Lucky Cricket Is Back: New Leadership, New Menu, New Chance

Will diners give Andrew Zimmern a second chance after his Chinese concept Lucky Cricket landed in hot water last year?
Lucky Cricket Orange Chicken

Among the food media in this town, I was one of the few who liked Lucky Cricket the first time. But I saw your pictures on social media, and heard your feedback about bad service and inconsistent food quality. It’s hard to get out from underneath an avalanche of bad publicity—like the publicity that came at Andrew Zimmern fast and furiously after he said, “I think I’m saving the souls of all the people from having to dine at these horseshit restaurants masquerading as Chinese food that are in the Midwest.”

He wrote a long apology on his Facebook page: “Food should be for everyone, and yet culturally there is a terrible and centuries old history of white people profiting off of other cultures, in food, music, and elsewhere. The upset that is felt in the Chinese American community is reasonable, legitimate and understandable, and I regret that I have been the one to cause it.”

I’ve known Andrew a long time. He’s sent me to more locally owned, small ethnic restaurants around the state, the country, and the world than anyone I’ve known. He apologized, he owned it, and yet (some) people appeared to relish the opportunity to rake the famous TV chef over the coals.

Bygones.

Lucky Cricket closed to remodel in late June, when really what they were doing was re-booting. My wife and I and our two kids went to check it out on a recent Saturday for lunch, and it is worth a second look. We liked everything we ate.

Lucky Cricket Kimchi Black Fried Rice

Original managing partner Michael McDermott took a back seat, and now investor Mike Outlaw is running the show. He knew they’d messed up the opening. “We felt the initial menu disrupted our consistency. … We felt there was a disconnect with all the elements we were incorporating—design, menu, service,” Outlaw told me.

The menu is smaller, tighter, and more globally Asian, less Chinese. (Executive chef Andres Garcia, formerly of downtown Minneapolis’ Rojo Mexican Grill, replaces Lucky Cricket’s original executive chef, Sophina Uong.) We tried the Korean black fried rice with kimchi and loved it. There’s a Filipino pork belly sisig, too. You’ll find Thai influences, Vietnamese, Japanese. “We are not looking to be ‘authentic’ as much as we are seeking to have familiar dishes with a Lucky Cricket twist,” Outlaw says.

Lucky Cricket Fried Eggplant

They’re looking to “de-tiki” the lounge area and bring more Asian beer. The cocktail list has more classic cocktails, too. I found the lunch menu affordably priced—the Kimchi Black Fried Rice was just $9, and it was enormous.

The dry-fried spicy eggplant was great with a dragon dipping sauce, for just $8.

Lucky Cricket Lamb Dumplings

The Mongolian Lamb Dumplings were incredible. The lamb inside has a hint of smoked paprika and cayenne, tossed in Greek yogurt and mint. It was spicy, bright, creamy—just a great celebration of flavor for $12.

A second chance can be hard to grant, especially when people feel that they’ve already made up their minds. But Outlaw is optimistic. “We are looking to provide a different perspective that we hope resonates with some flavorful, a bit adventurous, fun dining experience.”

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