On June 23, the moon was closest to Pal’s Lounge than it had ever been before.
With the astronomical supermoon hanging closer to the earth than it had been all year, the Super Moon Wokery, a pop-up helmed by bandmates Grantley Rushing and Alex Siler, was serving up stir-fry alongside the Mid-City neighborhood bar all night, waiting for passersby and night owls eager for gems from the wok.
Rushing and Siler have done seven pop-ups at Pal’s since their debut, changing their Chinese-Korean-Vietnamese-Thai menu each week, keeping what works and tossing out what doesn’t. Last week, the duo served up what Rushing dubbed “the tastiest dish yet”: a stir-fry of kale and butternut squash topped with peanut and chicken sauce.
This Sunday, Rushing says the menu will stay the same, in part because he over-prepared for last week, and in part because it was so good. He’ll include another hit from last week: Korean pork with hot kimchi and fermented red bean paste.
Rushing, who by day is a chef at Café Degas, is learning the art of the pop-up as he goes. The first week, a pot of Chinese noodles went mushy in the colander, thanks to the Pal’s sink not having a cold-water spout to keep them from overcooking.
With a single wok, though, the team is getting the hang of it. Rushing works brunch at Degas on Sunday, runs home to take a five or 10-minute nap, then heads to Pal’s with a single burner, the wok and a bunch of chopped vegetables. He learned to cook at a strip mall Chinese food restaurant in Jackson, Miss., where a first glimpse of sriracha changed his life.
"Learning in the mall was not necessarily the most authentic place, maybe, but the owner was from Thailand," says Rushing. "That was great, because I got to learn American Chinese food and Thai food when he cooked for us or for himself."
Rushing is the chef at Super Moon Wokery, while Siler handles the operation's logistics and pickles all of the vegetables that garnish its meals. The two are members of Texas Funeral, a rock band that performs around the city, most recently at Siberia and Circle Bar.
The pop-up gets an early rush, says Rushing, then he and Siler sit around and drink during the lull. “Later the bargoers arrive,” he says. “They come drink and then get hungry.”
Though business has been consistently good, Rushing says he could handle more. Super Moon Wokery has always turned at least a marginal profit, money the team is saving for a potential future project. Operating Super Moon Wokery full-time would be Rushing's dream, not least because he loves the wok, both cooking in it and eating from it. "It's portable," he says. "And on my day off...I'm probably eating Asian food."
This Sunday, the pop-up goes on, rain or shine, around the side of Pal's. It starts at 7 p.m. and goes until the food's gone, or, according to Rushing, "until we're too drunk to cook."