Shawn Stokes and Sean Sullivan, childhood friends separated for years by careers that took them all over the Western Hemisphere, have reunited to open Luna Rotisserie & Empanadas in downtown Durham. The partners describe the offering at their fast casual restaurant and bar as “South American meets American South.”
The concept is inspired by the travels of Stokes, a Johnson & Wales-trained chef who has cooked in restaurants up and down the East Coast, including the acclaimed Peninsula Grille in Charleston, SC. He also served for several years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador, and traveled extensively in South America, where he broadened his culinary range and became a passionate advocate of sustainable food.
The chef brings all that experience to bear on a menu centered around the restaurant’s namesake wood-fired rotisserie meats (all free range/grass-fed and antibiotic-free, with options ranging from Peruvian chicken to chili-braised beef brisket) and empanadas (meat-filled, vegetarian, and a decadent dessert empanada filled with ice cream from The Parlour). Small plates (Colombian arepas, seasonal North Carolina seafood ceviche, almond-crusted fried avocado), grain bowls and sides (fried yuca, jicama kale slaw, pimento hominy mac and cheese) round out the diverse offering.
Stokes convinced his friend to relocate from San Francisco and join him as a business partner. Sullivan runs the front of the house and manages the bar, living up to the restaurant’s motto with an exclusively South American wine list and an all-N.C. beer selection that includes four local taps. His cocktail list doubles down on the theme, embracing both Americas from South Star (Bulleit bourbon, maraschino liqueur, maple syrup and jalapeño) to variations on the pisco sour theme.
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Greg Cox, the longtime N&O restaurant critic, also covers restaurant news. Reach him at email@example.com.