Kareemah Lampley gives her father credit for her entrepreneurial spirit.
The late Harold Sims owned a grocery store in Edgemont and a produce stand in East St. Louis.
“As far back as I can remember, he was self-employed, and he spoke highly of being your own boss and creating your own piece of the pie,” she said.
Now she’s expanding with The Luna Lounge, a restaurant and bar at 104 W. Main St. It’s the former location of Pitchers Sports Pub & Pizzeria and Castletown Geoghegan.
“I just thought it would be something I’d be good at,” said Kareemah, 39, of Belleville. “I worked in fast-food restaurants in high school, and I worked in a cafeteria for a year when I was in college.”
Kareemah is taking it slow with Luna. She had a soft opening April 19 and has spent the past month fine-tuning.
“I don’t want to put it out where I can’t handle or control the crowd,” she said. “I want to make sure we have a good staff.”
The menu includes appetizers, salads, flatbreads, burgers, sandwiches, quesadillas and a few entrees.
Eventually, Luna will offer specials — Fish Fridays, Seafood Saturdays and Soul Food Sundays.
My notion of food is simple and delicious. Whatever I cook should be something that people can cook at home.
Amauri “Chef Ace” Bey on his cooking philosophy
“The wings are the best in the city,” said prep cook Karlis Scott, 32, of Cahokia, who’s partial to the spicy buffalo flavor ($9 for one pound). “We make our own sauce.”
Head chef is Amauri “Chef Ace” Bey, 36, of Belleville. His goal is to pair “great presentations and great flavors.”
“You can find something as unconventional as buffalo chicken spring rolls ($7) and sweet Thai chili quesadillas ($10),” he said. “Then we have New Orleans-style dishes such as blackened shrimp and Cajun Cheddar grits ($12).
“My notion of food is simple and delicious. Whatever I cook should be something that people can cook at home.”
The Luna storefront has remnants of former tenants, including Castletown’s massive, L-shaped wooden bar that seats 20 people and Pitchers’ TV sets.
Kareemah wants it to be a comfortable place where people can enjoy a meal at lunchtime or relax after work.
Customers sit at regular or high-top tables in the main dining room or picnic tables with umbrellas outside. A lounge in back with comfy furniture doubles as a party room that can seat 40 people.
Kareemah also would like to offer live music someday.
“I know a couple of people who do jazz, and we’ve been taking about having a jazz night,” she said.
Luna already has a few regulars. One is Anthony Whitfield, 32, of Belleville. He stops in almost every day.
“It’s just a good atmosphere,” he said. “All types of people go in there, and the employees are really nice. When (Kareemah) sees me walking in the door, she gets my drink ready and has it waiting for me before I even sit down.”
Anthony’s favorite menu item is Philly cheese quesadillas with chicken, peppers, onions, provolone and peppered aioli ($10).
He also likes the Luna Burger, an eight-ounce ground beef patty with smoked Cheddar, a fried egg, pickles and peppered aioli on a brioche bun ($9 with fries).
“I had never had a burger with a fried egg on it, and now I love it,” he said.
At a glance
- What: The Luna Lounge
- Where: 104 W. Main St. in Belleville
- Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
- Seating: 60 in main dining room; 40 in private party room
- Handicap-accessible: Yes
- Carryouts: Yes
- Information: Call 618-416-8611 or visit the Facebook page
On the menu
- Sweet Thai Chili Quesadilla — Asian-marinated chicken breast, pepper Jack cheese and sweet Thai sauce, served with Asian slaw and Sriracha ranch, $10
- Cajun Lemon Pepper Salmon Salad — Pan-seared Cajun lemon pepper salmon, romaine, strawberries, shaved red onion, toasted almonds, sun-dried cherries, feta cheese and sweet vidalia dressing, $13
- Luna Burger — Eight-ounce ground beef patty, smoked Cheddar, fried egg, pickles and peppered aioli on a brioche bun, $9 with fries
- Chicken Philly — Chicken, provolone cheese, grilled peppers and onions and peppered aioli on a ciabatta bun, $10 with fries
- Blackened Shrimp and Cajun Cheddar Grits — Blackened shrimp, Cajun Cheddar grits and Cajun butter sauce, $12