It’s somewhat hard to miss – the narrow entryway leading up steep steps to a city-like restaurant called Moonrakers. The circular purple and yellow sign hanging just above the door. Next door you find small windows, and the words ” one twenty six” spelled out. Twin doors reflect each other, one going in, and one going up.
One twenty six, which opened it’s doors in 2000, is owned by the same person, Mathew Chackalackal, as Moonrakers, which opened in 2011.
They are two separate restaurants, but share the same quality of food: vegetarian fed meat, local produce (when possible), and homemade bread.
I sat down with Mathew and talked about his restaurant’s concept, and why he does things a bit different than most restaurants in the Iowa City area. His meat is vegetarian fed, it’s hormone free, it’s antibiotic free. His reasoning?
“We can verify the source,” says Mathew.“I got into this largely because when I take my kids out I make sure it meets all this criteria, and it’s really hard to find.”
He stated that when he opened up Moonrackers he still wanted to keep those standards.
“I was hoping that I could get young people to be able to differentiate. Not just purely by the taste, but by what goes into it and the reasons for going with that. Even if you look at our hamburger buns they are made in-house fresh. All it has in it are eggs, canola oil, flour, yeast, salt, and sugar, that’s it.”
Mathew explained, “When we get it, we get meat that has met all this criteria – no hormones, no antibiotics.We know what goes into it, we butcher the meat in-house, and we grind it in-house fresh.”
To provide clarity as to why this is so important to him, Mathew came up with a possible situation.
“If there is some sort of outbreak, and if you know that this came from one particular farm, I can tell with certainty to my customers “Don’t worry you can eat this.” But usually what happens is meat comes from so many different places. So let’s say you go to the local meat locker, they sell all the nice cuts of meat you know the tenderloin, your rib eye, your round steak- all those they are taking out, and then they take what you cannot use for anything and it all goes into a meat grinder, and it comes out looking like ground beef. And it could be local, it could be all those things, but it could have come from 20 different farms, they don’t know what cut went into it, and out comes this burger which when you taste it if you add enough stuff to it you can’t even tell. That’s most of the burgers you find in most places.”
Mathew encourages people to ask questions about the meat they use, and one of his number one goals is to have students ask more, and not just his restaurant but in all other restaurants they are consuming food in.
“I kind of want students to ask “What is this meat and why does it have to be vegetarian fed?” That’s my goal,” Mathew said. “To have young people try it and ask. When they go to other places they should ask “Where did this beef come from?” “Which cow did it come from?” “Which farm did it come from?” “What if there is a recall?” “Am I going to get madcow disease from this?” he encouraged.
He stated that what he would like to do is to serve healthy, high-quality, tasty food, preferably local if available. That his restaurants try to be organic, natural, and local whenever possible.
“When my kids come in and eat it it is no different then what they would be eating at home. So it gives me a certain comfort,” Mathew said. “To me, that means I can say with certainty, there’s nothing bad in our meat.”
Moonrakers and one twenty six both decline any advertising opportunities. Mathew explained that they highly rely on word-of-mouth. He wants to attract a younger crowd, and to do so, he keeps his prices as low as he can.
During dinner, a burger and fries is only $8, but if you are wanting lunch, the price is lowered to $6.