The Luna Mansion Landmark Steakhouse – Los Lunas, New Mexico

The Luna Mansion Landmark Steakhouse for the best in fine dining in Los Lunas

New Mexico is truly a dichotomous land, a state in which seemingly contrasting qualities exist in symbiotic harmony with each other. While most of those contrasts exist spectacularly in nature, the Land of Enchantment’s architecture is no stranger to contradictions. One such example is the Luna Mansion, a stately manor built in the Southern Colonial architectural style, but whose basic construction material is adobe. The Luna Mansion was built in 1880 by the Santa Fe Railroad Company in exchange for right-of-way through lands owned by the Luna family. In the 1920s, the Luna-Otero family added to the grandeur of the Los Lunas showcase by building a front portico and grand solarium. White Grecian columns bid all visitors welcome.

In the 1970s, the Luna Mansion was transformed into a restaurant, perhaps rankling the ire of Josefita Otero, one of the original family members to dwell in the Mansion. Her apparition, attired in 1920s regalia, began to appear. Several other apparitions, including Cruz, a groundskeeper, are said to haunt the restaurant while others have been seen or felt on the grounds of the estate. Perhaps they continue to visit the Luna Mansion for the food.

One of the first floor dining rooms

While Auld Lang Syne faded with the dawning of 2009, the Luna Mansion was put up for sale by Earl Whittemore who had owned the property for more than three decades. It wasn’t for sale for long. Fittingly, the Mansion was purchased by Pete and Hortencia Torres, longtime owners of the Wittwer House, another historic property converted to a restaurant (the award-winning Teofilo’s Restaurante). Moreover, the Torres family has a restaurant pedigree in Valencia County that goes back more than six decades. Pete’s parents opened the eponymous Pete’s Cafe in 1948. Teofilo’s is directly across Main Street from the Luna Mansion, now a registered national historic landmark.

Under the auspices of the Torres family, the Luna Mansion remains a monument to the way good food used to be served in bygone days before America became a fast food nation, back when hearty portions of delicious cuisine could be enjoyed in a relaxing milieu. Though not by design, the restaurant brings to mind the clean, elegant Harvey House restaurants which introduced a touch of refinement and civility to an untamed frontier while serving good food at reasonable prices throughout the Old West. There’s a Harvey House a few miles south in Belen though it no longer serves food.

Sourdough bread

The Luna Mansion name is now appended by “Landmark Steakhouse,” a recognition of its historic place in the community as well as the Torres family commitment to providing a memorable fine dining experience for their patrons. As the name implies, the specialty of the house is USDA prime beef aged 21 days for flavor and tenderness and hand-carved by local butchers exclusively for the Luna Mansion. The menu also offers fresh fish, seafood and poultry. Several menu items popularized during the tenure of previous owners have been retained (including one of my favorite desserts) while New Mexican chile inspired items no longer have a place on the daily menu.

The nattily attired and attentive Luna Mansion wait staff is as energetic as any in the Duke City area, but with a small town neighborliness you don’t often find in the big city. They’ll be happy to engage you in small talk or discuss the history of the Mansion if you wish, but they’re also professional enough to leave you alone if that be your preference. Best of all, they’re always on-the-spot with hard-crusted sourdough bread and soft butter as well as ice water or your beverage of choice. The sourdough isn’t baked on the premises, but it’s served warm and is replenished faithfully.

The Maytag Wedge: Crisp iceberg lettuce layered with bleu cheese dressing, crumbled Maytag bleu cheese, chopped tomato and crisp bacon

This appetizer menu includes some traditional (some might say anachronistic) steakhouse starters such as shrimp cocktail, Oysters Rockefeller and calamari, but throws in shrimp wontons as a surprising change of pace. These wontons aren’t your typical desiccated dumplings fried to a crackling, crunchy and empty shell. These are roughly the size of a beverage coaster and stuffed with a generous bounty of cream cheese, green onion and shrimp. Best of all, they’re served with a jalapeño sweet and sour sauce that packs a punch. The calamari are small ringlets of squid goodness–not too chewy or too thickly coated. The accompanying cocktail sauce is packed with a potent horseradish.

31 May 2012: The menu also offers a Maytag Wedge constructed from crisp iceberg lettuce layered with bleu cheese dressing, crumbled Maytag bleu (sic) cheese, chopped tomato and crisp bacon. As a bleu (or blue) cheese aficionado who routinely asks servers to bring me as much bleu cheese as they can carry, it does my heart good (only figuratively) to see the generous dollops of my favorite salad dressing. Maytag blue cheese has been hand-formed and cave-aged since 1941 and is one of the most flavorful of all bleu (or blue) cheeses. The other salad components are quite good, but it’s the pungent cheese that stars here.

A 24-ounce Porterhouse steak (21 day aged beef hand-carved by local butchers exclusively for the Luna Mansion

You might not consider Los Lunas (or anywhere in landlocked New Mexico) a destination for seafood, but the Luna Mansion might just change your mind. Daily offerings include two lobster tails, tipping the scales at about a pound, at market price. There’s also a pound or pound and a half of sweet, juicy Alaskan King Crab also at market price. A long-time restaurant favorite is the Mansion Steak, a six ounce filet smothered by crab meat and Béarnaise sauce. Both the filet and the crab are good in their own right, but don’t necessarily combine all their best qualities when paired together.

31 May 2012: The purity of beefy deliciousness is best exemplified by the 24-ounce Porterhouse steak, as good a prime cut of beef as we’ve had in the Albuquerque area. It is prepared to your exacting specifications (at medium, it’s got that pinkish center that ensures juiciness and flavor) and is seasoned with exactly the right amount of sea salt, pepper and garlic. This beauteous beef has marbling for flavor, but not much of the excess fat you cut out and leave on your plate. As with other entrees, steaks are accompanied by your choice of potato (a fully loaded baked potato, French fries or whipped Yukon Gold potatoes). The baked potato is perfectly cooked all the way through and is roughly the size of a child’s football.

Lamb chops with creamed spinach in the background

31 May 2012: Another spectacular plate features four lollipop (what lamb rib chops are called when they’re “Frenched” (when the meat is cut away from the end of a rib or chop, so that part of the bone is exposed)) lamb chops served with mint sauce. Lamb chops essentially come with a built-in “handle” which makes them easy to pick up and eat (yes, even at a fine dining restaurant). Each lamb chop is pert and petite, but it’s packed with flavor and is very tender. When asked the degree of “doneness” for your chops, it’s best to leave it to the chef’s discretion. Most chefs prepare lamb chops by broiling, grilling or pan-searing them for only a few minutes on each side. At medium, the Luna Mansion lamb chops are moist and delicious.

19 July 2015: The Luna Mansion set the bar very high, hosting the inaugural brunch venture for the discerning and culinary savvy Friends of Gil (FOG). Ten of us convened at the historical gem to enjoy a sumptuous repast that included a prime rib breakfast burrito. Engorged with scrambled eggs and grilled prime rib topped with red chile, it’s a Cadillac of breakfast burritos in a neighborhood of Chevys. This burrito was served with French fries, a surprising departure from the usual hash browns.

Prime Rib Burrito

The menu offers several “sides including creamed spinach, steamed asparagus, sauteed garlic spinach, whipped Yukon Gold potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, baked potato and French fries. The creamed spinach is a winner thanks to the infusion of intensely garlicky heavy cream playing off the natural acerbic qualities of the spinach. The cream is a bit on the watery side, but is good enough to sop up with the restaurant’s sourdough bread.

19 July 2015: It’s not every brunch that allows guests to also select from the dinner menu. The only concession at Luna Mansion is that baked potatoes aren’t available until after five. If you’re having the pasta, you don’t need another carb anyway. You might not even miss out on the Mansion’s magnificent meats. That is if the fettuccine with a red chile cream sauce and sirloin tips is on the menu. First, the pasta is perfectly prepared if your ideal is neither mushy nor al dente. The red chile cream sauce is rich and delicious with just enough piquancy to be discernible, but not so much that it tastes like another New Mexican dish showcasing our enchanting chile (great as it is). The sirloin tips are a highlight, a reminder that the Luna Mansion serves some of the very best steak in the area.

Fettuccine with Red Chile Cream Sauce and Sirloin Tips

31 May 2012: Only three desserts–the Mansion Mud Pie, classic cheesecake and housemade key lime pie–grace the menu, but savvy diners look no further than the Mansion Mud Pie, one of my favorite desserts in the area. The foundation for the pie is a thick Oreo crust which is topped with about two inches of mocha flavored ice cream, a chocolate ganache and whipped cream garnished with almond slivers. This is a pie for the ages, a pie I might haunt the Luna Mansion for someday.

The Mansion Mud Pie, a Luna Mansion specialty

The Luna Mansion has long been one of Valencia county’s culinary crown jewels, but it’s good enough to warrant mention among the most highly regarded fine dining establishments in the metropolitan Duke City area.

The Luna Mansion Landmark Steakhouse
Highway 6 & Highway 85
Los Lunas, New Mexico
505-865-7333
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 19 July 2015
# OF VISITS: 5
RATING: 23
COST: $$$ – $$$$
BEST BET: Mud Pie, Shrimp Wontons, The Maytag Wedge, Porterhouse, Lamb Chops

Luna Mansion on Urbanspoon

About Gil Garduno

Since 2008, the tagline on Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog has invited you to “Follow the Culinary Ruminations of New Mexico’s Sesquipedalian Sybarite.” To date, nearly 1 million visitors have trusted (or at least visited) my recommendations on nearly 1,100 restaurant reviews. Please take a few minutes to tell me what you think. Whether you agree or disagree with me, I'd love to hear about it.

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8 Comments on “The Luna Mansion Landmark Steakhouse – Los Lunas, New Mexico”

  1. Great great News about something different!!! Rudy, our, long employed, wait staff, advises that they will indeed ferry you to and fro the RailRunner station in Los Lunas if you make an advanced reservation for same!!!

    In the meantime: what a grand dining venture that my Kids/G-Kids treated me to this evening. Love to see delight in often unfazed G-Teens exploring the world, e.g. a new cut of steak or some Lobstaah Bisque (albeit mild). In addition to a Filet topped with a king crab/Bearnaise, others gave thumbs up to a tasty Salmon, a naked Filet, Pasta with tender beef tips, and chicken wings con a plain old burger n fries! Throw in the vintage, elegant ambiance (which I recommend exploring) and attentive staff and it is more than worth being only 22 freeway minutes from The Big I! Love consistency and a devilishly, chocolaty slice of complimentary cake doesn’t hurt!

  2. Yo…What are Y’all doing for Mom’s Day? In light of some scheduling complexities, I’ve been checking several options, to celebrate my kids being Moms. I called LM for example and I found they’ll being doing the regular Sunday Brunch menu but also some as yet unspecified items from the regular menu with hours beyond Brunch http://lunamansion.com/
    Yo…blush, I’ve been remiss in visiting of late, but take the fact they’ll be celebrating their 5th anniversay of being part of the Torres family’s takeover as restauranteurs for 60 years in the area, as a a most auspicious sign that things will be as grand as before. Yo, it is only 22 minutes from the Big I, same as going cross town ABQ! My previous Moms’ Day venture here was given a Clap-Clap by all, including for the extra great ambiance which, IMHO, makes a Mom feel elegant!

    In addition to Scalo’s, Brunch at Blade’s Bistro, for example, what options might Y’all be considering as many spots are closed?

  3. As I suspected, LM staff didn’t let me down by providing my family/friends of ten an enjoyable Mothers’ Day gathering with servings of sirloin/shrimp, salmon, filet, and prime rib. While I squirmed slightly when my G-gals frowned a bit, as only early teens can, at not having options of burgers or chicken fingers, that was short lived per the smiles as they feasted on their pasta con shrimp. Of course Cherries Jubilee after was a no brainer and I think they “got into” having ‘dressed’ as I took them on a tour of the setting.
    Hey, Dad’s Day is coming up next month.
    “Chow”

  4. In light of Mom’s Day, I just called down to check on what migt be happening. They’ll be doing a Brunch thing from 10:30 to 2. Not a buffet, but specials like….did I hear correctly?…an Eggs Benedict con lobster? After 2, it’ll just be enjoying the regular menu till 8. I can only assume Reservations Suggested for both.
    Chow!

  5. [Please note9/10: Luna Mansion is under the new ownership (and completed renovation) of the Torres family who have served folks for over 60 years in the Los Lunas/Belen area.]

    As such, RetroSize Your Life by stepping back in time into the gent_e_e_l setting of the Southern Victorian Luna Mansion to be catered to by its hospitable host and staff. How many of us used to drive down to Los Lunas years ago (the ’70s??) for a memorable afternoon or evening dining experience on the weekend in this historic and venerable Casa Grande? Lo, just as the busyness of life seems to have robbed us of “time for our loved ones”, it robbed us of this bit of dining enjoyment! But hey! It’s only 22.357 minutes from the Big I ! Geesh it takes 15 minute at least to drive several places in ABQ nowadays! Do you crawl up to Santa Fe for faux ambiance and nouveau food? Whao… Luna Mansion is not faux for probably close to half the price and only a third of the travel time…just enough time to begin catching up with each other’s lives (and the kids’) and continue over a romantic…Muy Sabrosa….dinner.

    Late yesterday afternoon, after woeful years of absence, I had the filet and lobstah (sic) tail with veggie and choice of spud…baked. What can I say about properly cooked and presented, great pieces of beef and seafood that hasn’t already been said! If I said “It was beyond expectations!” I can just imagine everyone saying “What the heck is that all about? It must be something other than tender beef or seafood!” …LOL From this, I’d expect the remainder of the menu to be ‘beyond expectations’ as well! (If Gil ever gets down there, I’ll trust his CSI palate to highlight nuances of taste I’m not privy to and always miss.)

    Need a place (maybe secret) to just mellow out sitting in plush comfort making Y’all feel like a land Baroness of olde sipping a martini, daiquiri, or grasshopper or a Baron sipping a margarita that is smoother than most, while contemplating your next financial entrepreneurship while just nibbling on some Yum Yums per your diet? Where, I ask you, can you find a setting like the Spirit Lounge upstairs before or after or instead of a main course? Need a place to propose or relight a hot fire by presenting that special one a little trinket?

    An Especial family or business occasion coming up? OMG, check out the nooks and crannies of their ‘customized’, separate rooms for your crowd. If you’re into being a “Hoot”, stand at the Mansion’s entrance doors to Welcome your guests and show them into ‘your very own’ dining room!

    Pleasantly sated, I had to pass-up dessert. Nevertheless, I was treated to eye-candy on the way home with the setting sun splashing that Oh So special glow over the lush greening of the valley sitting at the foot of the panorama of the Manzanos up to the sun flickering off windows along the base of the Sandias. I’ll let Y’all decide if the vistas driving up to Santa Fe (albeit enchanting) can approach or surpass that. (Eh, if ya miss the Eye-Candy driving back to The Q, its because “Ya picked the wrong to leave me Lucille!”)

    While an era of dining ’dress’ has passed, feel free, IMHO, to get that sport coat/tie and cocktail dress out of mothballs to compliment your partner and the LM surroundings. (Whoa….be a rogue and surprize her with that Tux of old!) If not, I felt fine in my “dress-up” of creased as well as UNfaded jeans and mother of pearl-buttoned, denim shirt.

    Looking forward to read what Y’all will experience!

    Click around the website: http://www.lunamansion.com/

    PS: If you are an insurance agent reading this, I hope you can work up a reasonable (i.e. cheap) deal to make it worth PJ’s (Peter’s) bottom line to afford “shuttle insurance” for just a couple of blocks between the Railrunner and Luna Mansion…at least for a one or two days a month “Special”.

    Disclaimer: This is only my first visit in about 10 years. I am not related to nor having a liaison with anyone in the family or staff or the Los Lunas area.

  6. Our group of twelve decided to give the Luna Mansion another try after it re-opened, and were thrilled! The quality of the food had gone downhill rather sharply before it closed. Now it is of the highest quality.
    The gorgeous building, white linens, great service, and incredibly tender and flavorful steaks wowed us; I can once more recommend without hesitation the Luna Mansion as a premier dining destination.

  7. The Luna Mansion closed at 2:00 am, January 1. I didn’t think it had been worth going to since the operators changed four or five years ago. It had once been very good. It will reopen about June 1 as a steakhouse owned by the folks across the street; see this clipping:

    As the proud owners and operators of Teofilo’s Restaurante for the past 23 years, Hortencia and Pete happily announced Friday morning that the family-run business would be expanding across the street.

    After just a month-long closure, the Luna Mansion has found new owners and a new family that is looking forward to the challenges of returning the historic mansion to its “glory days.”

    Together with their daughters Johnnah Torres and Joell Torres-Sosa and son Peter Japhen Torres, the couple is purchasing the mansion from Earl Whittemore and turning it into a steakhouse, Hortencia says.

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