At the bar / Lucky Day
Cocktails, snacks, and style
A martini is perfect with briny raw oysters
Photos by Eric Frick
The strengths upon which any successful business finds its footing vary. Is a business successful because it’s creative and agile or because it’s figured out how to run on slimmer margins than its competition? Does it take risks? Is it capable of staying the course where others flinch? Spend enough time in a specific business sector, and you can spot the strengths of an operation almost from the outset.
Take Lucky Day, for example. Open since June of 2017, the bar/restaurant is owned and operated by Tim and Morgan Stevens, the couple behind the popular Ballyhoo. Located in a former Mason hall, the building has more baked-in character than anyone could ask for, augmented by exceptionally tasteful decor, including rich, dark wallpaper, a reworked bar area that’s both beautiful and sleek, and thoughtful touches like a sizeable artwork of a cat holding a rabbit in its chops by local painter A. J. Fries.
One reason why Lucky Day and Ballyhoo have found favor is that the Stevenses are sticklers for exactness. They firmly adhere to excellent technique, encyclopedic knowledge, and streamlined systems. And they aren’t big on fads. Those who visit a Stevens establishment can also expect to experience a level of reverence for the classics hard to find in a world where bartenders and chefs alike are lauded for adding their own “twist” to anything and everything.
The rise of the craft cocktail hopefully left us all with a bad taste in our mouths for sugary-sweet mixers, shelf-stable fruit juice, and marshmallow vodka, but it also went, in some instances, a step too far. Bars are inherently egalitarian, and thus there’s no room for snobbery (or monocles) in a good bar. While the Stevenses and their staff are steadfast in their devotion to doing things the proper way, there’s also no tolerance for intolerance at either of their places, which is how we come to another of the Stevenses’ strengths. Their bars offer classic cocktails executed at the highest level of quality by nice people who will still be nice to you even when, like many of us, you don’t really know what the hell you’re talking about.
On a recent visit, we stuck to the classics, which was easy to do using the bar’s winter happy hour menu.
There’s a reason martinis come with olives: brininess is the dry martini’s BFF, so pairing one with a half-dozen super briny raw oysters is a no-brainer. Whether the martini is the chaser or the oysters do that job, there’s no wrong choice here. During happy hour (4–6 p.m. every day), oysters are only a buck a shuck.
Other happy hour specials include six-dollar Old Fashioneds, Manhattans, and boilermakers. Let’s look at some hero pairings on the menu that will make this hour your happiest of all.
That Old Fashioned could be the best date you’ve had in a while when enjoyed alongside an order of steak frites ($24). The dish’s warm salsa of caramelized onions makes an Old Fashioned sing.
Steak frites and an Old Fashioned
The menu’s elk osso buco ($32) plays nice-nice with the bar’s rye Manhattan. The cold-weather plate features butternut squash puree, roasted brussels sprouts, and a sweet cranberry compote. The centerpiece is a marrow-rich bone surrounded by lush elk meat. The compote can be overwhelming, so don’t feel obliged to eat it all. (On my visit, I was served perhaps four times the amount needed, but it was easy to navigate around.) Either way, the Manhattan pairing is a winner and the elk is nothing short of delicious.
The exact components of the happy hour boilermaker vary based on availability, but it’s a no-fuss drink calling for a no-fuss food pairing. Go for one of Lucky Day’s signature hand pies. Made in-house and always savory, they have three fillings: short rib, curried potatoes with green chutney, or a fantastic union of chicken, bacon, and leeks with gravy. The pastry is quite good and any of the stuffing options are bettered by a cold beer and a shot—but then again, what isn’t?
There’s much more to enjoy at Lucky Day than happy hour. Consider this a primer, an easy A-B-C, 1-2-3 to a good time. Stop in for dinner with friends, share a plate or two with a lover before a show, or take Dad in for a drink—let Lucky Day’s strengths be yours.