Located at 112 West Main Street in Durham, Luna serves Latin American cuisine for lunch and dinner. There is a full bar, and specials change regularly.
On concept alone, Luna would be well worth visiting. Billing itself as South American and American South, the restaurant offers Latin entrees, empanadas, and patacones (plantain sandwiches) along with Southern sides such as succotash, smoked bacon collards, and pimento mac and cheese (as well as quite a few vegetarian options). But there is more than just a good gimmick here. Food quality, service, and pricing all make Luna a hit.
The restaurant’s interior is fun and inviting. Spacey wall murals and a well-lit bar are inviting, and there are both long communal tables as well as more traditional seating. It can get quite loud in here when the restaurant is at capacity, but that was a non-issue during our visit.
As we were first-timers, our server was good enough to give a rundown of a few unfamiliar menu items and offer recommendations. We eventually settled on a starter of arepas (maize cakes topped with chicken, pork, brisket, and black beans, respectively) and an empanada and two sides a piece. All of the food came surprisingly quickly, and were it not so filling, we surely would have opted for some of the dessert empanadas (yes, that’s a thing) as well.
About that food: the flavors here are incredible. The meats were juicy, flavorful, and well-seasoned, and the sides equaled, if not surpassed them. The black beans and coconut rice was creamy, the maduros (plantains) sweet, and the yucca frites a welcome break from regular fries. Among the drinks we tried, a mint mate was clean and refreshing while Luna’s version of a horchata – a departure from the Mexican-style rice milk drink – tasted like a passionfruit iced tea.
The pricing here proved to be surprisingly wallet-friendly. Empanadas (either one with two sides or two with one side) were $9.50 and portioned generously. The drinks were south of $3 and included free refills. Even entrees here (aside from seafood specials) top out at $15.25.
With some restaurants – particularly newer or inconsistent establishments – it is natural to question whether it is worth the gamble. But with Luna, the question is, “What are you waiting for?”