Dumplings, fried chicken and a mashup of Chinese and American favorites are on this new restaurant’s menu
photo by: Courtesy: Lucky Seb's
Will Soo, owner of Lawrence’s new Lucky Seb’s Dumpling Bar & Grill, is the mastermind behind a Chinese-style dumpling stuffed with a traditional loaded American baked potato. What’s going on in that mind to create that combination?
“I’m Chinese American,” Soo said. “I was born here and grew up in the Midwest with an identity crisis. This food is just a mashup of what I liked growing up.”
So, I suppose you could find a therapist’s couch and try to psychoanalyze the creations on Lucky Seb’s menu, or you might be better off just finding a whole bunch of dumplings and using the couch for a nap.
“I really like to have fun with food,” Soo said of most of his creations, which have included Italian meatballs stuffed in a dumpling and even a corned beef and sauerkraut dumpling near St. Patrick’s Day.
Lucky Seb’s has been open for the past several weeks in the shopping center at 2210 Iowa St. You may remember that I briefly mentioned the restaurant when I highlighted the latest news with La Estrella, the Lawrence taco stand and Mexican grocery. La Estrella is sharing space with Lucky Seb’s. If you are confused about the location, it is in the building just east of the West Coast Saloon. (Now that I say that aloud, I realize that might be confusing too.) You will find the restaurant, though, if you turn off Iowa Street into the parking lot for the West Coast Saloon. They share the same parking lot.
photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo
Currently, Lucky Seb’s is only open Friday and Saturday, making way for La Estrella the other days of the week. La Estrella, as we reported, does have plans to move into a larger location later this year. At that point, Lucky Seb’s will expand its days of operations and likely will create a bigger dining room, using the space the Mexican grocery currently has.
Chinese, Mexican, sauerkraut. I get it. It is getting jumbled here. For the moment, though, just focus on the dumplings and the mashup that comes from those creations. Soo said that he and his wife, Hannah Jeppsen Soo, work on coming up with a special dumpling for the menu each week. The most recent one was a chicken enchilada dumpling. They go on the menu on Friday and don’t always last until Saturday because once the special dumplings are gone, they are gone.
photo by: Courtesy: Lucky Seb’s
The restaurant — which also has a beer and cocktail bar — does have two traditional dumplings that it serves week in and week out. Those are a pork dumpling and a vegetarian dumpling.
Whether they are special dumplings or traditional ones, they all are handmade. Will, Hannah and other staff spend a large amount of time during the week making the dough for the dumplings and hand-stuffing and crimping the creations.
It wasn’t exactly what Soo had in mind when he decided to start the restaurant.
“My wife wanted to do the dumplings,” Soo said. “I just wanted to do chicken because I love all kinds of chicken.”
Hannah, who is not Asian American, learned about dumplings from Soo’s mother. She quickly saw how much work they were and how handmade dumplings had become a special treat in many Chinese families, similar to how handmade tamales have become a holiday tradition in many Mexican families.
“Once my mother showed her the dumpling recipe, Hannah said ‘we have to show this to people. We have to share this with people,'” Soo said.
Thus Lucky Seb’s — the restaurant is named after the couple’s one-eyed cat — was born. But … chicken is still really good. So, as a surprise, Lucky Seb’s also regularly has fried chicken on the menu.
Soo said the chicken stood out from other restaurants’ offerings because it uses a “complex” marinade and is coated with a special potato starch that makes it crispier than many types of fried chicken.
“It is what you traditionally see with Japanese and Korean fried chicken,” he said.
Soo understands a lot about many styles of food. He grew up in Lawrence working in Chinese restaurants that his parents owned and operated, including the Peking restaurant that operated in the 1980s and 1990s in the building that Lucky Seb’s now occupies.
Soo said he’s currently working on a food truck that he plans to park near Lucky Seb’s. It will focus on desserts and other sweet treats.
“I have worked in restaurants my entire life,” Soo said. “I’ve managed so many places, worked for so many places. I felt like if I’m going to put in all these hours, I might as well do it for myself. Now we are are.”
photo by: Courtesy: Lucky Seb’s