The century-old treat may be the object of great affection throughout the South, but there's one city that takes things to a whole different level: Mobile, Alabama
Salty, sweetie, meaty, the menu description for the MoonPie Burger promised. I didn't know whether to run, ask for an adult, or order two, and I say this as a typically hungry person, a person who showed up to the MoonPie General Store in Mobile, Alabama even hungrier than usual.
Hunger or no, the very notion of this Frankenstein-ish-sounding creation overwhelmed. Like short-sleeve weather in Buffalo in January, or racing stripes on a Toyota Yaris, something about it just didn't compute. The ingredients are good enough—you have a chocolate MoonPie, split open, no problems there, none at all, really, but then the madmen (or is it mad geniuses, I wasn't sure yet) in back had seen fit to stuff the poor thing with a giant hamburger, slices of crispy bacon and griddled onions. Lie all of these things side by side, or even just hold the MoonPie until dessert, and I wouldn't have hesitated.
All piled up together—because of course I ended up ordering one—I found the thing baffling. After a couple of bites, melted chocolate coating now all over my hands, the combined taste of commingled onions and marshmallow filling seared on my brain for eternity, I turned instead to my milkshake—chocolate, with MoonPies tossed in, and topped with half a mini-MoonPie. Much better.
More than most American places, the South is a land of culinary dares, but I can't recall encountering anything quite so challenging as that burger, sold from the lunch counter inside the 6,000-square-foot shrine to MoonPies and MoonPie-related things in downtown Mobile. I don't know what I expected to find on the menu, really, and it's not fair to pin this one on Mobile alone; there are, after all, a handful of these themed emporia located throughout the region, starting right in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee, where the snack was first created a century ago.
Still, few cities seem to love the MoonPie quite so feverishly as Mobile. Way down on the Gulf Coast, hundreds of miles from Chattanooga, Mobile is an extremely old French port town, much like New Orleans; the city is home to the first Mardi Gras in what is now the United States—Carnival was first celebrated here in 1703, fifteen years before New Orleans.
Because the New Orleans festivities eventually became better known, most Americans associate Mardi Gras with those shiny beads, plastic cups and other baubles tossed from the floats. In Mobile, however, chances are good you're getting a MoonPie—one of the more noteworthy quirks of Mobile's annual celebration is the long-held tradition of lobbing assorted snack foods at the crowd. (It's said that early on, you got boxes of Cracker Jack, but that people were getting banged up from having those sharp edged-boxes thrown in their faces; MoonPies, soft, round, spong-ey, and delicious, would never hurt anyone.)
So integral to the celebration is the MoonPie, Mobile a few years ago decided to take their relationship to the next level—now, at the annual New Year's Eve celebration, attended by more than 50,000 people each December 31, a 600-pound electric MoonPie drops above Bienville Square, much the way the more-famous (for now?) ball does in New York's Times Square. George Clinton will play, there will be fireworks, a laser light show, and the ceremonial cutting of the World's Largest MoonPie. You in? Learn more here.