The following Dining Partner Content is an advertisement created by the featured restaurant and The Ithaca Voice advertising team. To become a Dining Partner and have your restaurant featured in our Dining section, email Jennifer Wholey at email@example.com.
ITHACA, N.Y. — The slogan “Food is love” is a mantra at Luna Inspired Street Food: featured on print menus, written on their chalkboards, and hashtagged on their social media accounts.
“Our slogan in-house is real simple: Food is love. Food is only as good as the amount of love you put into it. We try to show that to every customer,” Owner Kevin Sullivan said.
For the kitchen at Luna, this means preparing nearly everything from scratch, and not skimping on ingredients.
They have fresh tortillas shipped twice weekly from Queens to prepare elaborate six-ingredient tacos, and simmer short rib, pork shoulder, black bean, and chocolate-dipped pork belly for their chili, which won the People’s Choice award at the 18th Annual Great Downtown Ithaca Chili Cook-Off.
Serving innovative takes on international street food in a fast-casual atmosphere, Luna has been slinging duck fat fries and pork belly bao buns from its kitchen at 310 Stewart Avenue since July 2015.
As of February 2016, Sullivan’s favorite menu item is the sweet potato and kale taco, with roasted sweet potato, sautéed kale, tomatillo guacamole, diced onion, avocado and kale chips.
“It is phenomenally good, and moderately healthy,” he said.
Favorites are hard to pin down on a menu that changes constantly and is also quite large, Sullivan admitted.
While the Korean short rib taco is a fan favorite, Luna’s real bestseller is its BBQ short rib mac.
“You have the short rib that’s in our homemade tacos with Gouda mac and cheese,” Sullivan said.
The short rib is bourbon BBQ-braised, and the mac and cheese is topped with crispy fried shallots, smoked salt and panko bacon breadcrumbs. “It makes you feel like you need to go sleep for a few hours after.”
A brick and mortar food truck
When The Chapter House burned down in April 2015, Sullivan took stock of his pizza and fast food joint, The Connection, on the adjacent corner.
“It was the final nail in the coffin,” Sullivan said. “We closed down Connection with a plan of doing Luna, rebranding and starting over again with a whole new concept.”
Sullivan’s new concept was a brick and mortar food truck. Seeing the rise of food trucks nationwide, he and his friend Bryan Keller brainstormed how to bring the idea to Ithaca.
Keller, doing wholesale food sales for restaurants in D.C., would become the chef consultant. (“He’s the master behind the recipes,” said Sullivan.)
Together, they revamped the former Connection space to turn out incredible fusion street foods from all over the country under one roof, for eat-in, delivery or take-out.
The Luna team renovated the restaurant interior to have a modern feel with some classic touches. While there is brushed galvanized steel and metal tones in the paint, it doesn’t just feel like a warehouse.
Rusted signs and creative chalkboard menu illustrations “make it feel homey,” said Sullivan, a look they echoed in their second location inside Lot 10.
In the know
The best time to come to Luna’s is lunchtime, Sullivan said, when the lines are shortest.
Even if the wait is nil, one little-known fact is that the restaurant will validate Collegetown Parkmobile parking in Zone 4102 with a Luna purchase, essentially paying for an hour of parking with a discount on food.
When you order online, use the coupon code ITHACAVOICE for 15 percent off. The code is valid for unlimited use through June 1st on $20 minimum purchases at lunastreetfood.com only.