If you were in Birmingham between 1998 and 2013, you’re likely still pining for Sol Y Luna, a Lakeview tapas and tequila restaurant, but pine no more. The restaurant is reopening in Lane Parke in the former Local Taco space across from the Grand Bohemian Hotel and aiming for a late December date. Sol Y Luna founder Guillermo Castro passed away in 2011, two years before the restaurant would close its doors, but his brothers Jorge, who had been involved with the restaurant since he moved to Birmingham from Guadalajara, Mexico in 2000, and Alex are now continuing the legacy. Here’s what Jorge had to say about it all.
How would your describe the Sol Y Luna concept to anyone who isn’t familiar?
It’s not a Tex Mex. We call it Sol Y Luna restaurant, tapas and tequila. It’s between upscale and fast casual. We do table service but not white table clothes. Our menu is based on Mexican flavors—a lot of peppers, garlic, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, parsley. Mexico is surrounded by two oceans, so people sometimes don’t realize we have a lot of seafood.
What from the original menu can we expect to see back?
We have three dishes with shrimp so far: Shrimp Cocktails, Shrimp Diabla (mashed sweet potatoes topped with shrimp cooked with chipotle peppers, garlic and wine) and Mojo (red snapper and shrimp saute with garlic, white wine, chile de arbol, and some citrus, served with pieces of bread). We have crab meat enchiladas and a lobster taco that people are crazy about. We’ll also have our beef flautas and Sabana Mexicana: a beef tenderloin with chihuahua cheese and chipotle-tomato chutney on top of refried beans. Our Sol Y Luna Sampler appetizer serves our guacamole with three different kinds of chips: sweet potato chips, potato chips and tortilla chips.
What else will we find on the menu?
We are playing with a salsa we make at your table with already cooked tomatillo, chile de arbol, jalapeño, onions and garlic. We are going to bring some dishes from our other restaurant Cantina too: the salmon salad and the churrasco flank steak. We’ll have 30 minimum tequilas, but the original Sol Y Luna we got up to 42. The Sol Y Luna margarita is spicy; it’s served with Tabasco sauce and garnished with a serrano pepper. The Tequila Flag has a shot of tequila, shot of lime juice and a shot of sangrita—the colors of the Mexican flag, green, white and red. The sangrita is a spicy, fruity drink that we use to make the Sol Y Luna margarita. We’ll have a Tequila Sampler with a shot of lime juice and a shot of sangrita, and half a shot of one Silver tequila, one reposado tequila and one anejo tequila. And we’ll have vodka, whiskey, etc. too. My current favorite tequila is a Hornitos Black Label. It is triple the distillation process and is aged twice in different barrels, so it tastes like cognac.
Why did you decide to reopen in this particular space?
We were trying to reopen Cantina after it closed at Pepper Place in May. I have a friend who told me he had a perfect spot for Sol Y Luna, and the past two years I had been talking about reopening Sol Y Luna. And this was the perfect space with almost the same setup we used to have at Sol Y Luna, and it’s really accessible to different areas and has enough parking. When I first saw this space, I put a small post on the Sol Y Luna’s Facebook page, and the response was overwhelming. Seeing that reaction made me think we need to do it, and when we announced it, I was really motivated. One person came by Lane Parke and told me he was really happy we are opening, that Sol Y Luna did his rehearsal dinner and now he and his wife have four kids and live nearby.
What changes are you making to the interior from the previous restaurant?
We are going to change the wall color to give it more life. We want to bring in a local artist to do a mural or fill the walls with art like we did at the original Sol Y Luna to give it a diverse, rustic, modern feel. We are sanding the tables and changing the colors of the chairs. We’ll also play Latin music.