I am a sucker for a good restaurant success story, especially those that happen on a slow burn over the duration of many years.
In 1991, Raj Jain opened Luna Loca in the Livery Mercantile, Danville, with a vision that would soon explode.
Raj was ahead of his time and saw the inherent value of the margarita and the marketable wiles that the concoction could provide. With this vision, he started the first ever “Margarita Committee.” Every full moon (the argument for the title of the restaurant is not unlike the chicken and the egg), Raj would gather his members up and taste a variety of tequilas and mixers. This led to an explosion of interest that would soon take over the bar, then the whole restaurant, until finally the entire parking lot, with live bands, portable bars and whole roasted pigs.
Sadly however, the town of Danville was not prepared for this onslaught of full-moon aficionados and soon shut down the operation.
Since that time, Raj has grown Luna Loca to a 2500-3000 patron-a-week business (50% of which come in more than once a week), with patrons that seldom look at a menu and simply get “the usual.”
Fast-forward to March 2015, and for the first time in 24 years, Raj is going to spread his wings and try to recreate the party… in the same parking lot!
Raj has acquired the property where currently Martini Sky is housed, and Patrick David’s before her (restaurants are always referred to as women to me and to be treated as such). He will open “Dana’s,” named after his “better half” –a place for good old-fashioned comfort food with a chef’s touch.
The menu will boast Stuffed Chicken, Scampi, Sole, Filet Mignon and a myriad of salad creations, all created by new Chef Luis, formerly of Marcellos then 17 years at Forlis in Alamo. Bottom line, and most important is that this man knows how to cook for our small town demographic and has kept people in their seats for many years with his creations. You can expect the same at Dana’s.
The décor will remain somewhat the same, as Martini Sky is relatively knew (at least by décor genres) and they certainly did it right! The high bar tables will come out and make way for the more intimate booths. Raj is laying down hardwood floors covered with a Persian rug motif to add warmth.
Raj’s son, Shekhar (Jake) Jain, will be the General Manager. They will keep the above bar TVs, and the lighting will remain elegant and low enough to provide privacy bubbles amidst the hustle.
As Danvillites, we have grown accustomed to getting to know our servers and them getting to know us. One of the largest concerns we have is when keys change hands and we’re starting over with names and faces. Not so at Dana’s. A couple of the key faces seem to come grandfathered in with the property and stem from the Patrick David’s era. Brian will remain behind the bar, and while the ink is yet to dry on this, Dori is expected to return on the floor.
The most excitement with this new venture is that Raj is going back into his bag-o-tricks and looking to breathe life back into his “committee” formula. Not unlike it’s predecessor, Raj will be looking to do a Wine Comittee, this time with the knowledge and cooperation from Danville, lest it spills past the perimeters of his modest patio.
Forty years ago, Raj came here from India and took a job in a restaurant. Like so many of us, he was infected and carries with him the same passion as he did then. We are lucky that he landed locally and continues to show us what proprietorship is supposed to look like.
416 Sycamore Valley Rd. W, Danville, CA 94526