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Behind the Bar: Jillian Moore of My Loup

by Drink Philly on May 13, 2024 in Culture

This time on Behind the Bar, we interview bartender and bar manager Jillian Moore. Jillian was born in Montgomery County and moved to Philadelphia for college. She's been a career bartender and server since middle school for the last 20 years, working at some of Philadelphia's best restaurants, including James Beard award winner, Zahav. Now she heads up the bar program at My Loup, one of the hottest new culinary destinations in Philadelphia, which also recently received a James Beard nomination this year. We chat with her about her cocktail menu, the effects of the James Beard Awards, and her obsession with MTV's Total Request Live.

Drink Philly (DP): Tell us a little bit about My Loup.
Jillian Moore (JM): My Loup is a Quebecois style restaurant. Alex Kemp, the chef and owner, is from a town outside of Montreal called Kingston, but he's cooked all over the world, and his wife and partner, Amanda Shulman, who owns Her Place, they met a few years ago, got married just recently, and they own the restaurant together. Alex is the heart and soul of the restaurant. Probably the best hype man I've ever met when it comes to building a team together. The restaurant itself does a really lovely job with having something for just about everybody, where we do dishes that are incredibly, I would say, "off the beaten path."

We have those indulgent things like foie, and we have sweetbreads on the menu, and we do lovely raw bar options as well. But I think one of my favorite dishes is this roast beef dish that we have, and it's so simple, it's almost insulting. It's cold roast beef on a plate that we serve with extra crispy fries, celeriac remoulade, and greens. And you eat the whole thing with your hands. So I think that's a really nice balance of what we have on the menu here. And when it comes to wine and drinks, it's all to serve the food menu for the most part. And, you know, wanting to have people have a full experience here.

Key Lime Milk Punch: 17 rum, velvet falernum, licor 43, lime, oat milk

DP: Tell us about the cocktail menu that you've created. What was the inspiration behind everything?
JM: I like to say that I take what I do very seriously, but I don't want to take myself very seriously. And I think the cocktails sort of reflect that. There are certain cocktails like the Agave Vesper, which to me is very serious, and it supports brands that matter to me. And then we have something like a Key Lime Pie Milk Punch that is more whimsical, I suppose. And the garnish of the Teddy Graham just puts another level of well-natured cuteness and silliness to it, and that's kind of how I like to see it.

It's all classics you'll see on the menu. I don't really use names or anything like that. I sort of want people to know what they're getting before they get it. I think it makes things easier for the guests to understand, and then they can be more comfortable trying something they've never tried before, because it is supposed to be more of an everyman kind of approach to cocktails.

DP: Have you bartended elsewhere?
JM: Most recently, before the pandemic, I was at Zahav for four years. I was a server and then started bartending there, too. And I never planned to leave Zahav, I loved it there so much. But, you know, the universe has other plans for us sometimes. Before that, I was in management for Marcy and Val's (Safran & Turney Hospitality) restaurants. I was over at Little Nonna's for a few years, and then before that, I was at Prohibition Tap Room at the height of the beer bar scene. I like to joke I come from a long line of hairdressers, bartenders, and truck drivers — I was bound to become one of them.

DP: What's trendy right now?
JM: I don't know what's trendy. I think the easiest answer is to say espresso martinis are trending. We have one on the menu - our version of an espresso martini. To me, the most trendy thing about the drinks industry rather than the bar industry is that the RTD scene is massive. All the Ready To Drink stuff. My favorite is the Stateside Surfside iced tea. And that's what I see as trendy when it comes to buyer types or how people like to spend their money.

On our menu, I like to focus on high / low a lot, if that makes sense. So we have a Coors Banquet on the menu for $5 or we have a $32 martini. I think what's trendy is to have something for everybody.

​​DP: What are some trends you wish would die?
JM: It's maybe not a trend, but maybe it's a personality type, and that's knowing or acting like you know it all. You know, I would love that to go away. I would love for people to always be open to learning, whether it's on either side of the bar. I want to have people be a little bit more open to trying new things, just not act like they know at all.

​​DP: Any predictions about where the industry might go next?
JM: Well, I do think something that's really cool about Philadelphia is that bar programs are so diverse. You have somebody, like, Brandon Thrash over at Middle Child Clubhouse - he's very technique driven. You have my friend Danny Childs, the former bar manager of the Farm and Fisherman and the author of Slow Drinks, a book about foraging, fermenting seasonal sodas and botanical cocktails — he focuses on hyperlocal. They all have different approaches. Sometimes you go to a place to enjoy whatever the person who's putting that on is doing, but everyone's doing something differently, which I think is cool.

DP: One unexpected fact about you?
JM: This is a silly, fun fact that I've used a lot. There was a show in the early 2000s on MTV called TRL (Total Request Live). You remember that show with Carson Daly? I was on that show three times. I got to give a shout out on my birthday when I was a freshman or sophomore in college. I think it was Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day, and so it was just, super cool. So I've been on the show a few times.

​​DP: Favorite beer?
JM: Two answers. High / low, right? Coors Banquet and Maine Beer Company Lunch IPA. Those are my two favorites. Maine Lunch is amazing and it's great with food. Same with Coors Banquet. That's what I truly believe. Coors Banquet is delicious with our food because it has this minerality to it that plays against some of our richer, fattier dishes.

DP: Favorite liquor?
JM: In the spirits category, it's Agave spirits, but my personal individual favorite is Chartreuse. Lots of bartenders like Chartreuse, so I know that it's not necessarily something about me that makes me stand out, but it's definitely my favorite. It's so cool to have access to the V.E.P.s now and, you know, we were without Chartreuse for so long. It's nice to have it back. They make great cocktails. I love it.

​​DP: Favorite cocktail?
JM: Mezcal Last Word. I drink one every Friday night at Palizzi. It is probably more than one, but it's definitely my favorite, for sure.

​​DP: What's your favorite kind of customer?
JM: Someone who's along for the ride, you know, somebody who comes in and wants to be a guest in my house. I want somebody who wants to be here, enjoy themselves, and maybe try something new. That's my favorite type of guest. Somebody who wants to let me take care of them.

DP: How has the James Beard nomination affected the restaurant?
JM: It's so crazy. You open a restaurant, and you put this pressure on yourself to make it perfect and the best that you can, and then you receive this amazing amount of feedback that you're doing a good job, you know? And it's really lovely to receive that feedback personally, privately, and publicly. But, lots of people work just as hard and don't get recognized. It's really nice to think about how we reinvest that back into the team. The James Beard stuff is incredible. And, of course, it's something that I experienced at Zahav when we won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant. And so I know how it's nice to work hard and see it reflected back to you.

We found out about it in January at the end of our break. We took two weeks off in January, and we found out on a Wednesday or something like that. Nobody had seen each other directly when we received the news. So to come back from the break and really enjoy that was so fun and different. I couldn't wait to get back to work, you know?

DP: What do you think are the essentials for a good home bar?
JM: Essentials for a home bar - lemon and lime juice doesn't have to be fresh. I'll buy lemon and lime juice at Aldi or something like that just to always have it in the house. Obviously, fresh is better, but sustainability is good, too. I'm not gonna let the lemon juice go bad in my house if I'm not having a cocktail every night. I'll use it for something. I always love having soda water in the house, too. That diversifies a lot of the stuff that you're drinking. And then liquor-wise, it's the staples. But I think the one key is Luxardo Maraschino, because you can make so many different drinks with Maraschino. It kind of puts you above other home bars, like, I can make you a Last Word right now, right?

It's definitely important to have coffee liqueur for a home bar. Espresso martinis are so ubiquitous these days. And then your regular basics. If I had to choose one, it would probably be gin or tequila, because that's the best, to me, for cocktail stuff.

DP: Where do you go for a drink when you're not working?
JM: I love to go to R&D. I love the program and culture Resa Mueller has shaped. I don't get there as often as I'd like because I live in South Philly. I love Palizzi. I go there typically after work on Friday nights, which is wonderful. Sometimes it's not about the drinks, it's about the people.

Some of my favorite bartenders are Zach Pfeiffer over at the Good Dog Cafe, Gabby and Jason at Palizzi. Brandan Thrash at Middle Child Clubhouse — he's now the general manager. He was a bartender at Townsend for forever, which I loved. Same with Harry Jamison, who's now GM over at A. Kitchen + Bar. There's another person at a.bar, her name is Liv and she's great. She also works at Poison Heart, which I've only been to once, but I really liked. Oh, and I love Handsome Mike over at Messina. I don't know if that's what he goes by, but I call him that. His name is Mike Nimmo.

If I'm drinking a Coors banquet, it's not always about the cocktail or the drink that I'm getting. It's about the person that I'm giving my money to. That's really how I feel. We all work really hard for money. I want to give money to people I like.

DP: What's the secret to being a great bartender?
JM: This is something I started building for myself a couple of years ago, but I think to be "of service" is probably the top thing you could do for somebody else. Being of service can mean so many different things, but when we discuss this in the service industry, it means you're taking care of somebody. I think it's the most important thing you can do. And that might put too heavy of a point on it, but it is how I do see myself and how I think other people can be good bartenders. Letting people know that you're taking care of them and being empathetic and understanding to the person that you're taking care of is sometimes more important than the drink you're giving them.

DP: If you could have a drink with any famous person, living or dead, who would it be and what would you drink?
JM: It's Anthony Bourdain for sure. I think he would give very good conversation. And honestly, I think I would just have beers with him. You know, I think that sometimes I like to sit, I like to talk, and I like to drink, and I think Anthony Bourdain liked that stuff too. I think I would just have a couple pints and, you know, be lads together or whatever. I think that would be really fun. And I'd smoke a cigarette too, but, you know, that's only if he was enjoying one himself. You gotta be polite.

Agave Vesper: 32 siembra azul highlands tequila, vago elote, cocchi, banana

Photos by Drink Philly


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