Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lucky's Classic Burger & Malt Shop

Much to my dismay, and despite a handful of envious days, I have discovered that Stamford is not winning any major brownie points with me as far as the weather is concerned. True, this is the northeast—a region of the country that doesn’t see the type of weather that I have become accustomed to in Atlanta over the past twenty years—and by rights I should take that into consideration. Stubborn woman that I am, though, I’m turning a blind eye to that rationale and will continue to pout with a vengeance. Here it is the end of April, a time when the sun would be regularly shining and the mercury would be settling itself nicely into the mid- to upper-70’s on a regular basis in the Atlanta area.

But enough pouting; I only mention it as a weak segue into my delight at having experienced yet another outstanding day with temperatures conducive to outdoor dining in Stamford. And so, on a semi-sunny Thursday afternoon, my husband, stepson Robert and I dined outside for what was to be Robert’s last full day in the States—after being an ash cloud refugee—before making his way back home to England.

Since we had enjoyed ourselves so much the week prior at another restaurant along Bedford Street in downtown Stamford, we took a chance on an obscure looking restaurant in the same area and found ourselves slipping back just a little in time. Lucky’s Classic Burger & Malt Shop was just kitschy enough, just quirky enough and just wonderfully ideal enough to not insult our intelligence by taking the whole 50’s era thing too far.

Styled like a diner from the age of poodle skirts, saddle shoes, pompadours and doo-wop, Lucky’s was a take-me-away kind of place where one doesn’t mind admitting that “Yeah, I know the words to that song” when it’s played on the juke box. However, because the sun was beckoning and the slight breeze wasn’t enough of a deterrent to keep us indoors, we opted to dine on the outdoor patio along the sometimes busy, sometimes annoying, sometimes carbon monoxide clouded Bedford Street.

As the name implies, you would expect Lucky’s to serve burgers and malts. But if that’s all you venture there for, at least do yourself a favor and not only consider any one of the 22 different burger varieties or any number of items from the fountain (shakes, malts, ice cream soda, etc.), take a gander at the rest of the menu, like we did.

But first, just a bit about those 22 burgers. These babies are more than six ounces of meat—a little more than one-third of a pound. And it doesn’t really matter whether you’re in the mood for a simple Original Lucky Burger with lettuce, tomatoes and white toast, or a Supreme Burger with double burger, double cheddar, bacon, onion grass and BBQ ranch sauce. You can even go the alternative route and get a Turkey Burger or the Bello Veggie Burger. There’s a burger for practically every liking, every taste, everybody.

Once again, I was in the mood for a salad that would fill the empty void in my stomach so, bypassing the starters, I honed in on the 18—yes, 18—different salads that the menu boasted. Unless you’re a restaurant that actually specializes in salads, who does that? The Road House Salad, an adventurous mix of greens with both sliced steak and chicken, tomatoes, cucumbers and gorgonzola, is good for those looking to not only get some protein into their system but also essential vitamin B12 and zinc. Still, I persevered. I momentarily considered the Grilled Salmon Salad with lemon glaze, tomatoes, cucumber and feta, and even, for a brief moment, had my eye on the Sante Fe Salad with Cajun chicken, black beans, corn, avocado and cheddar served in a crispy, edible shell. In the end, I chose Grilled Teriyaki Salad with teriyaki grilled chicken arranged over a gorgeous bed of mixed greens, grilled pineapple triangles, cucumber, tomato and crispy noodles.

Maarten was suffering from food anxiety and had a difficult time selecting. After all, with a multitude of not only burgers and salads but also sandwiches and what Lucky’s refers to as “Old Favorites” (Salisbury Steak, Honey Dipped Fried Chicken, Mom’s Meatloaf, Grilled Ribeye Steak, etc.) there was just too much to choose from. But, see, I married a trooper, and he was determined to forge ahead and make a decision . . . which he ultimately did. His desire for a Turkey Club would soon be granted. As an eight year old kid who would be more than happy to eat burgers every day, Robert’s choice was much easier: a classic Cheese Burger and fries.

As exhaust fumes from passing cars threatened to overtake us and the sun dipped behind a large puff of clouds, I silently mused to myself: Am I going to totally undo burning those 722 calories from my elliptical workout this morning? It was a random thought, one that now seems a bit preposterous as I am a lover of food and should never, ever fear enjoying what I eat without worrying about how fattening it is or how many calories I’m consuming. I am what I eat. And on this day, judging by the size of the plate that the waiter was now bringing to our table, I was going to be a gargantuan grilled teriyaki salad.

The aroma floating up from the dish was enough to elicit a grumble of pleasure from my stomach, but when my mouth had the pleasure of tasting what my nose had already experienced, all bets were off. The chicken was a commingling of sweetness and tanginess that was so heartbreakingly tender, it set a positive tone for the remainder of my day. I never knew food could do that.

The flavors were so deeply infused within the thin strips of poultry, you could actually see how delectable it would taste and imagine the thrill as it touched your tongue and caused a party in your mouth. And if the salad alone weren’t enough, the warm Asian sesame dressing that accompanied the dish kicked it up one extra notch on the savory belt.

While my eyes were busy rolling back in my head from the joy of eating, Maarten and Robert were tucking into their meals.

“How is it?” I asked my husband of almost nine months. His reply scared me; not because it was in and of itself a scary answer, but because I could actually understand the garbled, muffled mumbling that was coming out of his mouth.

“Murpf, yum mump, pfth murph um brump!”

Translation: Look at this huge sandwich! This sucker is great! The bread is toasted perfectly, the tomatoes are fresh, firm and not too watery, the lettuce isn’t wilted, and they put enough turkey on this damn thing to choke a horse! It’s almost too much turkey—kind of overwhelms the rest of the flavors, but I’m not complaining too much ‘cuz it’s goooooood!

Yeah, I got all of that out of that mumbling . . . wives are special like that; it’s how we roll.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Robert was as complacent with a burger and fries as any kid could be. My stepson is nothing if not determined. He was shooting for a personal best that day, with a gleaming goal of finishing every single scrap of food on his plate. However, given the size of the burger (even taking into consideration this was supposedly a kid-friendly portion), it was a feat easily accomplished with words yet more daunting in action.
So what did Robert think of his Lucky’s cheeseburger? “It’s big but good.” It was a simple yet straightforward answer—what else would you expect from one so young, so honest, so innocent? Of the fries, he remarked, “…they’re crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.” Sounds like the perfect French fry to me.

Try as he may, Robert didn’t have the tummy capacity to follow through with his intended goal, but he gave it that old grade school try.

Lucky’s Classic Burger & Malt Shop turned out to be one of those places that you have instant, total recall of when someone utters the words “Where can I get a decent meal without spending a whole lot of money?” It seems that while Lucky’s has little to no idea what “small portions” means, you would think you’d be paying a king’s ransom for the large portions that they serve in return. Gratefully, this isn’t the case. And while their prices aren’t exactly like those you would have paid for the same food back in the 50’s, you’ll be hard pressed to find such enjoyable food in such generous measures at such affordable prices.

Did I mention that they also serve breakfast?

Lucky’s is on my list of “go-to” places . . . again and again and yet again.

Is Lucky’s Classic Burger & Malt Shop recommended? This is definitely a restaurant to put on your own “go-to” list. Not only does it offer overall value, but the food is tantalizing and not something to be expected from an eatery with the words “burger & malt shop” in the title. A little unexpected, but well worth the surprise.

Is Lucky’s a good value or do you need to take out a loan to eat here? Well, with prices ranging from $5.29 for a simple burger to $8.49 for one loaded, I’d call that a great deal. Lucky’s is affordably priced, and you can do breakfast, lunch or dinner here without putting a strain on the bank account.

What about atmosphere and ambience? Does red vinyl swivel counter chairs, red vinyl booths, steel rimmed tables and 50’s photograph-styled posters lining the walls sound like a fun time to you? This place is oozing with atmosphere – inside and out. It’s a casual place where you can come solo or with friends and walk away knowing that you had a meal worth enjoying at a place worth savoring.

Lucky’s Classic Burger & Malt Shop
209 Bedford Road
Stamford, CT 06901

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