Here’s what I had to say in the original letter:
Be casual in the right way: I’ve eaten a lot of simple down-home food from gorgeous plates in design meccas of urban rusticity in this city. Now I’d like to eat an amazing plate of thoughtful food in a crappy little room with mismatched chairs and plates. Don’t set the stage for casual; just be casual and cook like there’s no tomorrow.
Here’s why I think Luna exemplifies this quality:
You will find Lunacy Black Market tucked into this streetscape among Mariama Hair Braiding, Buddy’s Snack Bar and the Excellent Shoe Care Center, and chances are you will find it packed. The room is filled with mismatched tables and chairs, with comfy sofas and earnest art-student paintings, with one table groaning under the contents of the restaurant’s entire wine cellar and another stacked with international newspapers. Presiding over it all stands Paul Luna, the chef with the long, grey ponytail who pops into the kitchen to cook and then wanders the dining room with a glass of wine. This seasoned chef could be serving $25 entrees in Buckhead, but instead he prepares a few simple tapas on the south edge of downtown. Here he stays closer to the artists, students and political activists who comprise his community. Luna’s clean and remarkably inexpensive cooking — roasted tomatoes with mozzarella, juicily braised chicken with North African spices, garlicky shrimp — comes from a desire to share and give back. He, more than any other chef, keeps it real.