From Mark Fuller of Ma’ono Fried Chicken & Whisky, and Patric Gabre-Kidan of Rhino Room, New Luck Toy in West Seattle isn’t just any bar.
On a cold, wet Monday, the soaked crowd ducked into the kitschy New Luck Toy in West Seattle. Inside, co-owner Mark Fuller was leaning near the entrance. But any notion that he’s the gatekeeper was quickly put to rest.
“Open seating,” he announced, as he paused from his schmoozing with the server. “We’re not a restaurant … It’s a bar.”
Folks scattered. One couple stood to get the lay of the land while others squeezed passed them. One dude grabbed his date’s hand and rushed to the back. Another saw the server with the check and followed two paces behind to see at which table she was dropping that off.
“Pandemonium,” one woman said, as Public Enemy blared from the jukebox.
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Three weeks into its run, this bar has been inundated with bloggers and seemingly every foodie with an Instagram account. It’s a herd that usually stampedes to the hottest openings on Capitol Hill instead of bars in West Seattle.
But New Luck Toy isn’t just any bar. It’s owned by Fuller, who makes some of the city’s best fried chicken (at Ma’ono Fried Chicken & Whisky), and by Patric Gabre-Kidan, who worked for several big-name chefs before opening Rhino Room in the Pike-and-Pine corridor.
This is their homage to a Chinese dive by the same name that was in West Seattle eons ago. New Luck Toy 2.0, though, looks suspiciously more like a nouveau dive in New York’s East Village with aesthetics cribbed from midcentury chop-suey joints, Chinatown karaoke haunts and tiki bars.
The ceiling is flecked with 180 Chinese lanterns, casting the bar in a red, murky glow. There’s pinball and skee ball; $8 applejack Old-Fashioneds and coconut mojitos; and four slushy machines churning out frozen piña coladas and other brain-freeze concoctions behind the wedge bar.
The food is like your kitty-corner takeout. Only better. Some Sichuan classics along with Americanized Chinese dishes. And so there is a version of General Tso chicken, chunks of thigh meat in a crispy batter and then coated in a vinegar-sugar glaze. It’s not as cloyingly sweet as other versions. And better for it. It would also qualify as one of the better chicken nuggets on any happy-hour menu in Seattle.
The Mapo Tofu lacks that familiar fiery zing, but there is spicy Toothpick Lamb pungent with cumin, and snappy shrimp redolent with Old Bay and garlic, all best downed with a Tsingtao beer or eaten with copious amounts of rice.
So maybe its fried rice lacks that smoky-wok flavor, but it comes with shards of fried chicken skins as addicting as bacon.
Speaking of rice, dump some into the puddle of chili oil and fried scallions where the slick shrimp-and-pork dumplings once resided. In some faraway village, that qualifies as a poor man’s meal. Here, it’s a beer sponge for the hangover set and ridiculously satisfying all the same.
New Luck Toy, 5905 California Ave. S.W., Seattle, opens daily from 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Food is served until 1 a.m. (newlucktoy.bar)