Barstool: Luna Lounge

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by Eric Ginsburg

This is the kind of place you could throw a birthday party.

At least that’s what my friend Camilo said, as we sat in the back room of Winston-Salem’s tiki bar drinking cocktails by the miniature-sized pool table. It was Sunday night a few hours before the last band of Phuzz Phest, an electronic/doom act from Baltimore, was scheduled to play the tiki hut inside the Luna Lounge, and the only other patron in the place was our friend Jackie, who walked in with us.

Camilo’s birthday isn’t until November, but the small size of the bar and its unadulterated character are enough to make you think those sorts of things, envisioning 20 or so people packing out the entire patio, or central bar area, or back room where we sat under a Bob Marley tapestry on the wall.

Luna Lounge is a relatively tight venue regardless, much bigger than the nearby Silver Moon Saloon but because it is split into sections, it’s easy to imagine a relatively small party taking over the place. That’s what happened on April 17, when the Brooklyn band Las Rosas — who look more like ’70s-style Californians — moved into the Polynesian-themed bar, causing heads to nod under orbiting dots of white light.

Most nights, Luna Lounge is a quiet, townie sort of affair, overlooked despite its location across the street from the Garage and just a block from Single Brothers. Regular specials run the gamut, offering $4 wine or well drinks as well as cheap macro-beer.

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The mural

Half the taps are local — two from Foothills and another from Hoots — and Luna also offers DuClaw’s Dirty Little Freak beer on draft, but for the most part this is PBR’s domain. If the $5 PBR and whisky shot special, PBR banner in the back or $2 cans didn’t make that clear, a new mural on the patio of a volcano-watching lizard holding the blue-ribbon winner should. But the way to do it at one of Trade Street’s newest venues, and more importantly its most out there, is a rum cocktail like the Little Blue Mermaid.

The Little Blue Mermaid (right)
The Little Blue Mermaid (right)

The drink — which Luna Lounge also offers with vodka — consists of Sprite, blue curacao and a bunch of pineapple. It’s the kind of thing, complete with a party-drink umbrella and actual pieces of pineapple flanking a maraschino cherry, that you should absolutely be caught ordering at a tiki bar but maybe not anywhere else this far from the ocean. That’s a big part of what makes Luna Lounge’s shtick enjoyable.

Plenty of readers will remember the corner’s previous incarnation as the dive bar Elliott’s Revue, and owner Vicki Moore’s name is easily identifiable to Fourth Street vets — she’s a fixture on the scene herself. She was even called “barroom royalty” in these pages back in November.

The bar executes the tiki theme down to the last detail, blending worldwide beach culture with thatched roofing inside, a curtain instead of a stall in the “mates” room and a protected patio area. And while there is a jukebox, the music playing from behind the counter is palatable, more akin to college radio than cheesy beach music about margaritas.

This is no Parrothead paradise, though I imagine that old farts who own too many Hawaiian shirts might like this place, too. If anything, Luna is sort of up for grabs, not yet defined by a particular clique or clientele. That’s part of its appeal, for Camilo and others — the chance to make this endearingly kitschy bar your own.

Las Rosas play Luna Lounge
Las Rosas play Luna Lounge

Visit Luna Lounge & Tiki Bar at 701 N. Trade St. (W-S) Wednesday-Saturday. For special events, call 336.682.3527.