); Caprese “kabobs” (fresh mozzarella, grape tomatoes and basil pesto); and a buffalo chicken plate (dip with celery sticks, crackers and Glacier Penta Creme blue cheese).
The Moxie “Picnic Board” ($10) is a choice of meats (smoked pancetta, duck salami, serrano ham and Borsellino Salami), cheeses (Glacier Penta Creme blue, aged gouda, fresh mozzarella, prairie breeze cheddar, manchego and Parmigiano-Reggiano) and gherkins, olives and cucumbers, served with artisan bread or gluten-free crackers, along with mustard or fig jam.
Pizza ($11) varieties include a pesto, Pacific rim, white and chef’s specialty.
“Jeff started out just giving me advice on food and then I made him stay,” Alt said. “He really took it to another level. The bacon jam made from scratch is to die for. He has a tomato soup that is vegan and gluten-free that is the best tomato soup you’ll ever have. … We’re actually getting people here where this is the destination for food, and that’s crazy.”
As for the kitchen hours?
“If we’re open, the kitchen’s open,” Alt said, adding the midnight to 1 a.m. time slot is a popular time for patrons to order pies.
Although it’s been a long time coming, Alt is pleased with what The Moxie has accomplished thus far.
“There are so many artists in this area that are so talented,” she said. “There are some outlets, but I think there are very few that mix medias, where an artist can work with a theater performance or a musician can warm up for a poetry [night]. I think that’s so important to have it be a hangout.”
When describing The Moxie’s appeal, Alt couldn’t come up with a better description than what an artist recently told her.
“She said, ‘This is the place that kids who used to put shows on in their backyard and grew up and still want to put shows on, can come here and still be that kid that puts shows on.’ That’s the concept,” Alt said.
Although the concept was hers, Alt does not shy away from giving credit to her neighbors on Adams Street for helping her business get up and running.
“Adams Street has been so supportive,” she said. “Bar owners have given me advice, things and loaned me their staff. To me, that’s just mind-boggling. That’s what is going to make Adams Street work, because it’s just an amazing group of young, aggressive business owners.”
The Moxie is open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Tuesday through Friday; 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday; and closed Sunday and Monday. For more information, call (419) 982-8810 or visit The Moxie’s Facebook page.