Luna is the marriage of South American and American Southern food that opened downtown in Summer 2015. Shawn Stokes and Sean Sullivan teamed up to create this innovative establishment that fills a niche in the heart of the bull city.
The dining floor is one uninterrupted rectangle, complete with exposed brick (a Durham classic), visible ductwork, and lighting fixtures made from old saw blades that resemble electrons whirling around a nucleus.
Durham residents got the memo: this place is busy. For dinner, don’t be surprised to have a wait while diners cut into empanadas beneath celestial artwork or bump elbows over cocktails at the bar.
A large blackboard adjacent to the hostess station greets future eaters with a hand-written menu.
The Pollo a la Brasa ($10.25 for dark meat) is fired on a rotisserie. The quarter chicken is moist with tender skin draped over the meat.
Ordering any of the rotisserie meats entitles you to two sides. In the foreground are Maduros, sweet plantains ready to be painted in cinnamon crème fraîche. The Pan-roasted Succotash includes crisp corn and soft lima beans.
The Arepas ($11.25) are soft, round pillows of corn-based dough hoisting a pile shredded meat. These arepas are like savory biscuits, unlike other versions that are crispy and sliced like an English muffin. The kitchen provides four: beef brisket, chicken, pork carnitas, and bean. The pork- warm, juicy, heavily spiced pulled meat was excellent. This dish embodies the South American/Southern fusion, with classic barbecue meats bred with Colombian flour. Our favorite was the pulled chicken- simmered in heavy cream, spices, and orange zest. All four come with a generous heap of avocado, along with cheese and corn salsa.
Empanadas are featured on the restaurant’s sign, so we clearly had to try them. Two of the crimped stuffed pastries come with a side for $9.50. We began with the Pork Carnitas, with whom caramelized onion, hominy, and collards are stuffed into the sleeping bag of flavor. The golden-brown crust flakes apart exposing the thick stew of meat and vegetables.
Blackened Pulled Chicken is blended with peppers and potatoes in our second empanada. Here it is shown in cross-section.
The Ceviche ($12.25) is made with dense flounder, marinated in lime juice. It is joined by some corn and plantain chips. It was good, but I’d prefer if the fish were more tart- I love ceviche whose citrus forces your mouth into comedic arrangements.
A log-cabin of Yucca Fries were our final side. Thickly sliced in triangular spears, an enormous crispy layer protects the mashed-consistency vegetable core. Two sauces: a fresh salsa and a spicy aioli are provided for dipping.
For dessert we tried two Dessert Empanadas ($5.50 each). The rich Chocolate ganache version with marshmallow and toasted walnuts, and the Dulce de Leche, shown in the photo above. This comes with coconut, raisins, and salted peanuts and was our waitress’ favorite. Creamy caramel rolls into a smooth peanut taste. The empanada dough is great for dessert even without the generous blizzard of sugar dust. A scoop of vanilla ice cream from The Parlour makes this a la mode.
Luna has an interesting menu combining two excellent flavors, a fantastic location, and a really good value. Lunch is served in a casual card-holder style while dinner has a traditional server fashion. We’d tell you to go try this new place, but its popularity speaks for itself. Go get in line!
112 West Main Street, Durham, NC 27701