Andrew Zimmern has been in the greatest kitchens all over the world—he just hasn’t had his own for 18 years. “I still got it,” he laughs as he shows me around Lucky Cricket in the Shops at West End, St. Louis Park.
Lucky Cricket is going to be wildly popular. And no, it won’t have a Bizarre Foods-style menu (i.e., no crickets). The first question friends ask me: “Will it be any good?” I’m reserving judgment, of course, but the menus look fantastic. This isn’t some fancy chef project; this is Zimmern’s shot at solving an almost unsolvable problem. “Name a chain with over 100 units with great food,” he says. “Not good food, great food. Everyone says it can’t be done, but I think I can do it, and I want to do it with Chinese food.”
The lunch menu is divided into dim sum, sandwiches, noodles, and shareables. The food will come out family-style, in general. Dim sum will feature Szechuan wontons, Sheng Jian Bao (crispy pork dumplings), sticky rice in lotus leaves, steamed peel-and-eat shrimp, and salt-and-pepper fried shrimp. Super approachable food. And what are a fried chicken sandwich ($13) and a fried walleye sandwich ($16) doing on the menu? “In China, people eat sandwiches,” Zimmern says. He will serve his on homemade Chinese bread, kind of like a muffin.
I got to taste Stony’s Flyhead Lettuce Wrap ($12), which is made up mostly of these bright, springy Chinese chives along with a little pork and a little tofu. It’s fantastic. Salty, crunchy, really good stuff. The noodle dishes feature an egg noodle with soy sauce, hand-torn noodles with braised lamb, and a cold noodle dish, too.
The dinner menu gets rid of the sandwiches and emphasizes shareables, like a Peking chicken, a take on chicken and waffles, char siu barbecue pork, and a market-price whole roast duck. “We understand that we’re creating food for everyone,” Zimmern says. “I want kids who don’t like spicy food to come in here and be happy. We want grandmas who don’t like food with lots of ginger and garlic to be very, very happy.”
The tiki drinks are in the $12-$14 range. The cherry zinger has vodka, brandy, and orgeat along with cherry, almond, and lime. I’m excited about the rum drink called Lucky’s Path—with ginger, apricot, and pineapple—but there are bourbon and gin tiki drinks, too. Also: three non-alcoholic tiki drinks—including one with coffee called the Ivory Tumbler.
Lucky Cricket opens Monday, November 19, for lunch and dinner, but getting a reservation is going to be a challenge. My search on OpenTable has me two or three weeks out to a reservation for two before 9 p.m. May the luck of the cricket be with you.