Monday Munchies: La Luna Cafe puts art in food and local art on walls

Published: Dec. 19, 2022 at 4:53 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Perhaps you have company visiting Sioux Falls over the holidays, and you want to take them to that perfect, locally-owned sunny spot for a relaxing breakfast or lunch with gourmet coffee.

Maybe you want to give them a cultural experience that is both global and uniquely Sioux Falls.

La Luna Cafe on the north end of Phillips Avenue in downtown Sioux Falls is all that, with owner and chef Edith James providing an artistic touch that provides a stimulating experience for the taste buds and beyond.

”I’m a very creative person,” Edith said. “I love to cook in a very delicate manner so that it’s very appealing to the eyes.”

She wants the same effect out of the restaurant’s wall space, which is adorned by bright, vivid, colorful works from local artists.

Edith’s Daughter Tatiana is the curator.

”The essence of the restaurant is really to cultivate ideas of different creators that we have,” Tatiana said. “We really like to cultivate that culture of art. We like to say that every barista and each chef is an artist of their own, as we like to create artwork on your plates and your coffee cups.”

That goes for the intricate floral designs in the wide assortment of coffee and latte drinks. Or, the way Edith carefully powders a Belgian waffle, then places strawberries in a ring on top of the it, fills that ring with an immaculate coned layer of whipped cream, and then strings a shower of Nutella on top the whole masterpiece to the point you almost feel guilty for eating it.

Until you do. No regrets.

While Tatiana is Edith’s closet companion day-to-day at La Luna Cafe, the operation is very much a family affair. Husband Salvador helps design and maintain the website. Both of Tatiana’s brothers play roles, with Salvador organizing the coffee and Diego helping out with finances.

”For me, it’s really important to have family because our family is a unit,” Edith said. “Having a united family and knowing we can work as a team and knowing what we are able to do — we’ve been able to do it so far.”

Edith is far from a rookie restaurateur. She ran five eateries in her home country of El Salvador before moving the family to Sioux Falls — where some family friends lived and highly recommended — 16 years ago.

“Sioux Falls is a beautiful city,” Edith said. “A city where you have peace. Where you can raise your kids in a very healthy way. And I really enjoy the people.”

For her first 13 years in South Dakota, Edith took a break from the culinary industry and worked as a pastor at Reformed in the Christ church, where the elder Salvador is the head pastor.

But in 2019, Edith decided that to help put her three children through college, she needed new options for income, and she took a bet on herself by going back to both the kitchen and to her knack for marketing.

First and foremost, she wanted a make a place for food lovers and art lovers. She found the perfect spot, next to the cherry-rocked landmark on the Big Sioux River that gives her adopted city its namesake.

“This is a place where people can create,” Edith said. “They can be close to Falls Park. They utilize the park to enjoy it, and we’re really happy they can come here and enjoy our space as well.”

The experiences go hand-in-hand, at least during the daytime. La Luna Cafe is open Mondays thru Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sundays from 8 to 2.

And people will find the food to be as exquisite to taste as it is to see. The menu started simple, but has expanded and diversified over the years, with customers playing a role.

“Connecting to new people, figuring out what people want,” Tatiana said. “We change depending on that.”

It’s an all-day breakfast haven, with the Nutella Belgian as the signature version of its six different waffle choices. Scrambled eggs and crispy, zesty bacon come with the waffles, and there are six different choices of toast — jungle jam, caprese avocado, rose garden, green eggs and ham, chicken jalapeno, and pollo loco.

There’s a wide variety of pizzas — pepperoni, basil pesto, pork belly, Hawaiian, and margarita (that’s how it is spelled on the board). The most popular personal-sized pizza is the bacon sunrise, while the family-portioned champion is the BBQ chicken.

You can choose from three different types of tacos (steak, chicken, and bourbon pulled pork), four options of quesadillas (cheese and beans, chicken, steak, pork), and three different kinds of bowls (chicken, pork, steak) in either burrito or fajita rice style.

The newest dish is a James family twist on a Midwest staple. Yes, La Luna Cafe is throwing its hat into the Sioux Falls Burger Battle ring. It debuted a couple weeks ago, giving Edith and Tatiana some time to craft it to their desired form and seasoning when the contest starts next month.

”What’s unique about this patty is that it’s a steak burger,” Tatiana said. “A ribeye cut. We don’t do ground beef here. We do a lot of carne asada. We wanted to stay traditional to that.”

Also unique to the city’s burger scene — you can enjoy it all day. Same with breakfast. Have a ribeye burger at 8 a.m. or a Belgian waffle at 4 p.m., if your taste buds desire.

And there is no shortage of desserts or dessert drinks. The latter is seasonal, and the Christmas season options include peppermint mocha latte, vanilla gingerbread latte, and salted caramel apple. This, in addition to the 13 regular lattes and 17 varieties of coffee drinks, including cappaccinos.

But there’s one common denominator in much of what La Luna Cafe offers.

”We like to buy local products, as well, because everyone is dependent on each other,” Edith said.

Edith said Sioux Falls was a wonderful place to raise her family. And with La Luna Cafe, she wants to make the whole city feel like her family.

”We want them to feel a comforting atmosphere of love,” Edith said, “because everything that we do, we’re doing it thinking of them, trying to do the best for them.”

To check out La Luna Cafe’s menu, and how to get into contact with Tatiana about displaying your local art, check out the website, Facebook page, and Instagram page.