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Treasures of the Mexican Table

Taste Away at Casa Luna, the Winner of Our Best Restaurant in Somerset County Contest

There is so much to explore at Casa Luna in downtown Somerville. 

Established in 2012 by Raziel Gonzalez and his wife, Marie, the family-run BYOB serves an eclectic mix of traditional Mexican food and Tex-Mex favorites, with outdoor patio seating surrounded by greenery and exotic lilies. 

Gonzalez grew up on a dairy farm in Mexico and immigrated to the United States after graduating high school. He began his restaurant journey as a kitchen manager at Charlie Brown Steakhouse in Scotch Plains, where he rose to head chef in two years. This is where he met his “future wife”—he says that was his thought when he first saw Marie—and where the couple began dreaming of owning a restaurant themselves. 

Today, with over 50 years of experience between them, the couple prides themselves on excellent customer service when hiring staff and consistency in experience. They continue to evolve and expand. With their hire of Chad Landsberg as general manager, the restaurant is making a concerted effort in keeping up with food trends, including the Birria craze, hot honey and mocktails, which enhance the beverage experience, allowing Casa Luna to offer bar-style mocktails inspired by traditional Mexican cocktails like a Mojito or Sangria. 

I’m excited to see what the next decade of business holds for Casa Luna as they continue to grow their catering side and partner with local wine shops to feature hand-selected wines to mix with their made-to-order Sangria base and pair with the menu items. 

After talking with Gonzales, we got down to business: tasting the menu! I began with the Jarrito-Mojito, which uses a popular fruit-flavored soda from Mexico, as well as the Spicy Paloma that had a dash of hot honey for that sweet kick complementing the jalapeño. I followed that up with the house salsa, guacamole and freshly made tortilla chips. I returned from Cancun the day before this visit where I experienced the freshest guac I have ever tasted—and Casa Luna’s guac rivaled it. 

I next sampled the Burrito Mojado, a “wet” burrito jam-packed with grilled chicken, rice, black beans, sautéed peppers and onions, pico de gallo and cheese then drowned in their special ranchero sauce and finally topped with sour cream and guacamole. I almost needed a nap after this entrée alone.

The Carne Asada—which I call “Raziel’s Way”—is topped with shredded guajillo chiles (these are on the milder side) and placed on a bed of caramelized onion. Don’t sleep on the cilantro rice, which was perfectly cooked with a slight stickiness and pinches of lime.  

The BBQ ribs had a nice Tex-Mex flair, basted in a tangy sauce. These bones slide right out of the rack. 

If there are Birria Tacos on the menu, I always order them. Gonzalez stews his consomé for over 24 hours to prep this dish and bring out the rich flavoring of the broth that drenches the meat. I would love to see this special become a permanent fixture on the menu. 

The Southwest Smash Tacos, another special, sang with its house-made chipotle ranch and side of Cajun fries for extra dipping. (Note: You can make this dish gluten-free by opting for the corn tortilla.)

And we cannot forget dessert! The Fried Cheesecake Chimichanga stole the show and put me into a food coma. This dish was lightly fried, stuffed with traditional cheesecake, then coated with powdered cinnamon sugar, a caramel drizzle and two necessary scoops of vanilla ice cream. *Mic drop*

Check out the menu at CasaLunaMexican.com.

Food writer Kyle Getz (The Tipsy Critic) discovers New Jersey’s top spots and hidden gems. Follow his blog on Instagram @tipsycritic.

Traditional Mexican Salsa

2 cans crushed tomato (16 oz)

1 c chopped white onions

1 c chopped fresh cilantro

1 tbsp garlic powder

½ c fresh squeezed lime juice

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp cumin

1 c finely chopped fresh jalapeños

Blend tomatoes until fine. Add the rest of your ingredients, stirring to incorporate. Store in Mason jars to keep fresh.

Perfect Party Guacamole

8 avocados

1 tbsp salt

2 limes, juiced 

1/4 c fresh cilantro (roughly chopped)

1/2 c chopped white onions

1/4 c chopped fresh jalapeños (optional)

½ c chopped tomato

Scoop out avocados and place into a large mixing bowl. Mash until smooth, leaving some chunks of whole avocado. Add salt and lime and mix until incorporated. Add more lime juice or salt to taste. Add the rest of the ingredients, stirring lightly to not over-mash the avocados. 

Perfect Fresh Tortilla Chips

1 pack fresh corn tortillas (La Banderita brand is recommended)

4 tbsp salt

Vegetable oil

Stack the tortillas and cut into fourths with a chef knife. 

Heat oil to 350° F. When hot, place the chips in the oil until the pan is full. Using a metal spoon, stir the chips to prevent them from clumping. Cook each batch of chips for 1 to 2 minutes. Once all the chips are cooked, place in a large mixing bowl and toss with salt. 

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