The pagoda-style roof remains unchanged, but the cheesy faux-stone restaurant exterior, a halfhearted shade of mint green in its former life as a restaurant called Chopstix, now sports an unapologetically metallic gleam, and a gold hue to rival the autumn trees lining this otherwise quiet stretch of California Avenue. There's a sign marching across the front of the building, its corny Chop Suey typeface announcing, in neon, that you've arrived at New Luck Toy.
Inside, walls and the row of booths are a deep, dark black, each illuminated with its own lamp, and red paper lanterns canopy the ceiling, as if someone fell down on their job of holding on to a particularly exuberant balloon bouquet.
This new bar, in a divey old space, from two Seattle restaurant talents, opens on Tuesday, October 25.
Mark Fuller, of course, is the chef behind Ma'ono Fried Chicken and Whisky, and before that, Spring Hill. He made his name on higher-end food, then leaned into dining's move toward the casual. He makes a damn good fried chicken but also weaves his Hawaiian background and no small amount of Chinese influences into his dishes. So New Luck Toy's salt and pepper shrimp (seasoned with Old Bay and served heads still on) and General Tso's chicken (thighs fried, then wokked with a housemade General Tso sauce) seems a logical leap. The throwbacky Americanized Chinese dishes suit the space, but Fuller lets loose with a lot of Sichuan influences on the menu—cumin lamb, spicy ma po tofu, numbing boiled beef in fiery sauce.
The food looks fun and exacting and the food photos on New Luck Toy's social media make me want to run there and put everything in my mouth, pronto. But his business partner Patric Gabre-Kidan says this place is most assuredly a bar, not a full on restaurant. A Skee-Ball machine and pinball and even a bamboo-lined little room for karaoke are all here to prove his point.
Gabre-Kidan is a also partner in Rhino Room on Capitol Hill, and has handled operations and front-of-house matters for an impressive slate of Seattle restaurants over the years, taking a career detour into restaurant design and buildout. Thus the attention to detail, like the swiveling tan leather bar stools, which Gabre-Kidan built on little platforms so customers' feet are touching the floor—"you can sit for hours; it's way more comfortable."
Sitting for hours at New Luck Toy's bedecked back bar doesn't sound like a bad idea. There's a quartet of slushy machines churning out freezy Singapore slings and pina coladas, plus a cocktail list that revels in lighter spirits, fruity flavors, and plenty of tiki standards. Word has it Fuller's rice krispy treat soft serve, made with toasted rice krispies and marshmallows, is also a hit.
The bar is an homage to the original New Luck Toy, a Chinese restaurant and 60-year neighborhood landmark that operated just up the street. This new incarnation is 21+ and opens at 4pm every day. Facebook has more details, and at some point you will be able to order takeout straight from the website.