A man holding a loaf of bread hurriedly walks in and places his shopping bag on a table two booths from mine. The bread—presumably from the gas station convenience store 20 or so yards across the parking lot—holds his table while he grabs a beer from the bar, a newspaper from the table by the door, and a bowl of peanuts from the self-serve pickle barrel.
Opening up the paper, the man snacks on the peanuts and enjoys his beer. I half expect him to open up the bread and make himself a sandwich. Perhaps there is a package of sliced cheese in that plastic bag along with the loaf? But he does not dig into the bread while at the bar.
Eyeing my own dwindling bowl of peanuts, I take another sip from my pint of Wormtown Be Hoppy I.P.A. and consider ordering a slice of pizza. This is the Moan and Dove, after all. And while there is no kitchen nor food (save for the pickle barrel peanuts) on the premises, there are take-out menus at the bar, encouraging the patronage of the neighboring food establishments.
The Moan and Dove may be the best bar found in a gas station convenience store parking lot—that does not serve any food—that I’ve ever been to. (Though, in fairness, I can’t think of another that matches that description.) Simply put, there is little reason a drinking establishment should be at this location: next door to a barber shop and a hair, skin and nail salon off Route 116 in South Amherst.
Still, as I sit in the corner booth and watch the lingering rays from an early May sun take their sweet time setting in the western sky, there seems to be a surprising number of patrons enjoying this relatively small space.
Across the room, at the other corner booth, a man enjoys a beer while working on his laptop. At the next table, a group of four men and women dressed in office attire chat. A man with a white beard walks across the room to order another beer. The L-shaped bar seats only half a dozen or so, and half the stools are occupied. There is a man drinking out of a stein, and a middle-aged male/female couple near the turned-off flat screen television in the corner of the room.
Eager to prolong my stay a bit, I ask the bartender for their take-out menus.
It’s been years since I first visited Moan and Dove, but the memory of a delivery person walking into the bar holding a pizza and being greeted by the raised hands of a couple at an adjacent booth has pleasantly lingered like that last sip of bitter hops at the bottom of a shared pitcher. Who needs a kitchen when you have pickle barrel peanuts and delivery service offering food from nearby restaurants?
The Moan and Dove has always offered take-out menus, the bartender tells me when I ask about this peculiar business practice. They share something of a symbiotic relationship, she continues, with the other businesses that occupy the various small strip-mall-like buildings that line this four-way intersection.
Diagonally across the intersection is Sibies and Mission Cantina. Around the corner, toward the gas station, is El Comalito. And sharing the building with the Moan and Dove, on the other side of Global Cuts and Shear Bliss Salon, is Zhang Kitchen.
I can attest that bringing your own food to the Moan and Dove is not frowned upon either, whether it’s a loaf of bread, or a take-out meal you have previously picked up. It’s an admirable custom.
And somehow, the beer tastes better for it.•