Atlanta: Enjoy Some Bark with Your Bite at Lucky's Burger & Brew
Lucky's Burger & Brew
1144 Alpharetta Street, Roswell GA 30075 (Map); 770-518-5695; luckysburgerandbrew.com
Cooking Method: Flat top
Short Order: Creative burgers and otherwise basic pub grub in dog-friendly atmosphere
Want Fries with That? Opt for the onion rings instead
Price: Mixed Breed, $9.50; Retriever, $10; Chihuahua, $10.50; Georgia Dawg Pounder, $11; sides sold separately, $2.50-3.50
Some people are, some people aren't. I guess I'm not. A dog person, that is. (My sister-in-law's pug Coco glared at me just now. Like she knows what I typed. Spooky.) It may stem from having been attacked by a neighbor's German Shepherd when I was a toddler. Or maybe it has more to do with the fact that my wife and I can't agree on breeds (I actually totally dig big dogs—the mellower the better; she prefers yippy furballs). Whatever the case, I'm simply not one to lose my Shih Tzu and go all cooey baby talk just because I'm in the presence of a Labradoodle.
I am, however, a burger person. So when I heard about Lucky's Burgers & Brew, a local joint catering to both burger lovers and dog fanatics, I called up my brother and had him leash up Memphis, his Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, so we could all go out for some chow. Lucky's didn't win any Best of Breed awards in my burger book, but they do some super-solid pub grub in a canine-friendly atmosphere that's fun for two- and four-legged friends alike.
Our party of six (plus Memphis) took up a good portion of the dog patio and gave us a great way to sample a large portion of Lucky's menu. Burgers are the star attraction, with over a dozen different varieties to choose from, plus a build-your-own program that features almost 20 cheeses, condiments, and toppings. All of Lucky's burgers are 80/20 Certified Angus, although turkey and black bean patties can be subbed upon request.
The Mixed Breed ($9.50) takes Lucky's standard seven-ounce patty (7...as in Lucky, get it?) and tops it with buffalo sauce and blue cheese. Probably our least favorite beef burger of the evening, this one was just a little too subtle. We loved the creaminess of the blue to be sure, but if you're hankering for heat, Lucky's "famous" buffalo sauce shows more bark than bite.
The tater tots, however, were spot-on: crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside. Co-owner Ted Lescher admitted that some of the sides come to the kitchen frozen, but when they're prepared and seasoned well like these tots, there's no shame in that.
The Retriever ($10) features melted Swiss cheese and sautéed burgundy mushrooms. The 'shrooms had lots of rich, complex flavor that matched nicely with the Swiss. Lucky's buns seemed to shine a little brighter on this burger—the restaurant chose challah from nearby Masada Bakery after an exhaustive search. It's an excellent complement to the often-complex toppings at Lucky's; simple and toasted but with a nice squishy texture. The standard fries are decent enough, fast-food sized and nicely crisped.
There was one turkey burger at our table, a DIY model topped with mushrooms, bacon, and pepper jack. The spicy cheese type was a strategic choice meant to provide some oomph, since turkey in burger form is so often bland and lifeless. It helped here, but not much. The toppings were very good—the bacon in particular, which was meaty and salty and riding that fine-and-tricky line between chewy and crisp—but unfortunately, they couldn't save an otherwise unimpressive turkey patty.
The other bright spot on this plate were the sweet potato fries. Thicker than a lot of sweet potato fries, these were reminiscent of steak fries. That larger size allowed the soft, warm interior to really come out with each bite. They're served with a blue cheese sauce that, while not playing up the sugary sweet factor like many dips the accompany sweet potato fries, made for a wonderful pairing nonetheless.
The Chihuahua ($10.50) is dressed out with chopped green chiles, pepper jack, chipotle mayo, and homemade guacamole. All of the individual flavors were very tasty, but—and here's something I never thought I would say in this lifetime—there was entirely too much guacamole on this burger. Besides overlubricating the entire sandwich and making each bite an extreme handholding challenge, the resulting impression was one of a huge spoonful of guac that someone may have dropped some ground beef into.
Lucky's onion rings are a point of particular pride for Lescher. He and business partner Ernie Geyer (owner of the real-life Lucky) decided after much deliberation to go with very thin onion slices for the best flavor. The onions are sliced and coated with the kitchen's seasoned breading before being fried to a golden brown. The onions retain a crisp texture with a clean bite, never once pulling out from the tasty shell. The rings come with a special white barbecue sauce that Lescher himself produced on a dare a few years ago. I can't think of much that wouldn't be awesome slathered in this complex sauce (over 15 ingredients, Ted told me), and it makes the already-superb onion rings the best of Lucky's sides by far.
Perhaps the most popular burger on the menu is also the oddest-looking. The Georgia Dawg Pounder ($11) doesn't have a long list of toppings, but what's here certainly raises eyebrows. Under that patty is red pepper mayo. Nice. On top, a fried pimento cheese ball. Hell, yeah. Pimento cheese (especially on a burger) is traditionally more of a South Carolina thing than a Georgia thing, but when you gently press that ball until it ruptures, the creamy, slightly spicy, pepper-studded ooze reveals itself to be an awfully good borrow from our Palmetto State neighbors. It was unanimously the table's favorite burger of the meal.
The Parmesan parsley fries, sadly, were uninspired. Not worth the 50-cent upgrade from regular fries or any more of a mention than they've already gotten here.
The Georgia Dawg Pounder also gave us our best look at the beef. Lucky's hand patties the meat on-site, going through about 800 pounds a week. Burgers are seasoned with nothing more than kosher salt and table-grind black pepper—Lescher's a firm believer that "some things don't need to be 'bastardized' with secret seasonings and such." The burgers are cooked on a flat top and always until medium unless specified otherwise. All of the burgers at our table (the beef ones, anyway) sported a nice bit of crust and even had a fair bit of interior color.
I love the way that Lescher, a two-decade professional cook, uses toppings on the prefab burgers at Lucky's. The Chihuahua and Georgia Dawg Pounder were winners, and I like the looks of models like the Poodle Chaser (melted brie, caramelized onions, Dijon mustard), the Boxer (Boursin cheese), the German Shepherd (triple cream cambozola, candied bacon jam), and the newly-unveiled Xolo (a taco burger). I did find myself wishing that the beef had a bit more punch to it, maybe in seasoning, maybe in juiciness. For all the extreme creativity shown with the toppings, the burgers as whole entities never quite surpassed "pretty good" status at my table. Lots of "likes," not as many "loves" as I had hoped for overall. (Side note: what we loved most was an appetizer of smoked whole chicken wings. Phenomenal.)
While Lucky's allows pooches on the patio—and that alone is pretty cool—I didn't see any special attention given to the canine clientele during my visit. Seems like water bowls and dog biscuits to snack on would be easy enough to provide (and someone could probably make a killing by offering a true side menu of doggie dishes for pet owners to enthusiastically overpay for), but maybe just being able to bring Fido out to eat with you is enough for most.
Me, I love it when a place takes a theme and goes all the way with it. I would love to see Lucky's Burgers & Brew do that with the dog-friendly aspect of their business, and bump up those burgers to truly Best in Show status while they're at it.
About the Author: Todd Brock lives the glamorous life of a stay-at-home freelance writer in the suburbs of Atlanta. Besides being paid to eat cheeseburgers for AHT, pizzas for Slice, and desserts for Sweets, he's written and produced over 1,000 hours of television and penned Building Chicken Coops for Dummies. When he grows up, he wants to be either the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys or the drummer for The Gaslight Anthem. Or both.