The nicest guy in North Park

Posted: March 28th, 2014 | Featured, Food & Drink, Restaurant Reviews | No Comments

Lucky’s Breakfast
3804 Grim Ave. (North Park)
Prices: $1.25 to $4.30

By Frank Sabatini Jr. | Restaurant ReviewAs a little girl took delight spinning on an old-fashioned lunch stool next to her mother, the man behind the counter asked if she’d like to see a monkey.

“Yes,” she replied with a look of enchantment in her eyes.

The Denver omelet with hash browns (Photo by Frank Sabatini Jr.)

The Denver omelet with hash browns (Photo by Frank Sabatini Jr.)

“Then go look in the window,” he quipped before shuffling past an elderly woman who said she wanted coffee.

“Get it yourself,” he told her.

And so she did, entering into a disheveled work area strewn with fake flowers and dated Asian décor while grabbing a mug along the way.

Welcome to Lucky’s Breakfast, where Hong Kong native, “Lucky,” does the all of the cooking, serving and bussing without ever losing his impish smile — or the wisecracks that come with it.

Lucky opened the small, corner-lot business 38 years ago as a Chinese restaurant called Lucky’s Golden “Phenix.” He later converted it to Lucky’s Breakfast and currently serves all-American morning fare from 7 a.m. to noon, Monday through Saturday.

A side of Pancakes (Photo by Frank Sabatini Jr.)

A side of Pancakes (Photo by Frank Sabatini Jr.)

You can’t help but love the guy. He’s witty and nurturing, despite the fact he rarely stands still and makes eye contact with customers as they order their food. With two U-shaped lunch counters filling the space, and a rear kitchen that he fades into periodically, there isn’t time to get overly personal.

Visiting as a twosome for the first time, we waited a few minutes to place our orders. Then, from across the room, and without a pen or paper, Lucky shouted out in a quasi-brusque manner, “Just tell me what you guys want.”

Without choice, we responded for everyone to hear.

It becomes obvious when looking at the menu that Lucky runs the diner as a labor of love rather than for profit. And though his breakfast offerings are ultra-basic — bacon, ham, eggs, toast, hash browns and pancakes — his prices are frozen in the early ‘80s.

Ham and a trio of eggs (Photo by Frank Sabatini Jr.)

Ham and a trio of eggs (Photo by Frank Sabatini Jr.)

A three-egg breakfast with three strips of bacon, hash browns and toast is only $3.80. Coffee runs 85 cents a cup with free refills if you order food. Otherwise it’s 10 cents per top off. The most expensive dish on the menu is a cheese-filled Denver omelet with potatoes and toast for $4.30.

So what if the omelet arrived slightly overcooked. I was too amused to complain.

My companion chose a slab of glistening ham steak instead of bacon for his three-egg breakfast. The over-easy eggs were perfectly cooked in this case. And we loved the fluffy hash browns on our plates, which took well to the Valentina hot sauce placed along the counter tops in industrial-size glass bottles.

We also each ordered a side of pancakes ($2.85 a pair) that were light and thin. Those came out first as Lucky made it appear he had forgotten the remainder of our order.

“Can I get you anything else?” he asked.

Just as we were about to recite again our main orders, he magically pulled the entrees out from behind us, set them under our chins, chuckled and walked away.

Luckys_InfoA regular customer sitting a few stools down attested that if we ever come back, Lucky won’t forget what we originally ordered.

When Lucky later swung past and asked how we were doing with our breakfasts, we gave him a thumbs-up.

“Well when you’re hungry, everything tastes good,” he wryly responded.

Despite my wobbly bar stool and harsh fluorescent bulbs perched overhead, the diner feels serene and welcoming. It sucks in a lot of natural light and there was soft music playing when we visited.

Also, the zigzagging lunch counter puts you generally face-to-face with other customers, which runs a colorful gamut from seniors talking about their doctor appointments to construction workers fueling up on caffeine to young hipsters discovering the joys of non-pretentious dining.

You’d have to venture into rural America to find a place this folksy, although you need only come to Lucky’s to be tossed a fortune cookie at the end of your breakfast.

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