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Upscale taqueria expands love of local community in Heartside's newest addition

Mario Cascante, owner of the new Luna restaurant on Ionia, refuses to label ingredients as “local” on the menu. “We’re not trying to use it as a marketing ploy. We’re doing it because it’s the right thing.”

/Eric Bouwens

Underwriting support from:

Luna GR

64 Ionia Ave SW #100

Grand Rapids, MI 49503

/Eric Bouwens

/Eric Bouwens

Setting up shop on Ionia’s bustling bar district downtown is all about community to Mario Cascante, owner of Tacos el Cuñado in Heartside’s Downtown Market and of Luna, the new upscale “taqueria y cocina” at 64 Ionia Avenue.

After growing up in Costa Rica, Cascante immigrated to southern California before he and his fiance chose to settle down in West Michigan. They had researched cities across the Midwest, and felt that Grand Rapids offered the most opportunity. They moved to Grand Rapids in 2011 and he attended law school at Michigan State University before they opened the popular street taco-style shop in the Downtown Market in 2013.

To Cascante, Grand Rapids offers the perfect blend of opportunity. There are many niches that haven’t been filled in the local food scene - like authentic Latin fare. But what drew Cascante and his fiance in was the sense of community.

In addition to the relationships the restaurant owner has developed relationships with local vendors, Cascante serves on the board of Local First and a committee with Kid’s Food Basket.

When asked what percentage of food on the menu was local, the owner wouldn’t be specific.

“That’s a hard question to answer,” he says. “Basically, if it’s available locally, we’ll buy it.”

Much of Luna’s pork and meat comes from DeVries Meats, veggies from Mud Lake Farms and tortillas from El Milagro, which operates down the street in Clyde Park.

“They make tortillas the right way,” says Cascante. “Tortillas should only have four ingredients: corn, water, salt and lime. If they have more ingredients than that, they’re not doing it right.”

The bean taco, he cited as an example, contains 100% Michigan ingredients.

Cascante, however, refuses to label ingredients as “local” on the menu.

“We’re not trying to use it as a marketing ploy," he says. "We’re doing it because it’s the right thing.”

Luna’s menu includes house-made drinks such as margaritas, chips and dip, chicken flautas and other appetizers, dinner plates and a variety of the star item: tacos.

The restaurant serves dine-in as well as takeout, and may offer delivery service in the future.

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