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long-lost loca luna

My experience with Loca Luna disproves the old adage, 'you never get a second chance to make a first impression'.

Do you remember that guy from high school that you went out on a date with once and never called back? Then, years later you run into him and you think, “Wow, so-and-so has really changed. Wonder why we never worked out?” Loca Luna is sort of like that guy for me.

The first experience I had with LL was when it was located on Juniper. All I remembered of the night was that: the parking was terrible, the place was too crowded and seemed a little dark and dank, and the food was…decent. Needless to say, I never returned.

Earlier in the year, a friend of mine suggested we go to LL for Sunday dinner. My face instantly crumpled at the suggestion, but my friend – whose dining-out preferences are similar to mine – convinced me it was a good choice. He couldn’t have been more correct.

The tapas thing has definitely been done to death, but only a few places I know do it well, and LL is one of them. Not everything on the menu is a masterpiece, but there are several high scorers. Among them:

Calamari – while a lot of other places are taking calamari down the sweet chili glaze route, LL gives it a decidedly Latin flare. Crispy medallions of fried squid accompanied by tangy, balsamic-soaked tomato. Que sabroso!

Calabasas Empanadas – tender yet flaky crust stuffed with chunks of sweet, creamy butternut squash. The blend of textures is heavenly in this bite-sized snack doubling as comfort food

Gambas – roasted garlic shrimp in a light, luscious coconut-lemongrass sauce. This dish absolutely sings. To date, it’s the best thing I’ve had on the menu.

Lobster Bisque Shots – Cute little servings of creamy, saffron-y lobster bisque with relatively large chunks (or knuckles, as they’re called on the menu) of lobster meat. Both the taste and the presentation are a delight.

But the best thing about LL is the décor. The inside area combines unlikely elements like corrugated tin, roughshod cement floors and lime green walls to create an upscale Key West ambiance. And the open breeziness of the patio area makes you feel like you’ve been whisked away to some faraway tropic location…with a view of a crowded parking lot.

Live Latin bands perform every night so it’s a perfect place to practice what you learned in salsa class. Though I’ve always visited on a Sunday or mid-week, I hear the weekend crowds get pretty big, so keep that in mind if you’re considering it for a first date or intimate conversation spot.

The other best thing is that LL is great for large groups. Every time I’ve been there’s either been a birthday party or girls’ night out or some other festive occasion being celebrated. I even celebrated my own birthday there this year, and they were very accommodating.

Yeah, me and LL have certainly come a long way since that first date all those years ago. You might even say we have a bit of a future together.




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