Tradition and creativity are the focus at new Mahtomedi restaurant.
For White Bear Lake restaurateur Gabriela Castellanos, food will always be intertwined with family.
“When I was growing up my mom would constantly be whipping up a whole feast every dinner. Even when we’d only have three ingredients in the fridge, she’d make something incredible out of nothing. It was magic,” Castellanos says.
When her parents opened White Bear Lake restaurant Casa Lupita in 2001, Castellanos was there to support them. The spot, named for her grandmother, Guadalupe Lupita, quickly became a community staple.
Fast forward two decades, Castellanos has taken on the family business and expanded their portfolio with two new restaurants: Red Luna Taco Factory in White Bear Lake and the newly-opened Red Luna Seasons in Mahtomedi.
“My mom was the one that originally opened Casa Lupita because she loved to cook; she had a joy for cooking and she had this vision,” Castellanos says. “And although she’s not really involved with these two new locations, I try to make sure [to honor] her recipes and the joy that she brought to cooking. I try to make her, in a way, proud.”
Though it wasn’t always her dream to be in the restaurant business (Castellanos originally wanted to pursue theater and performing arts), she took up her parents’ dream when her mother became sick and could no longer run Casa Lupita.“I took it under my belt and I’ve grown to love it, it has become my passion,” she says.
Even now, Castellanos brings her artistic talent into the family business; whether it be crafting a menu or considering the design and comfort of a restaurant, she sees her work as a continuation of her mother’s own creativity in the kitchen. “The art of creation is my biggest inspiration, carrying projects out from the beginning to the end and seeing the process,” Castellanos says. “I think it goes back a lot to what my mother did growing up and watching her cook up this great dish with only zucchini and carrots.”
Castellanos similarly recognizes the importance of tradition and nostalgia to the area community. When she secured the location for Red Luna Seasons—the former home of the historic 4 Seasons Restaurant— she knew she needed to honor the building’s local legacy. “It was an old drive-up diner that was made in the 50s, and it’s crazy because my father and I would go there all the time as well—so I get the importance of keeping that nostalgic feeling alive,” Castellanos says. “I want the community to know that I know it’s an extremely sentimental place. I started my dishes including American and Mexican fare so people still got a taste of the past and what this place used to be. I want to respect the community.”
Castellanos says the most popular items on the menu at Red Luna Seasons are the chimichangas and smothered burritos, but you can never go wrong with the crispy hard shell tacos, especially when you are enjoying it in a place that means so much to the community.