Written by Rachel Garber. Visit her on Instagram at @biggirlgottaeats
Do you have a favorite restaurant (like Luma on Park Avenue) that has come and gone? Are you curious about others experience? Local food Influencer Rachel Garber, the blogger behind @biggirlgottaeats, takes us on a stroll down memory (food) lane in Winter Park, FL.
Everyone has a favorite childhood restaurant, but is that place still around today? Sadly, my favorite spot that was always my go-to for birthday dinners, family occasions, and girl’s night outs during college break has just closed. Luma on Park Avenue, located in Downtown Winter Park, shut its doors this passed fall.
Luma was a high-end, American cuisine gem with a splash of jazz. With its white leather couches and dark dim lights, you could mistake yourself for being in a classy Miami club. I even walked passed Paul McCartney during dinner one time.
My first Steps down Memory (Food) Lane
As a middle schooler, this was the most fabulous place around that I could go to and feel like a young adult (not to mention walking distance from my childhood house). The atmosphere was electric, and the servers had contagious warming attitudes.
Not only was Luma one of THE most poppin’ places on the Ave, but it was also one of the most delicious. My hands-down, favorite dish was the Pasta Bolognese. It was fettuccini pasta with finely chopped veal, marinated in a red tomato sauce & a hint of red wine. The garnish of parsley made the pasta dish picture perfect.
Now I know I said this spot was American-cuisine, so why is my favorite item the Italian dish? Funny you should ask. Growing up, I was one of those annoying, rebellious kids that never wanted to blend in. I also had this characteristic with food choices. The fact that everything on the menu was within the same food category, I looked for the one item that stood out. I was the boujiest, most intense food critic at the age of 11. I am pretty sure that is the only thing on their menu that I ordered starting at age 11 until 19.
More than a Food Memory: An Elevated Experience
Luma’s unique presence on Park Avenue brought up the real estate around it. Having the establishment there made the area more appealing and honestly just made you feel chic walking by it. You could go from an average lost college student to feeling like a young professional about to model on the cover of Vogue. The outside avenue seating was almost impossible to reserve unless you called a week ahead, but the extra effort to do so was absolutely worth it.
Once I hit 21, a night out on the avenue became an annual girl’s event every Thanksgiving Break. Luma became the go-to spot once again. Their signature White Linen cocktail is so exceptional that customers began asking other restaurants on the Avenue if they could replicate the drink. The only thing I can compare it to is a crisp fall day, 72 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. The drink consists of Hendrick’s Gin, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, white cranberry juice, a dash of sour mix, and a sprig of mint.
Walking in the Shadows of Luma: Prato and Luke’s Kitchen & Bar
Luma was so successful, the owners opened up two more spots with slightly different themes: Italian and Southern fare. Prato, the Italian sector, is also located on Park Avenue about 5 blocks down. The rustic farm-to-table venue quickly became just as popular the minute it opened.
The reputation of Luma paved the way to success for Prato. This quickly became a destination spot in Winter Park and people from outer Orlando would drive all the way to Winter Park just to try the one-of-a-kind Prato Meatballs. Not to mention their happy hour will make 4-6pm the happiest hours of your day.
Their third spot, Luke’s Kitchen & Bar, located just outside of Winter Park, has also become a destination spot. Locals know how unique Prato and Luma are, so why not venture outside of Winter Park for another remarkable meal with a change of scenery?
The ghost of Luma lingers on that Park Avenue corner and I often ponder if any restaurant will ever fill the kitchen that once glowed. I actually hear locals and Winter Park visitors discussing where and when Luma may go to next, “I wonder if they’ll take Dexter’s old spot, or go into the empty place on that street..”.
These conversations are endless because Luma was a staple cuisine. Although Prato and Luke’s are incredible, I wonder if Luma will make its way back to Winter Park. I am grateful to have experienced the restaurant throughout my childhood. From family gatherings to graduation dinners to happy hour, Luma can never and will never be replaced.