EATS & DRINKS

La Media Luna

By Case Dighero | Photos by Meredith Mashburn

 

Before anyone digs into the food and drink at La Media Luna in Johnson — authentic conchinita pibil, delicate yet hearty chile en nogada, vibrant pastel yellow-hued enchiladas habanero, and the list goes on — they notice the ambience and design. A plush hidden dining room and bar adorned with modern Mexican art, and a comfortable patio residing over by a bright red mural from famed artist Octavio Logo — indeed, before you take a sip or bite, it’s obvious there’s nothing else in Northwest Arkansas that looks or feels like La Media Luna.

2135 Main Dr., Fayetteville | (479) 316-8008 | www.lamedialunanwa.com
RLR_0799.jpg

Seafood Molcajete

Before anyone digs into the food and drink at La Media Luna in Johnson — authentic conchinita pibil, delicate yet hearty chile en nogada, vibrant pastel yellow-hued enchiladas habanero, and the list goes on — they notice the ambience and design. A plush hidden dining room and bar adorned with modern Mexican art, and a comfortable patio residing over by a bright red mural from famed artist Octavio Logo — indeed, before you take a sip or bite, it’s obvious there’s nothing else in Northwest Arkansas that looks or feels like La Media Luna.

 

It’s a family affair — Adrian Leonardo and uncle Julio Leonardo have created a singular experience that not only successfully weathered the pandemic, but somehow managed use the time to build a strong, loyal customer base and blossom their food and ambient experiences into something situated between modern comfort and Mexican sophistication.

Their charismatic lead bartender, Omar, has helped devise and execute myriad cocktails that are as pretty and delicious as any found in our local hipster establishments. The bar itself, draped in an impressive selection of tequila and mezcal, is the perfect place to meet with friends or new love interests. Regardless of your social situation, Omar will mix, shake or stir you up something special. My current favorite is La Doña ($10.99) made with pineapple, tamarind and tequila, but even the house margaritas, palomas and caipirinha are perfect specimens of Latin culture in a glass. And if you’re a fan of fresh raspberry, be sure to check out the electric Eclipse Total ($9.99) steeped in fresh muddled raspberries and smoky mezcal.

RLR_0879.jpg

Adrian Leonardo and Julio Leonardo

RLR_0825.jpg

Bright, vibrant colors are a theme repeated throughout the design and menu at La Media Luna — a sometimes not-so-gentle reminder of the passion both nephew and uncle have intentionally dispersed throughout the restaurant. It’s evident that both have spent a significant amount of time in Mexico, specifically the larger cities, researching trends in modern cuisine and design. This is yet another exciting example of the rich culture of destinations far away having a positive, significant impact on the edible culture of the High South…a shining, beckoning calling card of our region and home.

 

La Media Luna offers three distinct ambient experiences, aside from a convenient drive-thru window for take-out; the first is the front dining room, akin to more familiar, comfortable spaces for quick dining…especially at lunchtime; the second is a centrally located patio, adorned with umbrellas, palm trees and the aforementioned Logo mural of a beautiful red-painted woman; and the third, a back dining room and bar that is almost hidden from the rest of the restaurant, boasts cozy banquettes and live jazz a couple nights a week — again, the perfect destination for private interludes with friends and lovers.

Seared Black Cod and Saffron Hollandaise Dash Risotto with Root Vegetables

RLR_0727.jpg
RLR_0900.jpg

Like paint on a canvas, the presence of color on most of the plates at La Media Luna is a key component to the overall experience, and although the plates are beautiful, they’re also brilliantly relevant and never superfluous. A crowd favorite, Chile En Nogada ($18), is a poblano pepper stuffed with beef and dried fruit, then smothered in a pecan sauce and topped with walnuts and fresh pomegranate seeds.  Other showstoppers include the Pastel Azteca ($15) and the Enchiladas Habanero ($15), a stratification of corn tortillas, shredded chicken, Oaxacan and gouda cheeses, covered in yellow pastel-colored habanero cream sauce with just enough heat to bring a whisper of sweat to the brow. 

Rustic sophistication is also on the menu with the Enchilada de Mole Poblano ($15), vegetarian Flautas Patata ($15) finished with the spicy snap of watermelon radish, and a very authentic take on Conchinita Pibil ($16), delectable pork shoulder slow roasted in banana leaves and served with pickled red onions and habanero peppers.  

 

The ever-innovative Leonardo family is also working on spring and summer updates to the menu, designing new dishes that include fresh grilled salmon with braised cactus and something completely new that consists of fresh shrimp and lobster served sizzling in a lava rock cauldron, certain to be the next great showstopper at this Johnson destination.

 

Regardless of your tastes, if you can’t decide between authentic Mexican classics and nouveau sophistication, trust in knowing that La Media Luna is your answer.

RLR_0746.jpg

Flautas Patata

RLR_0805.jpg

Conchinita Pibil

RLR_0838.jpg

Grilled Salmon with Braised Cactus

RLR_0811.jpg

Chile En Nogada

Enchiladas Habanero

RLR_0851.jpg

Enchiladas Habanero

RLR_0847.jpg

Pastel Azteca

SHARE THIS STORY