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September 28, 2012

Luna Red in San Luis Obispo: the perfect combination of quality and atmosphere

by Molly Schiff

[Editor's Note: We are excited to welcome Molly Schiff to the SLO Locals staff. She will be focusing her reviews on some of the best businesses in the SLO County area. We like to refer to her as the "new old-timer" - she has been in SLO long enough to be a local, but is fresh enough to add a newcomers exuberance to the proceedings. Check out her posts HERE and make sure to email her any tips: [email protected]]

My family loves San Luis Obispo. Living on the other side of the country in Rochester, NY, my mom and dad will find any excuse to make the trip out to see me. My mom jokes that they are going to retire here. My dad chimes in only after they win the lottery.

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The friendly people, great weather, small town charm…the list of desirable qualities goes on and on. Nearing the top of that list, at least for my family, is the great food and wine. I fully embrace my parents vacationing attitude when they visit, and try to scope out the best wineries, wine bars and restaurants in the area for us to enjoy.

Luna Red is one of the spots I’m most excited to take my family. The restaurant is operated by owners Shanny Covey and Robin Covey and Chef Shaun Behrens. Shanny and Robin also own Robin’s in Cambria, and Novo, also in downtown San Luis Obispo, and routinely mentioned as one of the best restaurant experiences in the County.

Chef Shaun Behrens was also inspired by the re-location, and added three different ceviches to the menu- all made from fresh raw fish marinated in citrus juice, inspired by different parts of the world, and ranging $13-15 dollars. For $17, you can get the global sample and try them all!

Luna Red first opened its doors in October 2010 as the Covey’s third venture in the restaurant business, and was originally located on Monterey Street across from the San Luis Obispo courthouse. Though the restaurant as been around for a few years now, I hadn’t hear of it until they relocated in April 2012 to the new location on Chorro Street, next to the mission. With the re-location came influence from the Spanish-style building in both the décor and menu of the restaurant. The interior has a vibrant, eclectic style with large windows, antique mirrors, lush plants and local art. Outside, there’s a patio area complete with an outdoor cabana bar. The bright, warm colors used throughout the restaurant are fun and inviting. While Luna Red is an upscale restaurant, the atmosphere is relaxed yet sophisticated, and feels very inviting.

“Luna Red serves globally inspired small plates made with mostly local and seasonal ingredients,” explains the restaurant’s marketing manager, Molly Kiely.

“We also have a farm-to-glass bar program that changes seasonally depending on what local produce is available. And of course an extensive wine list that includes both local and international producers.”

“We offer happy hour Monday through Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m. and Thursday night from 8 to 11 p.m.: $1 off 12 ounce beers, $2 off 22 ounce beers, $3 off Luna Cocktails and $5 daily red and white wine specials.” – Molly Kiely 

Though a bit out of my post-graduation student-loan-infested budget, Luna Red is one of those places where it’s worth paying a little more for the excellent quality of food, wine, and service.

Let’s start with the drink menu, which can be a little expensive. Try the happy hour deal (see sidebar) to help alleviate the cost, and check out the outdoor patio and bar, which creates a relaxed environment that makes the price more than worthwhile. Their extensive wine and cocktail menus have something for everybody, and a sometimes overwhelming amount of choices.

Wine averages around $9 a glass and cocktails around $10. My friends and I usually order the table punch, which costs $33 for four or $18 for two. The Cool Cucumber and Emperor’s Iced Tea are my personal favorites. I haven’t found a happy hour quite like this anywhere else in San Luis Obispo – with the unique atmosphere, excellent service, and quality food and drink, and it’s a great change of pace from the loud, crowded bar scene downtown.

Plus, after a drink or two, there is the special dining experience to look forward to.

“I think we are just unique enough to take people on a dining adventure while still offering some traditional fare, with our own Luna Red twist, of course.” Kiely said.

A dining adventure, indeed. Dinner plates cost on average between $8-$15, and are supplemented by the interesting assortment of “small plates.” From cheese plates and raw fish to Tapas and even larger meals, Luna Red caters to any appetite, and everything (or at least everything I’ve tried) is delicious. You can tell Luna Red uses fresh ingredients to carefully craft everything on their menu.

“In about a month we will be starting to host Farm-to-Table prix fixe dinners.  One night a month we will sell 10-12 seats to this private event which will be an exclusive 5-course menu paired with wine.  You can check our website for upcoming information about this event.” - Molly Kiely 

“We cater to people who appreciate a farm-fresh menu and the idea of sharing and enjoying dishes together, which is the idea behind small plates or tapas,” Kiely said. “We had a great start when we initially launched Luna Red but our old location was definitely a challenge.  Since the move we’ve seen a continuous expansion in both business and new and returning customers, which is very encouraging.”

Kiely’s favorite dish? “From the lunch menu – I love the Chirashi Sushi Bowl ($15) made with wild fish, citrus-soy sauce, kimchee, pickled ginger, hot mustard & sticky rice.”

For me, it’s the Spiced Lamb Kebabs ($8) and the Japanese style baked oysters ($12), but I could really list anything I’ve tried off the menu as being excellent. Although Luna Red may not be a place I can afford to go all the time, it’s certainly one I’m willing to spend more at when the occasion is right…or when my family is in town and treating.

We also offer live music on Fridays and Saturdays 10 p.m. – midnight in the main dining room and Sundays 5:30-8 p.m. on our patio.” - Molly Kiely 

In summary, Luna Red has fresh, unique food and a wide selection of wines. Pair that with a great new location and excellent service, and this is a must-visit downtown location.

You can stop by Luna Red any time of the day- they serve lunch daily 11:00am-5:00pm and dinner 5:00pm-9:30pm. They also offer late night dining Fridays and Saturdays from 10:00pm-12:00am, and a Sunday brunch 9:30am-2:00pm.



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