It’s been almost two years since Luna Inspired Street Food opened in Collegetown, and this summer they’re expanding to a Downtown Ithaca spot on North Aurora Street.
“I used to live across the street and I used to stare at it,” says Luna owner Kevin Sullivan of the Restaurant Row storefront that used to hold Jade Garden. That Chinese eatery moved to the west end a couple of years ago, leaving a vacant spot next to Hal’s Deli.
“We’re going to mirror the menu a little bit,” compared to the original Luna, Sullivan says, “but we’ll have room for some more interesting fusion pizza. There’s a lot more flexibility with what we can do with pies in the display case with the extra walk-in traffic” downtown will bring.
Luna evolved out of the Connection, a pizzeria near the Chapter House and the Carriage House Café, when Sullivan and Bryan Keller devised a brick-and-mortar tribute to several kinds of street food at once. They created an eatery that was a pizzeria, a taco truck, a Korean BBQ stall, a poutinerie, a pretzel cart, and a wings-and-burger stand, all at the same time, with a fusion of flavors that defies the expectations.
As in Collegetown, expect plenty of locally sourced produce and meats in the tacos, bao buns, salads, sandwiches, mac & cheese, and so on, and “lots of vegan and vegetarian items.”
Like the original Luna on Stewart Avenue, Sullivan says the downtown eatery will have a counter and ordering kiosks, but they’ll also have food runners to bring out dishes when they’re ready, and grab another drink for diners if they need one.
Downtown Ithaca has lots of sit-down spots right now, says Sullivan, but “it’s really desperately seeking a more casual alternative. There’ll be a little bit of service without the expectation of a big gratuity,” he says.
The new eatery “will be unrecognizable,” Sullivan tells us. “We’re doing an all-glass garage door in the front from floor to ceiling, so the whole storefront can be open-air in the summertime.” They’ll have outdoor seating on the sidewalk, as well, and an awning to protect diners from the elements.
The decor will also feature reclaimed barn wood tables along the walls, with low barn wood benches, both from reclaimedbarns.com on Oneida Lake, plus higher tables and stools similar to the Collegetown location. The kitchen is being almost entirely rebuilt. “We had to replace part of the floor, and part of the sheetrock,” Sullivan says. “Lots of cleaning.”
Luna has already been serving a downtown clientele with its kiosk inside Lot 10, and that’s not changing. “We’re still planning to serve the bar customers there,” Sullivan tells us. “Our growth is limited down there because it’s not our own storefront,” he says. “Opening on Aurora Street is a very different concept” that will let them serve a fast-paced lunch crowd as well as the evening restaurant scene.
“We see shifting some of our Collegetown dine-in business downtown, where it’ll be easier to park,” as well. The Stewart Avenue location will still be able to serve (and deliver to) the Collegetown and Cornell campus crowds.
Sullivan tells us they plan to open the latest Luna Inspired Street Food location at 113 North Aurora Street in “early summer.”