How long have I been saying, “I need to get into the city more often”? Well maybe I haven’t said it to you guys all that much, but my wife is sick of hearing it. As most of you already know, Philly is absolutely littered with great breakfast and brunch places – hip little cafes, charming BYOB brunch spots and cozy corner eateries – and I am still in the process of discovering a lot of them! So I was very happy to recently accept the invitation of Sarah Levine, owner of Luna Cafe in the Old City neighborhood, to come and sample some of their amazing breakfast and brunch dishes. We set up our visit for New Year’s Day brunch because a) Sarah suggested it would be a great time to experience the whole atmosphere since there would be live music and the brunch service would be in full swing, and b) It was my birthday, so I already knew I’d be going out with my family for my birthday brunch anyway!
Luna Cafe is a really cool, quaint little BYO bistro on Market St in the heart of Old City. The front of the house is your typical cafe set-up, with 6-8 small tables lining the walls of a narrow dining space and a pay counter/take-out counter at the far end. It’s really set up nicely so that all of the free space is utilized, but it doesn’t feel like you’re sitting on top of each other. They were really busy just about the entire time we were visiting, with tables filling just as fast as they were vacated, which was a great thing to see.
The walls are adorned with lots of great local artwork for sale and a couple of large chalkboards where their menu specials are listed.
Beyond the main dining area is the kitchen, and just beyond that is a peculiar little area set up with an ATM (they’re a cash only cafe), a comfy sofa, a trendy, exposed-brick wall with more art, and a really nice finished-walnut bar outfitted with several USB jacks. I really liked this backroom space.
As I passed back through on my way back to our table, I spied some really delicious-looking plates coming out of the kitchen. I hurried back to my seat to take a look at the menu.
Luna Cafe offers some nice drink options including this delicious Berry Smoothie and organic hot and iced coffee from Philly Fair Trade Roasters. Other highlights on their drink menu are more smoothies and juices, cappuccino, espresso, latte and kombucha.
As we sipped our coffee, we perused the breakfast menu and discussed our options. Of course the boy was eyeing his old standby favorites, but Mrs. Grub Guy and I discussed several of the scrumptious-sounding entrees. They have a pretty well-rounded menu at LC: Brunch classics like Huevos Rancheros and Build-Your-Own Omelettes and more, some delightful breakfast sandwich options, a few heavy hitters like their Breakfast Bowl (quinoa, black beans, cheddar cheese, avocado and cilantro aioli on a bed of arugula and topped with a sunny egg), Luna Loaded Potatoes (A mountain of breakfast potatoes, melted cheddar cheese, pico, sour cream, green onions and topped with an optional egg or bacon), their version of Fried Chicken and Waffles, and others. They also have a nice sides/a-la-cart option, too.
As we placed our orders, the guys from The Carryons set up their equipment and began their set. The guitar and trumpet duo play some really amazing original jazz tunes at several local cafes around Philly, and are anticipating the release of their first LP this Spring. I highly recommend checking them out if you get the chance.
Steven ordered one of his favorites, Pancakes ($10.00). His plate came out with a big stack of three, good-sized flapjacks dusted with powdered sugar. These looked and smelled very, very good. We always try to encourage him to try something new in or on top of his pancakes…strawberries, bananas, blueberries, chocolate chips, SOMETHING….but alas, he is a creature of habit.
So a drizzle of maple syrup was applied, and away he went. Thankfully, I did end up getting to try several bites of these (and my previous notion was correct…they WERE really, really good!) because the boy had inevitably filled his belly with berry smoothie before his food came out, and was stuffed by about 5 bites in.
The wife ordered The Early Bird ($10.00), a large breakfast sandwich made of egg whites, sliced turkey breast, avocado and cilantro aioli on whole wheat toast. She added fontina cheese for a small upcharge.
This sandwich was amazing. She loved all of the avocado stacked inside, as well as the freshness of the turkey. The combination of flavors really made for a truly standout sandwich. The only thing that would have made this dish better (in my opinion) may have been maybe a few strips of salty bacon tucked inside, and possibly a couple of bites of fresh fruit or something on the side. This was very well done and easy to like.
I knew what I was ordering about 5 seconds after I saw it on the menu – the Fried Chicken and Waffles ($15.00). Chicken & waffles has become sort of a brunch standard these days for many restaurants, but it’s still hard to pass this dish up any time I see it offered, and LC’s version sounded heavenly. The base was a big, house-made Belgian waffle stacked with buttermilk fried chicken and covered in a white maple gravy. Umm, yeah…it was just as boss as it sounds.
The waffle was light and airy yet substantial and was cooked perfectly. The buttermilk fried chicken was incredible – a huge, tender breast cut into pieces and topped with a maple gravy that absolutely put this dish over the top and catapulted to the top of my list as probably one of the most flavorful chicken & waffles I’ve ever had. Seriously guys, you need to go here and try this plate of deliciousness. It’s a huge portion that I struggled to finish (even with the wife sneaking a few bites), and I’m a big eater. If I could find synonyms for the words “So Good” about 15 more times, it still wouldn’t adequately describe how much I loved this.
Brunch is a must in the City of Brotherly Love, and there are plenty of places to choose from. But, might I recommend scrolling though this review one more time to see how awesome of a spot that Luna Cafe really is. The food is amazing and the portions are huge. The atmosphere is charming, especially on live music brunch Sundays. And the service was fast and friendly. And don’t forget to BYOB!
If I were you, I’d pencil in a visit soon!!!
I’d like to thank Sarah and Luna Cafe for generously providing our meal as part of this review. All opinions are my own.
Luna Cafe is located at 317 Market St., Philadelphia, PA 19106 (MAP). They’re open Weekdays, 7:00 AM – 3:00 PM, and Weekends, 8:00 AM – 3:00 PM. For more info check out their website, and find them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.