Text and Photos
By Shari Benyousky
Editor’s Note: This is the eighth column in the Dives and Diners series in which a small group of Warsaw Breakfast Optimist Club members and their guests road trip to explore the diners and dives of Kosciusko County and the surrounding area.
The term “getting lucky” brings many things to mind – leprechauns, horseshoes, Lucky Charms. If you’re from North Webster, you also picture the enormous, white, barn-like building at 560 S. Main St. marked Lucky’s Tavern in giant red letters.
However, we thought we’d run out of luck when we arrived. The group had decided to arrive at 1 p.m. on a Thursday when the place first opened. But, as we waited in the warm April sun for the rest of the gang to arrive, a woman popped her head out the front door. “You aren’t waiting to eat, are you?” she inquired. “’Cause the kitchen doesn’t open until 4:00 on Thursdays. You can come drink though.” Our lucky streak had ended.
Or had it?
Crestfallen (and starving), we decided to at least look inside since some of us had never visited. Christmas lights blinked at us along with one guy at the bar who looked like ZZ Top. It might have been that a few of us wore shirts and ties and looked like tourists. It might have been that I was taking pictures. The waitress returned. She yelped. “Wait! Are you that Diners and Dives crew? We read your articles. Were you here to eat? Hold on!”
She jumped on her phone. “Yes! They’re here,” she exclaimed. “Right in front of me. Can I open the kitchen?” In a minute she hung up with the widest smile. “The Boss, that’s Jared Hamilton, says I can open up if you’ll stay!” ZZ Top gave us another look from down the bar. We found a huge table and sat down feeling pretty darned lucky.
Drinks and menus appeared while the ovens and fryers heated up. Our wildcard guests introduced themselves. “I’m Robyn Palmer, Vice President of Commercial Lending over at Crossroads Bank,” smiled a guy wearing a very cool peach shirt and matching tie.
“Hey now!” 1st Source Banker Paul Finley arrived. “Banker Paul is my moniker. What should we call you?”
Robyn thought a moment. “How about ‘The REAL Banker’?!” He winked. Not bad. Banker, not Real-Banker, Paul frowned and ordered tea and a fish sandwich.
Jack-of-all Trades Builder Charlie Wagner asked a second waitress who had just arrived, “What’s the best thing on the menu?”
Amanda pushed up her glasses. “We’re known for our burgers,” she said proudly.
One of the Diners and Dives rules is that everyone must order something different. “I call Inferno Burger!” called Funeral Planner Brittany Lyons from the other end of the table. Discussion ensued about the various types of burgers.
Our other wildcard had managed to get stuck in the corner. He was trying to hold the chair out for me like a gentleman, but I was busy writing notes and taking pictures instead of paying attention. Tom Allen was the former president of the Warsaw Planning Commission and Zoning Appeals among other things.
I asked him what his moniker would be. Should it have something to do with being a former soccer coach? Advising in the orthopedic field? “No, no.” He settled his brimmed hat on the windowsill. “How about The Hip Guy?” The table considered.
“Fine. Hip Guy Allen it is.” I wrote this down. So far, Hip Guy had been relatively quiet, other than a discussion about types of footwear in a bar and if boots would be more common than anything else. “So, Hip Guy, why boots then?”
“Well now.” Hip Guy settled comfortably. “Surely, you as a columnist have heard how to tell the difference between a real cowboy and a city slicker. Haven’t you?”
I had to admit ignorance.
Hip Guy Allen lifted one of Lucky’s famous chilled beer mugs for a drink. “With a real cowboy, crap stays on the outside of the boots.” I reconsidered Hip-Guy Allen for a moment. Here was clearly an advanced jokester and a smooth insulter. I was impressed.
“Be careful with that look,” he said. “Or we’ll have Clueless in Seattle sitting right here in Lucky’s.” The table roared.
RE/MAX Realtor Jeff Owens called down the table, “Usually the wildcards are one and done, but you’re making a pretty good case for a return visit!”
Real-Banker Palmer and Hip Guy Allen fist-bumped each other across the table.
Sharon returned with large plates of food – she had opened the kitchen and cooked it all herself. Somehow, she managed to look fantastic while doing it. She smiled at us and asked how it was. Builder Charlie had ordered the breakfast burger. He opened it to show me hash browns on the bottom, plus burger, egg, cheese, and bacon on top. It looked fantastic.
Talk moved into travel and stereotypes. I told of my error traveling from France to England because the food in England tasted so much worse. Hip Guy Allen made his moniker proud as he joked, “Heaven is where the cooks are French, the police are British, the mechanics are German, the lovers are Italian, and everything is organized by the Swiss. Hell is where the cooks are British, the police are German, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss, and everything is organized by the Italian!”
At this point I think it’s important to note that we did at least try to offend every nationality and diner and dives participant equally.
The waitress Amanda saved us from further insults by bringing out another stack of thick paper napkins. Unsurprisingly, we looked like we needed them. Banker Finley noted that the napkins did not say “Lucky’s Tavern.”
“Sure.” Sharon told us. “We save money by buying napkin seconds. You know, the test ones. We get names from everything under the sun.”
Funeral Planner Brittany liked these napkins. RE/MAX Jeff made sure to get a good photo for posterity. The napkins were from Fulkerson Stevenson Funeral Homes in Montana and North Dakota. Brit used one to wipe her mouth. “The inferno burger is pretty spicy.” She smiled with an edge. “Jalapeños and sauce.”
“Not feeling Lucky anymore?” I asked.
“You know, I once told my boyfriend he couldn’t come here.” She smiled ruefully. “I thought it was a strip club.”
She wasn’t the only one. If you have wondered, here’s your clarification. Lucky’s isn’t a strip club; it’s a tavern. If you come, you’ll find lots of room to sit; enormous, chilled glass mugs of beer; and lots of friendly regulars around the bar. I met Sharon’s husband and a guy who gave me the peace sign. You can play pool or cards. You can even smoke. Even at 1 p.m. with a half-full bar, you’ll notice the smoke around the edges. You can get lucky with food too – the burgers are large, and the staff is generous and quick. Do yourself a favor and get some Lucky’s, but remember that the kitchen doesn’t open until 4 p.m. before Friday.