Kevin Smith and Mooby’s pop-up restaurant bring a NJ community together

RED BANK — A fictional fast food chain, first introduced in a controversial 1999 film, has crossed over into the real world at the Jersey Shore. In any other year this would be terribly strange — but in 2020, the arrival of Mooby’s is a cause for celebration.

Monmouth County native filmmaker and podcast magnate Kevin Smith is bringing Mooby’s to his old stomping grounds as he takes over the home of Gianni’s Pizzeria, 15 Wikoff Place, for a week starting Friday. All reservations are sold out.

“That it’s here in this building is incredibly meta for me,” Smith said, noting that the site is a former Burger King he would frequent as a child on the hunt for collectible “Star Wars” glasses in the late-1970s and early ’80s.

“Last time I was in this building, I was 9 or 10. And if you had told me, ‘Next time you’re back in this building, you are selling the burgers,’ I would have been like, ‘Mom, a strange man is talking to me. Please tell him to stop.’ It’s just crazy.”

The Highlands-native Smith first introduced Mooby’s in 1999’s Red Bank-shot comedy “Dogma,” and the chain was most recently seen in last year’s “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot.”

Derek Berry, co-owner of pop culture pop-up eateries inspired by nostalgic properties such as “Saved by the Bell” and “All That,” partnered with Smith, co-star Jason Mewes and “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot” producer Jordan Monsanto to make Mooby’s a reality, first this summer in Los Angeles and now in Red Bank.

“A lot of people are looking for something a little bit different,'” said Berry. “You can go eat all the time. You can go play soccer with friends in a park, but if you can have an experience and have dinner at the same time, I think you’re hitting multiple touch points. You’re hitting multiple senses and it just resonates.”

For $28, the Mooby’s Pick-Up Experience, available for either take-out or outdoor patio dining, includes a choice of main dish and side created by executive chef Royce Burke of Secret Lasagna in Los Angeles, with soda, dessert and merchandise available for purchase. Smith has been vegan since 2018, and Mooby’s offers both vegan and non-vegan food.

The pre-paid experience includes a set pick-up time window with a limited number of guests admitted at any given time in addition to outdoor check-in, social distancing enforcement and sanitization between pick-up windows. There are also View Askew photo opportunities both inside and outside of the once-and-future Gianni’s.

Smith and Berry confirmed that the Mooby’s pop-up experience will travel to other cities after its week-long Red Bank residency.

The arrival of Mooby’s has also united a number of businesses across the area, with Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash comic book shop on Broad Street in Red Bank presenting a satellite store at Mooby’s.

Monmouth Street craft brewery Red Tank Brewing is honoring Smith and Mewes’ iconic characters from the View Askew cinematic universe with Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash IPA, a limited release which sold out its run of 150 four-packs in pre-orders.

The 6.5% New England-style IPA was dry-hopped with Cashmere, Mosaic and Citra hops, with notes of pineapple, melon and stone fruit.

Red Tank Brewing’s John Arcara said the IPA is just the first in a planned series of collaborative beers inspired by Smith’s work, teasing an upcoming Mooby’s Milkshake run of IPAs made with lactose.

Arcara welcomed Smith’s return to town after local merchants have spent months coping with the economic impact of COVID-19.

“We’ve had such a hard time dealing with the restrictions and the EOs (executive orders) that are coming out (from Governor Phil Murphy), it’s just hard to know what’s right and not and what’s up and down, and this definitely helps bring people in and helps pay some of the bills,” Arcara said.

Smith and Mooby’s are also delivering a bit of levity in otherwise-trying times.

“This is just something that’s just done for pure fun, for excitement, to get people involved and get people to go out and get together and have a good time and bond over something,” said Arcara.

The festivities continue as Smith and Mewes celebrate the 10th anniversary of their podcast “Jay and Silent Bob Get Old” with a drive-in show 7:30 p.m. Friday at Bell Works in Holmdel. Tickets, $100 per vehicle, are available via ShowClix.

“As per usual, it moves me to no end that anyone stills remembers these movies, let alone engages with them in the current world, let alone the current climate for Heaven’s sake,” Smith said. “I still get real misty … like when they told me, ‘The brewing company in Red Bank, they want to do a beer.’ And I was like, ‘You know how many times early in my career I was just walking around Red Bank going like, ‘I wonder if anyone will seize upon this nonsense, this Jay and Silent Bob nonsense?’

“And it just shows that if you hang in there long enough, even the dopiest of dreams is a possibility. I love that it brings the community together. Any time we’ve ever done an event in Red Bank, and Red Bank’s been our home for forever, we always bring an influx of people from what we used to think was around the East Coast but is now really (from) around the world. So this is a nice way to be able to continue it and to vary it up.”

The Monmouth County take-over is the latest project for the ever-active Smith. He’s currently at work on sequels to “Clerks” and “Mallrats” and developing SModcastle, a 50-seat theater and live podcast recording space in the Leonardo section of Middletown.

Smith and his daughter, Harley Quinn Smith, have also teamed up to launch the new plant-based lifestyle podcast “Vegan Abattoir.”

Staying busy and finding new creative outlets, Smith said, have helped him get through the pandemic.

“There are some days where people are, of course, rightfully, frustrated, irritated, horrified by the pandemic, by the quarantine, by COVID, by corona,” Smith said. “I have been kind of so preoccupied, like everyone else trying not to get it or give it, trying to mask up and stay safe, washing your hands like crazy. But at the same time, it has afforded us opportunities to pivot and do things that we would not have done.”

For more information on the Mooby’s pop-up experience, visit www.moobyspopup.com.

Alex Biese has been writing about art, entertainment, culture and news on a local and national level for more than 15 years.

Latest posts