We’ve probably been to Lucky Dice more times than any other restaurant we’ve reviewed. Mandi, having grown up in the area, has eaten there numerous times. Myself, I’ve only been there a total of three times and for two of these meals I was hung over. I suspect Mandi was hung over most of the times she’s been there too. It’s a good place to nurse a hangover. Grease, starch, sugar, soda pop, all the tonics for what ails you. It’s a hangover kind of place.
Chances are you won’t be the only one in the joint with a hangover. The restaurant itself is a hangover from another time. It’s a real, true blue, dyed-in-the-wool, greasy spoon diner.
Even the patrons are hangovers. Decades don’t die at the Lucky Dice. You’re bound to see someone stuck anywhere between the ’50s and the ’90s sitting at the next table.
There’s even hangovers from another way of life. A farmer is always sitting alone looking like he’s already put in a few hours in the field that morning. As far as I know, there aren’t any farms in Lakeshore Village but there he is in a mesh-back hat, plaid shirt, with a face full of sun-baked leathery skin. The Lucky Dice may be a long way away from Kamsack, Saskatchewan to come for breakfast, but it’s clearly a mecca for prairie farm hands.
The furniture is a hangover. Fake wood grain arborite, metal legged tables. Irreplaceable. They probably don’t make them anymore. The walls appear to be chipped or stained or peeling. They might not be, but they feel dingy. Menus drenched with incongruous clip-art and corrected with white-out. Flourescent lights. Cracked vinyl seats. Not kitschy, just old. Utilitarian, durable, stained yellow from the days when the place would have been blue with cigarette smoke.
Photo by Alisa Walton.
The food is a hangover from another time too. Pop is served from a can you pour into your glass yourself. Bacon, burgers and eggs are fried together on the grill. Gravy is scooped out of a bucket and pancakes from a vat. The coffee is blacker than tar but tastes like strong tea brewed in an ashtray. It’s perfect.
It’s hard to find a place like this that hasn’t been bought up by some urban hipster who aims to raise the level of cuisine while retaining its retro charm (usually at the expense of both the charm and the cuisine).
The thing about a proper greasy spoon is it isn’t really charming. It’s a bit sad, it’s a bit bland, it’s a bit overpriced and it’s a bit of a risk to your health. I’ve probably never walked away from Lucky Dice with food poisoning. It’s more likely it was alcohol poisoning from the night before. Certainly salmonella couldn’t live in that kind of a pickled stomach.
So, getting down to brass tacks, here’s what I’ve learned about the Lucky Dice menu. Stick to the basics. Pancakes, eggs, bacon, burgers, fries, grilled cheese. Stick to the safe bets. It’s hard to go wrong here and they deliver exactly what you want. Or at least exactly what you expect. Even if they charge $2-3 on the high side per meal—based purely on quality, it’s standard breakfast pricing.
Fancier items like the hot turkey sandwich are a little out of their league. The “real mashed potatoes, not that instant garbage” taste pretty much like that instant garbage. Maybe not as good. I’m a big fan of gravy from a tin, but their turkey is pre-cooked and reheated in a microwave. Not a shocking revelation when you come to think of it.
Stick to the greasy spoon basics and they’ve got you covered.
Subjective score: 5 greasy spoons out of 5 diners
Objective score: 2.5 hangovers out of 5 bleak breakfasts