I used to go to Lucky’s Cafe all the time in college. Despite my never really having lived that far from it, it fell off my rotation until recently.
And that’s a mistake, considering the place is still pretty wonderful.
For one, there aren’t a lot of places that feel like Lucky’s, which has been serving in Oak Lawn for more than 30 years. It has that more-or-less classic decor of a diner: black-and-white checkered floors, black chairs with thin metal legs, big booths along the windows, plenty of neon signage on the exterior. It also shares that wonderful quality of diners: All condiments are already on every table.
The coffee’s just fine, providing enough caffeine for the day every time a server comes by with that generic pot to warm up the cup. (And on a recent visit, there was at least one person who was serving here more than 10 years ago.)
First of all, you can make brunch happen anytime of day here — which means you can get that mimosa with fresh-squeezed grapefruit (or orange) juice any time of the week ($4.75).
Pancakes are a safe bet here, if you’re the go-getter-with-carbs type. Get four buttermilk with cinnamon-brown sugar butter ($9.49), but do better by adding banana for a dollar. Or go fancy and get the banana-cognac pancakes ($11.49).
The all American breakfast is a safe go-to: two eggs your way, bacon or sausage, sourdough or nine-grain toast and potatoes or grits ($10.40). The potatoes are fine, nothing great, but better than the bland grits that feel like an afterthought. The sourdough toast is the right choice here: The thin slice of surprisingly dense but flavorful bread comes from Empire Baking Co.
One thing that makes breakfast great here is the eggs: Vital Farms’ eggs from Austin proved incredibly fresh, and perfectly cooked, on multiple visits.
They’re also what make the migas acceptable ($10.99). This is straightforward, with some corn chips and chopped onions, serrano peppers and tomatoes with Monterey Jack and some fresh salsa. It won’t blow your mind, but you certainly won’t be mad about it either.
There’s a bird Benedict someone at your table has to order, though ($12.99). What kept bringing me back to Lucky’s 10 years ago was the chicken-fried steak, which you actually can order in the morning hours, but you can get a more appropriate version before noon here.
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This is only served on the weekends until 3 p.m. Boneless chicken breast is pounded and fried just like the CFS that’s so wonderful, with a flaky and well-seasoned batter; two of those crazy-fresh eggs that are actually perfectly cooked to medium are on top; below are sweet onions and a corn muffin. The corn muffin had us less than excited, but once you get that sweetness among everything else, you understand how it works. This comes with a Tabasco hollandaise — but you can also get it with gravy. (And if you’re like some of us who walk in the door here thinking of CFS, you might as well.) The gravy works wonderfully with this plate; either sauce offers a savory quality, balancing the sweetness from the muffin and onions.
It’s nice when a place keeps up with your expectations. It’s impressive when it does it for decades.
Lucky’s Cafe, 3531 Oak Lawn Ave. (Oak Lawn). Open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.