Opened for just a year, Lucky Joe’s Alchemy and Eatery has a loyal following, said Lee Guk, one of the owners.
Many come because they are familiar with Lucky Joe’s Tiki Room, a bar Guk owned in Walker’s Point.
“I’ve been very blessed with good regulars through the years,” said Guk, who owns Lucky Joe’s with its chef, Frank Harroun.
But Guk’s newer Lucky Joe’s, which is in the former One-Way Café, is quite the departure from the tiki bar.
The Tosa venue harkens back to an earlier time – think of a speakeasy, the Roaring ‘20s and The Great Gatsby.
That’s by design, as Guk traveled to many large metro areas – San Francisco, New York and Chicago – to find the look and feel that has become Lucky Joe’s Alchemy and Eatery.
The dark-wooden bar and booths with leather seats, two crystal chandeliers, black-and-white checkered tile floor and tin-tiled ceiling all say sophistication, yet Guk and his staff are laid-back and casual. It’s a come-as-you-are type of establishment with no dress code, despite the elegant atmosphere.
Lucky Joe’s serves small plates, but they are big on variety, with something for everyone’s taste. There’s the Peri Peri Chicken, a spicy dish with roots in Africa and Portugal served with poppy seed potato salad, and bourbon braised pork served with a green tomato corn relish. Salads, like the rainbow Thai salad with sesame ginger, and sides, like Port wine cheese and pretzels, are also served.
Guk said the menu changes seasonally, but deviled eggs – with different sauces, like wasabi – are always available. His personal favorites include sides – both the roasted sweet corn nachos and baba ganoush with pita – and the lemon-seared Mahi served over pozole verde.
Drinks include classics that date back to the days before Prohibition, like L.J.’s House Manhattan and L.J.’s House Old Fashioned, which Guk said is one of the most popular. But they also feature tiki favorites like a Mai Tai and more exotic concoctions like Painkiller No. 1, made with Coruba dark rum, cream of coconut, pineapple, orange, cinnamon and nutmeg.
One of Guk’s favorites is the Clover Club, made with Aviation gin, St. George raspberry liqueur, dry Vermouth, lemon, and Bittercube cherry bark vanilla.
“The menu is more of a collective effort from bartenders we know in the state and bartenders across the country,” he said.
Lucky Joe’s has a grand bar with plenty of seating and an ample number of booths; capacity is 50. Patrons are of all ages, from 25 to 75, Guk said. “It’s truly all across the board.”
The atmosphere is relaxed and informal, and reservations are not required. “We find if there’s a wait, it’s a very short one,” he said.
JUST THE FACTS
ADDRESS: 1425 Underwood Ave., Wauwatosa
RESERVATIONS: Not needed
FARE: An array of small plates, salads and “sidecars,” or appetizers; classic old-fashioned and Manhattans plus a wide variety of craft cocktails and tiki drinks
PRICE RANGE: Small plates are moderately priced from $11 to $13, for the Chimichurri-stuffed flank steak with spicy kale. Salads range from $6 for the Old-School Caesar to $10 for the chophouse chicken. Sidecars range from the $6 tavern party mix to $13 for a meat-and-cheese plate. Drinks run from $8 for more traditional cocktails like an old-fashioned to $14 for the Zombie Joe, which contains three types of rum -- Don Q Anejo, Don Q Gold and Hamilton 151, absinthe, Falernum, cinnamon, mango, Peychauds bitters and lime.
HOURS: Opens daily at 4 p.m.; open until 11 p.m. weekdays and midnight on weekends.