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ITHACA, N.Y – While most of Ithaca was trying in vain to get a restaurant reservation in the last gasp of May, Luna quietly rolled out a trump card: an additional vegetarian and vegan-only menu.

Luna’s owner Kevin Sullivan, who was a vegetarian for two and a half years, felt from the beginning that his restaurant needed to step up and meet a missing demand.

“I don’t know how many times I ended up eating French fries, or another crappy Portobello on a bun,” he said, bemoaning the usual options.

“What we wanted to do was to create some really cool, different, modern vegan and vegetarian offerings.”

The result is a near-carbon copy of many of Luna’s most popular offerings.

The beef bulgogi tacos are now “beefless”, the chicken shawarma salad is “chick’n,” and the cheese pizza is available with Daiya vegan mozzarella.

Chik’n quesadilla: Jack and cotija cheese, scallions, charred lime crema, and smoked tomato salsa. Photo by Jennifer Wholey
Chik’n quesadilla: Jack and cotija cheese, scallions, charred lime crema, and smoked tomato salsa. Photo by Jennifer Wholey

Some dishes have made the transition with the help of Gardein meat substitutes, like most of the tacos, while others like the goat cheese flatbread and taco salad each hold their own with fresh, local vegetables.

Gone are the days when a group order for takeout or delivery ends up with a naysayer for each suggested restaurant. “Vegan and vegetarian options are important,” said Sullivan. “For anybody that has that dietary restriction, this is the stop.”

The omnivorous Ithaca Voice Dining team can report that the chick’n shawarma salad had just the right texture and taste — there was even a slight char on the outside of the marinated chik’n — and the Cornell chik’n quesadilla likewise held up impeccably to any similar meat protein option that has crossed our plates in ages.

The secret seems to be that all of the un-meats are marinated in the same kind of sauces as their animal counterparts, and in the case of the chik’n shawarma are cooked in a high heat to seal in the elusive shawarma taste.

“It’s not going to be like a question mark salad in a pizza shop. We put as much care into that food as we do in to the rest,” Sullivan said. There are some naturally vegan options, but most of the new vegetarian ones can also be be made vegan.

View the full vegan/vegetarian menu here.

Luna will be at Ithaca Fest this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, slinging some perennial favorites: pork carnitas tacos, short rib tacos, sweet potato kale tacos for vegetarians, and pork belly bao buns.

If you want to get closer to the action and have restaurant industry experience, take note, Luna is also looking for line cooks.

Close-up of vegan/vegetarian menu inset. Most vegetarian items can also be made vegan. Photo by Jennifer Wholey.

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Jennifer Wholey

Jennifer Wholey is a feature writer and Head of Dining Partnerships for the Ithaca Voice. Contact her at jwholey@ithacavoice.com.