Luna y Sol Shines as an Example of Authentic Mexican Cuisine: Moon and Sun Away from Traditional Tex-Mex
MIDTOWN – Alberto Castañeda has no qualms sharing his passion for authentic Mexican cuisine while wasting no time declaring Luna y Sol, where he serves as General Manager, is not traditional Tex-Mex.
“I’ve always known and recognized the fact that people really don’t know what Mexican food is.”
Luna y Sol (2808 Milam) is here to educate the community as the fast-casual eatery featuring traditional Mexican cuisine right in the heart of Midtown Houston. Without question, Luna y Sol is serving up fresh ingredients, bold flavors and all on a budget (less than $10). But who are the people behind the “Moon and Sun” phenomenon?
Meet Alberto and Esther, the owners who ventured to bring authentic Mexican cuisine to a metropolis saturated with Tex-Mex and a community of people with little to no experience with traditional Mexican food.
The bistro was born in the Castañedas’ Houston home when Alberto, then an oil and gas professional, would invite people from all over the world to taste and experience authentic Mexican food prepared by his wife.
Alberto brags that his guests would rave over Esther’s culinary skills, marveling at the foreign items they found on their plates. He smiled as he recalled them saying, “Oh, that’s not what we know as Mexican food. It’s delicious!”
As the oil and gas took a downturn, the Castañedas were given an opportunity to turn avocados into guacamole, opening up Luna y Sol in November of 2014.
They had a vision for Luna y Sol to only serve authentic Mexican food. A cuisine they say makes them stand out from the rest of the Mexican vendors in Houston. “We’re the only one that has authentic Mexican food and not Tex-Mex and we’re very adamant about our menu,” Castañeda says.
Beyond being trained undoubtedly by the women from her culture, Esther is a Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts trained chef committed to sharing the tradition of food that stems from family recipes perfected over generations.
“I’m very passionate about my culture and teaching it to other people,” says Castañeda (on behalf of the family). “I was very tired of going to restaurants that say they’re Mexican and it tastes like nothing that’s in Mexico!”
The Midtown favorite traces its roots to Monterrey, Mexico, a city known for its endless array of beef delicacy. And judging by the Luna y Sol menu, the Castañedas have not ventured far from their roots.
Many casual diners are unaware of the difference between Tex-Mex and authentic Mexican cuisine, which remains the greatest challenge in converting Tex-Mex patrons. “We’ve found that we have to train a lot of people and educate them on what real Mexican food is and I think that has been the most challenging part,” Castañeda says.
The Castañedas seem up for the challenge. They were both reared in families stewarded by self-employment parents, and both hold MBA’s.
While Luna y Sol is lauded within the dining community, the commitment to authenticity has yielded some humorous stories about customers seeking to customize their order only to later relent to the designs of the chef and defer to her knowledge.
So What’s Next for the Castañedas?
Just this summer Luna y Sol obtained its liquor license and is now crafting margaritas equally worthy of accolades.
As Luna y Sol establishes a firmer foothold in the local culinary scene, Castañeda plans on expanding the catering business and perhaps opening a second restaurant. His family appreciates the home it has found in Midtown and has come to enjoy the process of converting customers to the cuisine they love.
“After they eat they’re sold and they love it.”
The Midtown Houston district encourages you to #eatINmidtown and #MakeItADate by visiting midtownHOUston.com/visit/restaurants.