Philly Dining: LUNA CAFE Interview with Proprietor Sarah Levine

Saturday, February 27, 2016

One of the pleasures of running Tinsel & Tine is when I get to work from coffee shops...

I just love to find a cute, cozy one and create a little office for a couple of hours.  There's something about having the energy of others around me, but not involved, that creates a pleasant work atmosphere.  But when a coffee shop is actually a little cafe, I'm in heaven!  Although in this case, I didn't discover this week's Philly Spotlight, Sarah Levine of Luna Cafe (317 Market Street Philadelphia 19106), she discovered me, on Instagram, and invited me for a tasting!

Soon as I saw the front door of Luna Cafe I knew I was going to love the food and atmosphere. I invited Illustrator, draw-tographer, best friend and frequent T&T contrib, Diane Roka along for my visit and she captured this whimsical drawing of the cafe's interior. (Note: larger images of drawing and menu items in slideshow below).

For a small establishment, Luna Cafe manages to offer a lot of delicious choices: coffee, bagels, pastries, for those looking for a traditional coffee shop; Cinnamon apple french toast, build your own omelettes, potato latkes, biscuit and sausage gravy, Belgium waffles, for those looking for comfort food or brunch; Black bean-kale-quinoa veggie burger, tofu scramble, organic turkey bacon and many salads, for the health conscious; and just for fun, El Desayuno Wrap & The Lumberjack. Click for full MENU

Any establishment is only as good as its proprietor and chef, so here's a chance for you to get to know Luna Cafe Owner, Chef, Foodie, Green Maven - Sarah Levine:

T&T: I always wonder how people come up with the name for their restaurants. Do you feel a particular pull from the moon, inspiring the name Luna Cafe?

Sarah: Yes, I have always loved the moon and feel a strong pull to her power and energy. But the name actually came from a book that my mom used to read to my siblings and I when we were younger called "Stella Luna". The story book is about a fruit bat that thinks she's a bird, its super cute and one of my favorites. I had spent months making lists and lists of potential names with my friends and family but none of them ever felt right... One day my family and I were standing in the kitchen talking about it and my dad brought this name up as a suggestion and I knew right away that was it!

T&T: What went into your decision to open your restaurant in the Old City area of Philly? And what area was your second choice?

Sarah: Honestly I have always wanted to open a cafe and had been leaning towards the Fishtown area. The Old City location was kind of a right place right time thing...I saw it was for sale on some obscure website and went and spoke with the previous owner the next day. He was older and in some financial trouble and really just wanted out, so it all just kind of worked out perfectly for me.

T&T:  Using locally grown ingredients and Eco-friendly sustainability are key elements to Luna Cafe, so I would imagine a commitment to these ideals would have been a part of your lifestyle before deciding to open a restaurant. (a) Please elaborate on your green background. (b) What's been your biggest lessons learned, positive and negative, in creating partnerships with the local farming communities in the area? -

Sarah: a.) My green background goes back to my childhood, my parents are pretty much old hippies and I grew up on almost a small farm, (its not a farm by traditional standards but we had gardens, and chickens, and lots of other animals). So being green and environmentally friendly is engrained in who I am. Also as I got older I've realized more and more what a terrible state our global environment is in, as an individual I strive to make what little difference I can, and now as a business owner, I put in that same effort with my cafe.

Sarah cont. b.) The most positive aspect of using our local farming community is truly how wonderful local products are. The color, texture, taste, everything about locally sourced products is better than the items we get produced in mass quantities by factory farms. The biggest obstacle is seasons, it is extremely difficult to get local produce in February in Pennsylvania, and sometimes a farm you use for a staple item, such as tomatoes or onions will a have shortage for what ever reason that week and you will be left stranded with no tomatoes or onions. But you can always make do, and I would say that the positive absolutely outweighs the negative.

T&T:  Brag about the food! What's a new favorite on the menu you really love! What's an old favorite, Luna Cafe's menu can't be without? -

Sarah: Our food is delicious! It is the epitome of gourmet comfort food, traditionally loved favorites with the best ingredients and flavors! We've recently added a house-made Belgian waffle served with Franklin Fountains vanilla bean ice cream to the menu that is to die for. One of our original items is the salmon burger. Not your traditional salmon patty, this burger features a big salmon fillet, grilled up and served on a fresh baked challah bun with a house-made spicy tarter sauce.

T&T:  Luna Cafe offers catering, are you mainly looking to cater office meeting lunches, smaller parties like bridal showers, or large social events?

Luna Cafe Boxed Lunch Menu Coming Soon!

Sarah: For now we are looking to cater mainly office meeting lunches and smaller parties such as bridal showers and birthday parties. We actually hosted a bridal shower last weekend that was lovely. We have the atmosphere for a bridal or baby shower brunch!

T&T: How did you meet Matthew Cummins? How would you describe the dynamics of your working relationship? What food traits does he brings to the Cafe's fare? -
Sarah: Matt and I met through a series of interviews when Luna was opening, believe it or not he applied through Craigslist and turned out to be perfect for the position. We have a wonderful working relationship and are a great team. We have done so much together at Luna and have really grown together. When Luna first opened we were serving lunch and dinner, it wasn't until 6 months later that we decided together to switch to breakfast and lunch and within two weeks we had come up with a new breakfast menu and made the transition almost flawlessly. Matt is very talented, he has an endless knowledge of food and is amazing at matching up unique flavors that you would never imagine. Unfortunately, as much as I am going to miss him, I knew my small cafe could not hold him forever. As I mentioned he is very talented and is moving onto bigger and better things to expand his knowledge and potential.

T&T: You came to Philadelphia from.... to pursue your education, but stayed because you love Philly's .... -

Sarah: I moved to Philadelphia from the Poconos, East Stroudsburg to be exact. I love Philly's culture and food!

T&T: We like to add a little Tinsel to our Tine - What's your favorite guilty pleasure movie? -

Sarah: Haha, my favorite guilty pleasure movie is Midnight in Paris

Follow Luna Cafe on Twitter & Instagram:@Luna_Philly

(Note: Video will not be visible to those receiving T&T via RSS Feed Click HERE to view )

Luna Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Luna Café

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is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

Feel free to send me info on a film or new restaurant you'd like me to highlight.

Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?

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