Larchmont welcomes its first fast-food, teen-centered hub
Its “Coming Soon!” banner had long turned from a sign of hope to a punch line. Its dim interior seemed destined for perpetual emptiness, its doors forever locked.
But Mooyah was not a restaurant gone out of business, falling plague to the string of vacancies that has infected Larchmont’s main streets—it had not yet opened. Now, having (finally) turned on its lights on April 18 for the first time, it seeks to find a balance between a bustling chain and an intimate social hub in the heart of our community.
While Mooyah is a worldwide fast-food behemoth based in Texas with outposts in 19 other states as well as in Azerbaijan, Kuwait and Qatar, it is fresh in New York, and this franchise clearly is trying to emphasize its connection with its adopted town—superimposed inside the off-kilter typography in its logo are defining images of Larchmont, including Murray Avenue School’s entrance, the Larchmont Fire Department and the gazebo at the manor. The almost-tooover-the-top friendliness from the servers (they were clearly trained to call you by the name you give them for your order) might wear off, or perhaps it reflects the burger joint’s attempt to embed itself within the community.
Regardless, Mooyah’s long line (it moved fast enough) and sea of employees (red visors were everywhere) bring a new vibe to the Larchmont dining scene, providing high-schoolers a spot to grab a bite in an energetic scene without having to drive over to Mamaroneck Avenue. Especially with the hype of opening week, you seemed to know every other person who walked in.
But beyond the novelty of eating fast food on Palmer Avenue— that will fade after another trip or two—Mooyah earns its keep with a reliable burger and a top-notch milkshake. For those with the the luxury of a car, it will be a matter of personal taste and atmosphere to keep you in the 10538 rather than heading to Mamaroneck’s Smashburger or New Rochelle’s Pow! Burger. Mooyah’s is a crispy patty, thinned out and nearly burnt at the edges outside its swollen bun, while the inside remains moist and flavorful. With the right toppings—the selection is more or less the same as its peer establishments—the crispiness adds texture to your bite without compromising dryness. From a quantity-of-meat standpoint, Pow! Burger indeed packs a bit more pow.
If you want a crispy chicken sandwich, you had better stick with Smash or Pow, as the competitors are commonly known—Mooyah provides no such option. (Only Smashburger offers a veggie burger.) And you should remain loyal to the former if you prefer thinner, saltier, McDonald’s-like fries. Mooyah’s fries contain more potato and seem more natural, in line with those of Five Guys. (To enhance this comparison, large cartons of raw potatoes are stacked toward the front of the restaurant, reminiscent of Five Guys’s industrial-style pile of peanuts for those waiting on the line.) A medium order ($3.49) is heaping enough to share with a friend.
It remains to be seen how the restaurant will impact its neighbors on Palmer. Although the increased traffic could be a boon for the Ice Cream Parlour, which replaced Longford’s on the corner but fails to attract large crowds of MHS students, one need not leave Mooyah for a first-rate dairy product. Its shakes are thick and satisfying, their consistency just on the border of ice cream while still accessible by straw. A table sampling of vanilla, cookie dough, and Reese’s flavors all netted positive results, edging out the offerings of both Smash and Pow.
The experience at Mooyah amounts to a sensory overload. The walls are dominated by large panels of bold typography (“MOO! Layers of goodness! SCORE! Did someone say *fries*?”) and graphic representations of cows. The workspace for the cooks behind the cashier stations is completely visible, stretching nearly the entire length of the restaurant. Every so often one hears an unseen microphone announce above the din, “Tim, your Mooyah is ready!” Music thumps in the background, and red is everywhere, down to the placards denoting your order number you keep on the table.
If you put Mooyah in a sieve and filtered out these aesthetics, you would end up with Pow! Burger. The latter’s formula is the simplicity of a good hamburger, and its smaller sitting area and more isolated location add to this calmer, quieting effect. One’s choice of atmosphere is the determining factor between the two.
But in contrast with the equally busy Smash, Mooyah prioritizes personality, and its staff earns an A for ability to charm. Should it maintain this ethos, evocative of the small-town homeliness of some of Larchmont’s small businesses, this is a nice bonus. The layout of the restaurant is also a plus: the long rectangular seating of tables keeps all tables in view at all times; this unifying factor is absent in the irregularly-shaped Smash. The proximity of tables with one another builds on this ambience, while the music and flurry of activity allows you to hold a conversation comfortably without feeling that everyone else is listening to you, something not always the case at Pow. However, the predominance of four-person booths could hamper the dining experience of larger groups.
MHS students will have to decide if these advantages are worth a few extra dollars; Mooyah is the priciest of the area’s three burger options. The baseline “Mooyah Burger” starts at $5.69 plus toppings (add $1 for cheese) and a dollar more for the double patty. Smashburger’s single create-yourown burger is only $4.59, while Pow’s costs $4.75. The double at Pow, however, is actually more expensive than Mooyah’s, at $6.75 compared to $6.69. A small fries from Mooyah is priced at $2.49 versus Smash’s $1.99. Pow offers only one size at $2.95. A medium ($3.49) and large ($4.99) order of fries from Mooyah are also more expensive.
The smaller-size shake, a “Little Moo,” is cheaper than Smash’s one-size only shake and Pow!’s small size; a Big Moo and a large from Pow are equivalent. All in all, the cost is not prohibitive, and perhaps over time the gas you save (depending on where you live) will make up for it.
Even considering its busy design, Mooyah keeps it simple: a good burger and milkshake, superior service, and a new social spot in the heart of town. Wave to your friend at the table across the bustling room, wipe off your hands and pinch yourself: yes, you’re still in Larchmont.
By Steven Rome
Photos by Steven Rome