Well, here go the owners of Corner Bistro. They open up a diner on Concord Pike in Wilmington right around the corner from Corner Bistro. The new venture is Lucky’s Coffee Shop and Restaurant, which takes the place of what was the Ranch House. Never went, but the Ranch House was apparently a scuzzy diner.
I’m hearing good things about Lucky’s, but then I never read anything bad about restaurants in
The interior of Lucky’s got an overhaul when it switched hands, and is now taking cues from Starr’s Brady Bunch-influenced Jones in
Sitting in the pod chair looking at the marshmallow couch by the entrance.
The interior is retro, without being sickeningly slick. The only sickening décor detail is the lettering on the wall leading to the bathroom – “Listen to the music and let your body flow.” What? I just imagined people uncontrollably pissing and shitting themselves upon entering the restroom area labeled “restroom/disco” with the owners' trademark disco ball spinning overhead.
I get the disco ball thing. You have one at Corner Bistro in front of the bathrooms, too, but this saying on the wall at Lucky’s needs to go. I overheard the confused table next to me wondering out load what was up, too. Leave the disco ball, just drop any mention of letting bodies flow while people are eating.
The diner and bistro blended menu at Lucky’s is extensive. Not only do they offer breakfast and lunch diner basics, there have offerings like tortellini and hummus not normally found at diners. Often, I find myself at a diner and not in the mood for eggs or pancakes, so the variety is welcome. The vegetarian menu is also impressive in its variety.
I try the Garden Vegetable Bowl with broccoli, spinach, carrots, and mushrooms over roasted tomato and parmesan cheese grits, thinking I’ve finally found a vegetarian rendition of Southern shrimp and grits. First thing you’ll notice is that none of the vegetables mentioned in the menu description are on the plate (carrot garnish doesn't count).
Then you’ll notice that the vegetables are not over the grits. "Big deal," you say. By saying the vegetables are over the grits, you imply that they are cooked to compliment, enhance, and be eaten with the grits. These vegetables were a side. They also had absolutely no seasoning. Steamed, unseasoned cauliflower – I don’t think there’s anything blander. This is the first time I can remember not eating food served to me, and I’ll eat anything.
How were the grits? The worst grits I’ve had in recent memory. The grits were lumpy, and if the tomatoes were roasted you fooled me. The tomatoes seemed to be just diced tomatoes thrown into cooked grits and simmered a bit. The parmesan was the only saving grace.
After spying a huge sticky bun on another table, I ordered one since I was still hungry. The cinnamon buns are split and heated on a grill, then smothered in sauce and topped with walnuts and raisins. The server dropped off a handful of butter packets to slather between the roll, but I declined the heart attack. Obviously, no one bothered to taste the nuts, because this lot of walnuts was extremely bitter. Had the nuts not been so bitter, this pastry would have been a winner
My partner ordered an egg and cheese burrito wrapped in a spinach tortilla with a side of home fries. There was nothing exceptional about the burrito. Inside the tortilla were eggs and cheese. He did like the extra crispy home fries, simply because he prefers crispy home fries.
When you have a meal of an atrociously bad entrée, a lackluster breakfast, and a pastry with bitter nuts, you don’t ordinarily go back for seconds, but I had to go back to see if things could get better.
For my second visit, I ordered two Asian-influenced starters from the vegetarian section of the menu, not knowing how large they would be – a soup and a soba noodles dish.
I was hoping the soup would arrive first, as that is the norm, but the Japanese soba noodles tossed in peanut sauce and served with bell peppers and mixed greens arrived first. The noodles had an uneven distribution of tangy peanut sauce – gloppy on the bottom, dry on the top. This is minor nitpicking, but, again, the menu description was not accurate. The mixed greens on the menu turned out to be a monoculture of spinach. And I can think of a few garnishes – scallions, cilantro, and cucumbers – that could better compliment and bring more flavor to peanut noodles than roasted peppers. The noodles were much better than the grits, thankfully, but they were no better than soba noodles found in the grab-and-go section of a grocer.
The Asian Dumpling Soup with three vegetable dumplings served in Thai ginger broth arrived last, and I’d be kind if I said the soup was lukewarm. The dumplings are filled mostly with cabbage, and are innocuous in flavor. The broth, on the other hand, packs a wallop of flavor with intense sweetness and spiciness. My lips were pleasantly burning. My only complaint with the soup, other than temperature, was the three sticks of raw red pepper floating in the soup. They look gorgeous, but I was forced to use a knife and fork to cut them into bite-sized pieces (the dumplings can be easily cut with the side of the soup spoon). Don’t make me cut my soup!
After two trips, I’m not impressed with Lucky’s – other than the fact that they have many vegetarian, non-traditional diner options to choose from, which I truly do appreciate that they cared enough to offer. Maybe they should scale the menu back, though, and make a few excellent dishes instead of many mediocre dishes.
Lucky’s Coffee Shop and Restaurant
4003 Concord Pike,