Writer / Jon Shoulders
Photographer / Amy Payne
Operating a successful restaurant smack in the middle of a somewhat secluded, mostly residential area might not sound like the easiest thing in the world to pull off. However, the proprietors of The Lit Moose, a locally owned eatery in Carmel’s Village of WestClay, have taken to the task with enthusiasm and enjoyment since opening in September of 2016.
Early last year, co-owners and brothers Lenny, Steve and Scott Nahmias were approached by an investment group from within the WestClay community about taking over the retail space formerly occupied by Pizzology. The Nahmias brothers were operating Coalition Pizza at the time and became intrigued by the idea of launching a small neighborhood restaurant that could attract repeat customers from the immediate vicinity and appeal to the greater Carmel community at the same time.
“Initially we put together some ideas for a menu of diverse food offerings, which is what we thought the neighborhood needed to keep people coming back regularly,” Lenny Nahmias says. “We guided our head chef in the direction of slightly upscale food across many different food categories, and we guided our design team in the direction of a fun and cozy atmosphere that doesn’t take itself too seriously. We ended up with a lighthearted take on a hunting lodge theme.”
Head chef Eric Huse says a steady flow of regulars has kept the Lit Moose afloat thus far, and customers from outside the confines of WestClay have started taking notice.
“We did Devour Indy this winter, and then we did the Return of the Mac festival in Noblesville,” says Huse, an Indianapolis native who attended Ivy Tech’s culinary school in 2009 and began working in the restaurant industry six years ago. “Those kinds of outside adventures are slowly grabbing us attention from outside the community.”
The owners’ affinity for southwestern American cuisine inspired The Lit Moose’s décor and sizeable brunch, lunch and dinner menus, which feature sandwiches, burgers, tacos and flatbreads, as well a small plate selection that includes shredded steak nachos, truffle fries and salmon tartare. When it came to devising the restaurant’s food selection, Huse says variety was the name of the game.
“The culinary scene out in Arizona, where the owners vacation a lot, is absolutely incredible,” he says. “We’re taking inspiration from that but presenting it in a way that’s accessible. The reason the menu is so big is that we understand that it’s a neighborhood restaurant, and drawing outside attention is going to be a challenge. We wanted to give people in the community a restaurant that they could come to multiple times a week and not have to get the same food.”
While modest in square footage, The Lit Moose manages to offer variety in its dining atmosphere — patrons can opt for inside seating (where the glowing moose head that inspired the establishment’s name is mounted on the wall) or outdoor patio dining. Those desirous of a more casual experience can opt for bar seating and enjoy a local beer selection, a lengthy wine list and specialty cocktails like the Moose Berry Martini, the Cracked Manhattan and the Chipotle Margarita, which includes house-made chipotle simple syrup.
“As I’m growing as a new chef, I want to go more and more from scratch. I hate the idea of a canned food, like a sauce that you grab from the store to put on your chicken,” Huse says. “So, we do everything from scratch. With such a big menu, it’s been a big challenge keeping up with all of the prep every day. We have a really good prep team, and sometimes they’re here nine to 10 hours a day prepping.”
Huse is optimistic that the made-from-scratch freshness of The Lit Moose’s cuisine will continue to win over WestClay locals and the greater Indy community alike.
“Not a lot of places can say they cure their own bacon, smoke their own salmon and make all of the dressings, all the way down to teriyaki, in-house,” he says. “I want to do as much from scratch as possible, because people can taste the difference, and that really sets you apart.”
For additional information on The Lit Moose, call 317-853-8066 or visit thelitmoose.com.