Table talk: March 2018
by Sally Mitani
From the March, 2018 issue
Nearly every day, Lucky's Market hosts what could be the happiest happy hour in town. Bubba, Luis, Thomas, and Jose are just some of the regulars who were happy to explain the nightly drill. To a first-timer, it feels like crashing a private party, but they quickly showed me how and where to order and pay for food and drinks. In fact, Luis offhandedly grabbed a few glasses from the bartender and told me I could pay "anytime" for the screw-top bottle of wine I'd picked up. (I hastily made my way to the bar to pay.)
Most of the regulars are there for a paper plate full of some nightly special for about $5, and a pint or two of beer from one of the five taps. The beer, normally $2 a pint, drops to $1.50 at happy hour, and it's served in real pint glasses, not plastic cups. As the nightly gathering casts an increasingly wide net, more tables have been moved into the bar area, and remodeling plans are in the works to accommodate more people.
"It came from the concept of tailgating," says Kevin Szymczak, assistant store director. An easy walk to the stadium, Lucky's embraced football Saturdays last fall, promoting "a [parking] spot and a brat" for $25 on game days. When the season ended, it just kept on hosting the casual parties. Most days there's something going on from around five to eight o'clock. Szymczak steers clear of an exact schedule, but Thursday is pretty predictably "cantina night," say the regulars, with chicken tacos and quesadillas cooking on a portable grill set up next to the bar. "It's mostly traditional barbecue food--burgers, brats, ribs," says Szymczak.
This is hardly an elegant or well-designed pub. It's in the middle of a brightly lit grocery store, and the seating looks knocked together--some tables, some high tops, and a few couches with low coffee tables. In good weather, the party moves outside to what
Szymczak winkingly calls "the veranda," a sheltered space out front.
Wine drinkers take note: Lucky's is fearlessly exploiting a loophole in Michigan's liquor laws. Like most grocery stores, Lucky's sells bottles of wine, meant to be taken off premises. And like a small but growing number of grocery and wine stores--Whole Foods Cranbrook, Plum Market on Plymouth, and most recently Everyday Wines at Kerrytown--it also has a Class C license, so it can sell alcohol by the glass. Put them together, and you can buy any bottle of wine and consume it on the spot--the bartender will take your money, open the bottle and give you some glasses. If you want to go first class, buy a $50 bottle, find several friends to share it, and for $10 apiece you've got a glass of wine that could cost three times as much in a posh restaurant.
Lucky's loves its happy hour customers so much that in December it hosted them at an invitation-only holiday dinner, with oysters on the half-shell and shrimp, followed by prime rib sliders, and more. One regular marveled: "I've been shopping at Kroger all my life, and they never gave me anything."
form Calls & Letters, April 2018
To the Observer:
Sally Mitani graciously wrote a "Table Talk" about Lucky's Market in your February issue. Just a few things to point out about Ms. Mitani's article.
We do not have happy hour. Never did never will. All of our pricing in the cafe as well as the store is an everyday all-day price. No bait and switch to try and get you in. Just the same low price.
Whether it's knocked together or Chippendale, it's the people in the seats and the folks that work here that give Lucky's the vibe that it has. If you're looking for leather and fine china, this isn't the place for you.
As we develop our menu and offerings in the cafe we constantly update via social media. When we have a good mix we will run with it. It's not my choice but the feedback we get from our customers about what works and what doesn't. So I didn't "steer clear" of a response about a schedule. We are accommodating and will offer what our customers want. It's always a work in progress.
Ms. Mitani, we are not exploiters. Nor loophole lookers. We abide by the law. Always have, always will.
I hope you visit us again sometime, because from my view you were having a fine time at your last visit. And who shouldn't have fun at Lucky's?
Just don't come for happy hour. Never had one, never will.
What Mitani took for a happy hour is actually a happy day: pints of beer at Lucky's cafe, normally $2, are $1.50 all day on Thursday.
[Originally published in March, 2018.]
You might also like:
A poet's search for belonging
A clickable, zoomable map
|Henry Thoreau, Train-window Botanist, by Tim Athan|
Online brands at Lamp Post Plaza
'80s, '90s, & today
From Melange to dessous
A new name caps its makeover by Eve Aronoff Fernandez
From Supper Club to Cocktail Lounge
More drinks, less food at the Graduate hotel.