Just one week after the grand opening of The Lucky Cricket – a new restaurant and Tiki bar combo in my homestate – I find myself at a table – drink in hand. You might credit that to my super elite, tiki VIP status, but then you’d have me seriously confused with just about anyone else with any credit. No, I walked in, like anyone else, but my resplendent aloha shirt did get a nod from our hostess.
There’s been a fair amount of buzz over this new establishment, especially among us Minnesota tikiphiles, because in a veritable tiki vacuum, any new potential will garner attention. Odds are good you’ve heard of Andrew Zimmern, the celebrity chef and creator of The Lucky Cricket. Chances are also good that by the time you’ve stumbled onto this humble blog, you already know at least a little bit about the conception of this new hyper authentic (if controversially gentrified) Chinese eatery/Tiki bar. With that in Mind, I’m going to leave the prologue to the big hitters. Check these links for more details:
Now that I’ve had the fortune to actually visit the place first hand I thought it more informative to offer more of a lei-mans introduction to The Lucky Cricket. Hype and media PR aside, I couldn’t wait to check this place out because I was eager to see for myself.
The restaurant is located about 10 minutes outside of downtown Minneapolis proper, just off the freeway, in the somewhat well-to-do and largely commercial suburb of St. Louis park. It’s nestled down into what I would describe as a fairly odd layout of other miscellaneous shops and chain eateries set up like some capitalist re-imagining of a European shopping district. Trying to be overly pedestrian feeling, in an area only accessible by automobile it actually just makes everything sort of hard to access. Nevertheless there was ample free parking just around the corner and we made our way inside. The wait staff was friendly and felt seasoned which has not always been my experience when visiting fledgling establishments so that was a pleasure. Coincidentally, we went on the day after Thanksgiving so we were seated within only about 10 minutes. Presumably, (hopefully) this won’t be the norm for such a buzzworthy, new restaurant with celebrity ties.
Zimmern cites the classic tiki bars and pan-Asian establishments of yore as a huge influence going into this endeavor but not-so-humbly touts his worldly experience with cuisine and modern mixology and his role in becoming the bridge between culture and the drooling masses as it were. I’m paraphrasing, and maybe showing my prejudice a little, but I’ll let you read into it how you will. That said – going in with an open mind, we ordered a round of their signature tiki cocktails, inspired by the classics but conceived by one Dean Hurst, the professional cocktail consultant brought on for inception. We followed that with a selection of their lunch menu options.
The drinks – ranging from $10-15, are a bit on the expensive side in my opinion. Only because at that price I’m much less likely to try more than one per visit, as I like to do. They did come replete with fashionable garnishes in a selection of Tiki Farm mugs which were available for additional purchase upon request. They were also well crafted and quite tasty, so no complaints there at all. The plates fell into approximately the same price range and were designed to be shared among your party which I’ve always thought is a fun way to dine and try lots of different items. I got the dan dan noodle bowl and my wife got the sweet and sour chicken. We were pleased to find that both of these, while generally well known Chinese food staples, did in fact seem to be elevated above the usual westernized, take-out varieties. The chicken was clean and zesty and not at all like the heavy, fried variety you might be used to. While I personally find that refreshing, I’ll be interested to see if it resounds the same with others. Both the food and drinks earn high marks from me but Minneapolis’ culinary sector gives it some incredibly stiff competition.
As for the other elements of the joint as a whole: the music was a very vanilla mix of contemporary hits that faded into the background; the decor was a fun, quirky amalgam of vague, contemporary Asian influence and tiki-light, which is exactly the sort of mediocrity you’d expect from an investor backed establishment hoping to franchise into nationwide recognition. All in all, we did have a very pleasant first experience with the Lucky Cricket. One that certainly warrants a return. And with word that they plan to do limited releases of new signature mugs quarterly(!) there will be plenty of reasons to visit frequently.
Has anyone else had an opportunity to try The Lucky Cricket yet? Are you planning a visit soon? Not even remotely interested? I’d love to hear about your experiences!