After two nights of “soft opening,” a new Downtown Ithaca location of Luna Inspired Street Food is ready to open this Thursday, June 1st. It’s the latest of a small group of local food-truck-inspired eateries that began almost two years ago in Collegetown.
The new eatery opens with a familiar menu of pizza, tacos, sandwiches, bowls, and other street fare, but with several new items that debut for summer.
“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, which closed just last week.
“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 weather is just right this time of year for the new garage-door facade.
The decor also features 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.
This has all been built in about six weeks, a remarkable pace since 14850 Dining announced on April 18th that Luna would be opening downtown.
Luna in Collegetown 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.
New items on the menu, which are available both downtown and uptown for the summer, include a softshell crab po’boy sandwich, Jamaican Jerk Jar, fried plantains, Pho-Rito (a combination of pho ingredients in a burrito), and a fried chicken bao bun. 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. For the moment, they’re just offering soft drinks. A beer and wine license is pending.
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.
The new Restaurant Row edition of Luna Inspired Street Food opens just in time for this weekend’s Ithaca Festival, and Sullivan says his team, a combination of veterans from Collegetown and new staff, is ready.
Luna at 113 North Aurora Street in Downtown Ithaca will be open for lunch to late-night, starting out with 11am-11pm hours daily.