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Restaurants & Bars 1

Luna Mexicana

JimInLoganSquare | Sep 12, 2004 06:07 PM

Friday Mrs. JiLS and I finally trotted over to Luna Mexicana -- after two years in the neighborhood, it seemed like we really just ought to try eating at the largest Mexican restaurant in Logan Square. I guess I was turned off by the big, hokey mural of the jalapeno mariache band on the west wall of the building, and it certainly looks kind of like a chain restaurant (although I don't suppose it is). I make no claims regarding authenticity; no eyeballs or entire boiled cow heads were on offer, however, so if that's what you're looking for, please acknowledge that you've been warned. But it was actually quite good, and here are the details.

First, the place is huge, and divided into two rooms. The first room, designated non-smoking, is clearly NOT where you want to sit. It has the look and feel of a cheap diner. The main (smoking) room just to the left, however, is a like the other side of the rainbow. This room is a dramatic and actually very elegant space, with 20-foot exposed brick walls and elaborate masonry inlays patterns on the floors. It looks nicer than Ixcapulzalco, for example, and the dinner costs about 1/3 as much, so that's worth considering. There is a small karaoke stage in back (and as our meal progressed, someone came in and started firing up the large and effective P.A. system with some loud but enjoyable Mexican tunes). If Friday night was representative, the place is popular with families.

I started with a margarita that was served on the rocks and was about what you'd expect; nothing special, but it was cold, wet and strong. And the salt was dyed red, so that was fun. Mrs. JiLS stuck with a Bohemia. Acceptable tortilla chips (fresh, but nothing special) were served with three salsa choices (an oily and delicious verde that was heavy on the cilantro, a so-so red sauce that was kind of salty, and a very good (and hot) fresh pico de gallo).

We ordered one appetizer, and a good thing, because this was a ceviche portioned for a family of six (and under $10). Excellent white meat fish (maybe swordfish, can't recall) served with plentiful fruit (lime, orange, tomato and artfully sliced avocado). It was delicious (as were the leftovers the next day). I can't help but compare it to the miserable travesty of a ceviche I endured about two weeks ago at Mas: $10 for a dessert cup full of rubbery, frozen shrimp swimming in DelMonte ketchup (yes, it wasn't even as good as Heinz). So basically, this ceviche would be reason enough to go back to Luna Mexicana.

For entrees, I had a platiyo of beef rib meat and corn tortillas (store bought, I think, but nice and steamy hot). The meat was well grilled and tender, and the accompanying beans, tomatoes and guac were above average. I was pleased. Mrs. JiLS had a plate of mixed quesadillas (two cheese, one beef) that she relished and which looked pretty tasty to me (clearly some care went into the frying/grilling of these little guys); I didn't sample them, however.

This was a very good meal, and economical. With two margaritas and two Bohemias, it came to about $45 -- plus enough leftover ceviche to make up an entire lunch for two the following day. Luna Mexicana's specialty is table-top grilling (a/k/a "Parillado"). They recommend that meal for groups of 4 or more, so we didn't try it, but it might make an interesting comparison with the Korean tabletop barbecue and Chinese hotpot spots favored by many posters on this forum. Maybe I'll just starve myself for a couple of days and order a Parallido grill all for myself... They also claim to have the largest tequila list in Chicago (50 or 100 or 1,000,000, depending on the source), so that might warrant a return visit, too.

Luna Mexicana
3565 W. Fullerton
773-252-1639

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