Despite the fact that I regularly neglect my meal plan and indulgently blow my money on the eateries that populate Collegetown, I recently discovered that I had never been to Luna Inspired Street Food. To remedy this situation, and armed with the noble task of trying out the new spring menu of over 25 new dishes for The Sun, I made the perilous trek downhill a day before I skedaddled back home for break. By the way, I am not exaggerating about the treacherous hill; I kindly volunteered my friend to walk in front of me so that if necessary, I would fall face first on him — and not the cold, hard, concrete pavement! Ignoring its not-so-aesthetic facade (Luna’s shares its building complex with Loco Cantina), we stepped into an understandably empty restaurant for a Thursday lunch.
To provide a few slices of background information, Luna’s is a quick service restaurant inspired by street food, with a total of three locations in Ithaca. It also offers catering and online order and delivery (although several customers on Yelp and TripAdvisor cite some issues with delivery). Luna’s proudly serves fusion dishes created using locally sourced meat and produce, and the business seems to heavily promote the fact that employees are paid a living wage. The Collegetown restaurant is dimly lit, with an interesting color scheme of gray, red and black on its walls, which are horizontally bordered by colorful chalkboard illustrations, a food truck signature. Available seating consists of small and square high tables and stools (I wasn’t terribly fond of this arrangement, but given the limited space, it did seem appropriate), and I didn’t register any music.
After examining each new spring menu item, I chose the sticky pineapple chicken bowl that promised a combination of jasmine rice, crispy chicken covered in sweet and spicy sauce, thai chili peppers, sesame seeds and scallions, all served inside half of a pineapple. My lunch date selected the Cubano sandwich, which consists of local pork and ham, dill pickle, swiss cheese and yellow mustard nicely squeezed between two slices of pressed bread.
One thing to note: Luna’s is partially self-serve! Orders and payments are requested and processed through two standing iPads. Our food came out very quickly (there were no “OMG, when are we getting fed?” moments), and we picked up our dishes from the little booth where the cashier and register would have been, if not for the iPads.
Onto the actual food: the chicken in my sticky pineapple chicken bowl was really good — super crispy outside, and very soft and warm inside. Texture-wise, it was amazing; I’ve never had better chicken at a fast casual restaurant in my life! Alas, everything else was not as brilliant: there were barely any sesame seeds, the scallions were MIA and the curiously beige jasmine rice tasted like it had been unattractively cooked in heavily diluted sweet and sour sauce. I admit I was also slightly disappointed by the absence of actual pineapple; the dish comes in half of a fruit, the dices of which it does not contain (I’m used to pineapple rice bowls with diced pineapples!). I ended up eating only the chicken and a few spoonfuls of rice, picking at the rest. For a few minutes, I attempted to carve out some pineapple from the bowl, but there was not much of the fruit left that could be extracted, despite my enthusiastic enlistment of a plastic knife and fork. So in the end, no pineapple.
I also took a bite of my friend’s Cubano sandwich, and it was alright! The sandwich was very pork-heavy — the accompanying ham was almost undetectable — but the pork was actually a little bland. My friend also agreed that it was an okay Cuban, though it was definitely a better overall dish when compared to my pineapple bowl.
According to TripAdvisor, Luna’s Collegetown is an “American, fusion, mediterranean” restaurant ranked #56 out of the 201 restaurants in Ithaca, with a $ price range. Although this pricing evaluation is correct using a scale that runs from $ to $$$, I paid $12.49 for my pineapple bowl, so it is a bit pricey for street food! I mean, yes, I do pay upwards of $13 for avocado toast in New York City, but I wasn’t exactly thrilled to pay the same for my dish at Luna’s. The Cubano was also $12.49 (excluding tax). If it is important to you, the restaurant does not provide much Instagrammable content — ironically, I did post about my visit; to be fair, I had a great time with my friend, and my Instagram is most definitely not the epitome of aesthetic.
Overall, Luna’s positives would be decent portions, quick service, plenty of options (if variety is your thing), easy customization (gluten-free and vegan preferences can be indicated through iPad) and locally-sourced ingredients. And if you’re looking for a quiet weekday lunch, Luna’s is the spot!
Personally, I probably will not be visiting Luna’s again in the near future (off to new places I go!), but I’m also not ruling it out; there are some thoughtfully long rave reviews online that endorse other items on the vast menu. Moreover, I have a disclaimer I should have made earlier: it is very hard to impress me with fusion food, and I have been told I am an objectively picky eater. So if you are nearby, you should give Luna’s a whirl!
Serves: popular street food items with a fusion twist
Vibe: think Applebee’s meets local food truck