Cafe Luna to move to new location

Tables sit arranged with silverware and flowers at Cafe Luna in Champaign. The restaurant will be moving to downtown Champaign, inside the former Illinois Central Railroad Station. Erica Magda

Tables sit arranged with silverware and flowers at Cafe Luna in Champaign. The restaurant will be moving to downtown Champaign, inside the former Illinois Central Railroad Station. Erica Magda

By Hannah Hess

Cafe Luna, a chic fine-dining establishment, is tucked away in the nondescript three-story building on the corner of Fourth and Green streets. A brick stair path leads the way up to the back door entrance, illuminated by a charming string of tiny lights.

By mid-April the bistro will no longer be such a well-hidden treasure. Cafe Luna will relocate to downtown Champaign inside the old train station, 116 N. Chestnut St., formerly Tracks Sportsbar.

Owners Raquel and Aaron Aikman anticipate transferring to the more accessible location within four weeks.

“We loved the campus vibe, but the lack of parking has been a downfall,” Aikman said.

Cafe Luna now offers a cache of delectable a la carte menu items to the heart of Campustown.

Aikman, who also owns and operates The Bread Company in Urbana, revamped the little building that houses Cafe Luna with a stylish flair. The unremarkable exterior gives way to an elegant ambience within.

Leather-covered chairs accommodate couples for Sunday brunches and intimate lunches and dinners. Unusually structured lanterns offer low lighting to the cozy tables.

“It’s definitely a great place to take a date,” said Sophie Doroba. The junior in LAS recommended the house ravioli after a memorable dinner she savored in the romantic restaurant.

Cafe Luna’s specialty is tapas. Entrees are prepared by a talented chef and then thoughtfully presented in petite portions.

In addition to doubling the dining capacity of restaurant quarters in the new downtown locale, Aikman said they plan to expand the menu options.

“We want to offer a broader range and expand into more everyday fare,” he said.

One thing that won’t change is the fresh local ingredients. Cafe Luna patronizes Champaign-Urbana farms and adjusts its menu seasonally.

Homegrown produce is incorporated into many interesting dishes, and plates are served up next to delicate vases of freshly cut flowers.

“It’s a fine dining experience,” said Chelsea Wallace, sophomore in LAS. “I think it will do really well downtown because it fits in with that eclectic vibe.”

Aikman said he looked forward to transferring to the rapidly developing bar and restaurant scene in central Champaign.

One of the strongest appeals was the abundant parking, severely lacking at the Fourth Street location. Clientele are often townspeople venturing into campus, Aikman said. University faculty and staff also frequented the campus eatery, a base he hopes to maintain after the transition.

“The move will probably help it do better with the older crowd,” Doroba said.

The approaching summer season means the majority of the student clientele will be leaving the area.

Warm weather provides an excellent opportunity to try out the downtown cafe’s outdoor seating. Aikman expects the open-air tables to accommodate an additional 50 patrons. The prospect of dining in the moonlight is an added dynamic the new location will offer.