Atmosphere is defined as “a distinctive but intangible quality surrounding a person or thing or place.” It’s one of those things you just know when you see it. The Germans call it Gem├╝tlichkeit. Yet this, too, is easier to show someone than it is to describe. It’s a feeling of comfort, of uniqueness, of having a sense of place. A restaurant or bar either has it or it does not. And it cannot be manufactured or bought or instilled by even the highest paid decorator. Just as you can’t buy “cool,” you can’t buy atmosphere. It just is.

Today we drove about an hour south of here to the Moonshine Store in Martinsville, IL. This place had atmosphere to spare. It’s a general store way out in the middle of nothing but flat. It’s a bear to find even with GPS, but once you’ve been there, you’ll know how to get back. It’s a big favorite of bikers because the roads leading to it are actually curvy, which is a rare thing in these here parts. They serve up really good hamburgers, rare soda flavors (I had a birch beer today.), and it’s all done quick and cheap. Their record is 712 burgers in one day. Pretty impressive. When we walked in today, there was quite a crowd and, being a crowd hater, I was about to leave. But I noticed the area around the grill was clear and no one really seemed to be standing in line. So I walked right up and ordered two cheeseburgers. We sat around for a bit checking the place out. This is an old country store with neat old devices like a light on a rolling block and tackle setup suspended from a wooden beam overhead. The ceiling is typical central Illinois pressed tin. In the back of the store is a grill where a small army of folks prepare the burgers with pit crew efficiency. Despite the crowd, we had our burgers in about 10 minutes. They were pretty good, too. (You can read my review over on Greasy Spoons.) We added toppings and condiments and took our lunch outside to the dozen or so large picnic tables. It was a perfect day for it. Check out some of the pics below. The smoke in the interior pics is from the grill. It made a great appetizer as it smelled delicious and didn’t fill us up before our meal. The bikers filling the place were all decent, friendly folks and there were a few of the locals mixed in. As we walked out, a Cadillac full of retirees pulled up. Great burgers make for strange dining company, I guess. ­čśÄ

The Moonshine Store. Cool or what?

The Moonshine Store

Now THIS is atmosphere.

Atmosphere