by Michael Vyskocil, photography by Nikola Tzenov
Growing up in Mesquite, Texas, Cheri Ogden encountered dozens of taquerias bringing south-of-the-border flavors to her hometown. A desire to share this cuisine with the Carroll County community inspired Ogden and her husband, Tony, to create LunaZul in Hampstead. LunaZul’s atmosphere is much like that of a taqueria — bon vivant and welcoming. Guests come for the food and drink, but they stay for the ambiance.
“We’ve always loved entertaining,” Ogden said. “We feel that if you find the right formula for taking care of your customers, they’ll become friends and family to you.”
Under the culinary direction of Jorge Núñez, executive chef and general manager, LunaZul fuses the best of Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine. Núñez, a Veracruz, Mexico, native, adapted his mother’s recipes to create the specialties that grace the restaurant’s menu.
“Our tacos and fajitas are probably the most popular items,” she said.
The Baja-style fish or shrimp tacos feature your choice of fried or grilled rockfish or shrimp topped with shredded cabbage, cilantro, tomato and chipotle aioli sauce. Experience the flavors of beef, chicken and chorizo accented with melted cheese, onions and cilantro in the Tacos Campechanos. Depending on your preference, you can also get your tacos served in the Mexican street style — topped with cilantro and onions — or in the Tex-Mex style, served with lettuce, tomato and cheese.
Fans of tapas will find specialties on the menu to suit their tastes. “Our tapas are a sampling of the dishes that we serve,” Ogden added. “You can find empanadas, tostadas and flautas, along with our fish and shrimp tacos.”
Named in Núñez’s honor, the Sweet Jorge makes a spectacular ending to any meal. “We take lightly fried Mexican bread, dredge it in cinnamon and sugar, top it with vanilla ice cream and add a caramel drizzle and cookie crumbles,” she said.
Be sure to raise a glass (or two) of LunaZul’s housemade margaritas, bursting with the flavor of freshly squeezed lime juice.
Reflecting on the growth of the business and her clientele, Ogden commented, “Serving the Hampstead community takes me back to the small town I grew up in. It was a close-knit community with people who support you.
We like that about Hampstead — it’s warm, welcoming and inviting.”