Diners seem crazy for Luna-C Grille

Restaurant profile

February 28, 2002|By Lorraine Gingerich | Lorraine Gingerich,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When Susie Davis learned that Bill Bateman's Bistro in Clarksville was for sale, she decided that this was her chance to have her own restaurant in upscale River Hill. Enter Luna-C Grille.

Davis opened the restaurant without advertising, and it has been packing them in since its debut on New Year's Eve. "No one should know that we are open, but everybody does because of word of mouth," she said. "We have an hour wait on Friday and Saturday nights."

The restaurant has customers coming from Baltimore to enjoy the creations of executive chef Jennifer Moeller, who previously owned Wild Mushroom in Baltimore.

Davis hired Bill Ireland as general manger and kept most of Bateman's staff. She's doing what she calls a "soft opening."

"A soft opening gives you chance to iron out any kinks before the grand opening," she said. The grand opening is planned for the end of the month.

Davis "wanted something celestial" for the name of her new restaurant. She considered "Moon River Cafe" but that was "so sedate, so Andy Williams," she said. "That's just not my personality." Then someone suggested she use the word Luna instead of moon, and the word "lunacy" popped into her head.

"It's just total lunacy to be opening a restaurant at this point in my life," she said to herself -- and Luna-C Grille was born.

Although many of the meals have impressive names, Davis wants people to think of Luna-C as upscale, yet casual. "I don't want people to think of this as fine dining," she said. "Sometimes people will come out of the [Columbia] Gym and think they're not dressed well enough, but that's fine."

Start off your meal with appetizers such as Sambuca shrimp or mussels in a spicy white wine garlic and butter broth. You may prefer the grilled steak skewers, sesame fried calamari or the vegetarian hummus plate.

Soups include roasted corn and red pepper chowder and French onion, as well as the soup of the day. Select from a number of salads such as Nicoise, pear and candied walnuts, or The Princess, a simple -- albeit large -- tossed salad.

Choose from a satisfactory array of sandwiches, including deli sandwiches, a Monte Cristo, and the Archie Bunker (meatloaf), on up to the $12.95 Maryland crab cake sandwich.

Two popular sandwiches, Cosmic Corey (warm roast beef, Cajun horseradish, grilled red onions and sauteed spinach on toasted rye) and Radical Ryan (turkey with Swiss cheese, onions, tomatoes, barbecue sauce and ranch dressing), were named after Davis' sons.

Vegetarian selections include the Outer Limit, of grilled balsamic portabella mushroom with spinach and gorgonzola, and the Inner Light, made of veggies with havarti cheese. Proceeds from the Inner Light go to the American Cancer Society.

Moon River (chicken breast stuffed with crab), Capellini A La Pollo (grilled chicken with pasta), and the Applejack Brandy Center-Cut Chop are popular entrees. Or consider noteworthy entrees such as curried coconut shrimp, stuffed crab and shrimp roasted red peppers, and tequila lime marinated chicken. Four vegetarian entrees are offered: vegetarian lasagna, homemade macaroni and cheese, marinara spinach and shitake mushroom risotto.

The wine list ranges from the $15 bottle of white zinfandel, to a $200 bottle of Dom Perignon. Most range from $20 to $40.

One menu is offered for lunch and dinner. A recently added Sunday brunch offers the typical French toast and pancakes, along with meals such as steak and eggs and a smoked fish plate.

A separate children's menu is available. "I wanted a nice comfortable, somewhat upscale restaurant, but still kid-friendly," Davis said. So the decor features white cloth tablecloths and fresh flowers, but the tables are also covered with white paper so the kids can draw. Etch A Sketch toys are on hand, too, and the adults have as much fun playing with them as the kids do.

Children can select the standard burgers, pizza, hot dogs or grilled cheese, or the more unusual peanut butter crunch chicken tenders. Another selection is Customized P.B. & J -- kids can opt to add chocolate chips, bananas, marshmallow and other choices to the everyday peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Davis enjoys making the decisions that affect the restaurant. "There's no corporation that I have to answer to," she said. "If people come in and want to make suggestions for the menu, I'm very open to the needs of the people who are coming in here," she said.

Customers will appreciate the touches she gives to the restaurant -- the custom designed logo tables and chairs and the eclectic salt and pepper shakers. "I wanted to have all different kinds of salt and pepper shakers," she said. So she has gathered high-top tennis shoes, cars and other unique shakers to liven up the restaurant.

Davis has high hopes for her new venture. "I hope 10 years from now, everyone will still be going to Luna-C," Davis said.

Luna-C Grille

Where: 6040 Daybreak Circle, Clarksville; 410-531-7900.

Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday; Sunday brunch is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Prices: Appetizers, $4.95 to $9.95; sandwiches, $5.95 to $12.95; entrees, $8.95 to $24.95.

Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, Diners Club

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