Good service, great food Eastlake’s Luna Grill is packing in the customers

Phillip Brents

Fri April 24, 2015 11:12am

Carlos Ramirez has been the general manager of Luna Grill’s Eastlake restaurant since 2012. He’s seen the fast casual Mediterranean-themed eatery blossom in popularity right before his eyes.
“I can remember when there were slow days, but that’s been years ago,” Ramirez explained. The restaurant’s popularity with its fresh, healthy-based menu certainly cannot be disputed today. Don’t be surprised to see a line at the counter when first stepping into the immaculately clean restaurant.
“It’s come down to good service and great food,” Ramirez said in regard to the restaurant’s upturn in popularity. “We’re always busy, doing good business. The atmosphere is very family-oriented. Kids eat free every Tuesday starting at 4 p.m. It’s a great place to come in with a group or for lunch or on a first date.
“People love our chicken and like the spices we use. We’ve come a long way since we opened here.”
Luna Grill, established in 2004 by co-founders Sean and Maria Trakas Pourteymour, now has 17 locations branching out from San Diego to Orange County and even to Texas. The Eastlake location — the fifth in the line — opened in July 2011.
The restaurant bills itself as “the ultimate kabobery.” The cuisine is delicious. Guests have a choice of appetizers, wraps, salads, main entrée plates and desserts. A la carte selections can be added to any plate or salad.
Plates include a fresh green salad, basmati rice (topped with saffron), pita bread, cucumber-yogurt dip and choice of carrots or grilled tomato garnish. Entrée choices include chicken kabob ($10.50), gyros ($10.50), ground sirloin kabob ($10.50), flat-cut chicken skewer kabob ($11.50), bistro filet beef kabob ($12.50), lamb tenderloin kebob ($13.50), Cornish hen on the bone ($13.50), Norwegian salmon ($13.50), chicken kabob and gyros ($14) and chicken kabob and ground sirloin kabob ($14).
A vegetarian platter (falafel, stuffed grape leaves, hummus, pita bread and couscous salad) sells for $10.
While kabobs remain popular, the restaurant’s flat-cut chicken skewer is equally tasty if not more so.
“People love our flat-cut chicken,” Ramirez explained. “It seems to be more juicy and tender. You really taste the marinade. That has a lot to do with the way it’s cut. It’s thinner, so the marinade really penetrates the chicken. Make no mistake that our regular kabobs are good, but this is amazing. It has a succulent taste.”
The gyros is 80 percent beef and 20 percent lamb.
The plates come overloaded with food.
Appetizers, called warm-ups, include hummus (regular or spicy cilantro), falafel, stuffed grape leaves, spinach pie, seasoned or sweet potato fries and soups. Prices range from $3.50 to $6.
The spicy cilantro hummus is a clear winner. It’s tangy and packs quite an aftertaste — in a good way.
Wraps (option of multigrain flatbread or pita bread) are prepared with fresh greens, tomato, onion and signature sauces. Selections include chicken, chipotle chicken, ground sirloin, falafel or gyros, each for $9.
Want something more on the light side? There are five salads to choose from: house salad, Greek salad, apple walnut salad, Luna (spinach) salad and Mediterranean chicken salad (can be ordered without chicken). Prices range from $6.50 to $10.50.
The vinaigrette dressing on the house salad especially complements the blend of spring mix, chopped romaine and Arcadian ruby lettuce.
The Greek salad features fresh greens, feta cheese, Greek olives, tomato, cucumber, red onion and pepperoncinis, while the apple walnut salad features an organic spring mix, fresh seasonal apple, crumbled gorgonzola, candied walnuts, dried cranberries and a pomegranate vinaigrette.
“These are top-notch items for salads,” Ramirez said.
Luna Grill has something for everyone, including burgers (grass-fed beef, gyros quesadillas and a special kids meal (chicken kabob, gyros, cheese quesadilla, ground sirloin or burger). All the kids meals (served with fries or basmati rice) go for $6.
The restaurant offers gluten-free and vegan menu items, and also serves draft beer and wine. Desserts include baklava, chocolate nut rolls and mini cupcakes (from the Cheesecake Factory). Business hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily; online orders are accepted.
Luna Grill was featured at January’s inaugural Taste of Eastlake benefit fundraiser for the Eastlake Educational Foundation. Among the celebrity tasters were former Eastlake High School baseball standout and current Los Angeles Dodger major leaguer Adrian Gonzalez.
“It was amazing to see all the community come out,” Ramirez said. “It was really well organized. It’s always hard to try to find a new restaurant — people don’t know what to expect.
“Adrian liked our chicken kabob and our sirloin kabob. He’s done catering twice for his family.” Well, if that isn’t the seal of approval, then what is?