The Castro Brothers have been at the forefront of Birmingham’s restaurant renaissance from its beginnings. Sol y Luna was the brainchild of Guillermo Castro, who died tragically young in 2011. The surviving brothers have brought the restaurant back to life.
(Photography by Beau Gustafson)
Sometimes a restaurant is more than a place to eat. Often it is a reflection of something more, the hope of a family perhaps, or the vision of the chef and owner. And on its best nights, maybe a restaurant can be someplace magical.
Sol y Luna was such a place.
Guillermo Castro was born in Guadalajara, Mexico in 1959. A trained architect, he moved to the United States and began working in the culinary world. He managed the Pillars restaurant here and worked for Ruth’s Chris Steak House. In 1997, he set out on what would be his great culinary journey, creating the recipes, architecture and design of what would become Sol y Luna, a break-through restaurant in Lakeview that contributed mightily to Birmingham’s restaurant renaissance in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Castro died unexpectedly at age 52 of a massive heart attack in July of 2011. For a few years, brothers Jorge and Alex Castro continued on with Sol y Luna until 2013, while also operating the family’s Cantina restaurants.
“When we closed we always thought we would open up again one day,” says Jorge Castro. “We just needed to find the right place and time.”
Now the right place and time has been found with Sol y Luna re-opening in February in Lane Parke.
“It just seemed like the right time,” Jorge says.
The spirit of his older brother and the entire family hovers over this new place, even within the decor with family images and remembrances throughout the restaurant.
“The re-opening of Sol Y Luna makes me so proud. It was the first restaurant my brother, Guillermo, opened in Birmingham and it was such a beautiful and unique culinary experience. When we closed Sol Y Luna, it left a void for so many people – me included. We are happy to say that we are giving our customers what they have asked for… Sol y Luna is coming back,” Jorge says.
One of the things he learned from Guillermo, Jorge says, was to work hard to make the whole experience of the restaurant special. “Sitting around the table and sharing food makes a difference,” he says, “You try to make the experience special, the food, the service, the whole thing.
“Guillermio used to talk all the time about using all the senses, the smell, taste, vision.”
The new Sol y Luna has much in common with the new version in Mountain Brook, starting with many of the same favorite tapas dishes. The interior design is more sophisticated and sleek than the original, which had more of a rustic Mexican feel. The new design uses brilliant white, dramatic lighting and stylish artwork.
Sol Y Luna’s focus remains on the concept of “Tapas and Tequilas” bringing to the public the most exquisite of Mexican recipes, accompanied by a selection of more than 30 premium tequilas.
“The main thing Guillermo created was the menu,” Jorge say. “He would always create something and give it a twist. We kept a lot of the same dishes, but we also have things we can add to the menu.”
Signature Menu Items
Fried Duck Empanadas served with chimichurri sauce.
Puntas de Puerco: Oven roasted chipotle dry rubbed pork tenderloin medallions with Chihuahua cheese grits and Agave Syrup.
Shrimp Diabla: tequila and chipotle flam be jumbo shrimp, served on a bed of garlic mashed sweet potatoes and fried flour tortilla strips.
Chile en Nogada: roasted poblano pepper stuffed with ground beef, dried tropical fruit, topped with pomegranates, goat cheese and garlic pecan sauce.
Sabana Mexicana: Thin-sliced style beef tenderloin medallions, topped with melted Chihuahua cheese and sundried chipotle chile tomato chutney, served with refried beans and chips.