During its seventh season, the X Files television series in which FBI agents investigated paranormal phenomena featured an episode in which a ravenous Lucky Boy employee in California struggled against his craving for human brain matter (almost anything goes in the Golden state). The most paranormal thing about the Duke City Lucky Boy is its “east meets west” dining concept. Nowhere else in town can you order Chinese and American food so inexpensively and from the very same menu.
If you think about it, ordering inexpensive Chinese and American food from within one menu shouldn’t be such an anomalous event–especially when you consider that many of Lucky Boy’s patrons are UNM students, many of whom know how to stretch a buck. It’s not just UNM students who patronize this hole-in-the-wall. You might just as soon find faculty and staff also indulging in inexpensive (but good) food.
Lucky Boy is a quintessential American mom and pop diner tended lovingly by Chinese proprietors named Suzy and Ron who know what many of their customers are going to order as soon as they walk in. You’ll do a second-take the first time you see a steaming wok preparing noodles next to the sizzling griddle on which burger patties are being cooked. Lucky Boy has been around since 1968 and it shows. The restaurant is somewhat bedraggled and is certainly dated with 1960s style paneling on the walls and well-trodden tile on the floor.
Lucky Boy’s green chile cheeseburger is six inches of well seasoned meat and standard (lettuce, pickles, tomato, onions) but high quality condiments, including a tangy Day-Glo colored mustard and ketchup sauce the proprietors refer to as Lucky Boy sauce. The green chile is flavorful and more piquant than at many New Mexican restaurants and proprietors of the green chile cheeseburger (Lotaburger comes to mind). The buns are lightly toasted, but so thick they obfuscate the flavor of the burger. The beef patties have the telltale signs of having been frozen. They’re also quite thin so you’ll want to order a double meat burger. Lest I forget, expect your burger to be prepared at medium-well to well. Despite these shortcomings, you might be surprised to find yourself craving one or three of them.
Lucky Boy was one of 48 restaurants, drive-ins, diners, dives, joints, cafes, roadside stands and bowling alleys selected for the New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail, a celebration of New Mexico’s iconic burger. When I proposed its entry to the four person team which put the Trail together, there was more than a little sniggering, but since then, several team members have expressed their appreciation for what is actually a pretty good green chile cheeseburger. Being on the New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail placed it in select…make that elite, company. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to call Lucky Boy’s green chile cheeseburger one of the city’s most popular, if not best of its genre.
The menu also includes an Egg Foo Young sandwich, a culinary curiosity served in St. Louis where it’s called a “St. Paul sandwich” and which you won’t find in Minnesota. At Lucky Boy, you can have the Egg Foo Yong sandwich alongside a hamburger beef patty and the condiments which normally accompany a burger (including the aforementioned Lucky Boy sauce, chile and green chile). It’s a great sandwich with or without the beef patty! It’s become a favorite of my friend Sr. Plata.
Lucky Boy’s French fries are only so-so (fairly standard). A better bet are onion cakes, which are rather dissimilar to the scallion pancakes served at many Chinese restaurants. Their flavor profile is more akin to onion rings though much thicker and more heavily breaded. Biting into the sweet onion is a treat, but you’ll have to get through the breading first.
While we’ve found the chocolate shakes to be rather gloppy and bland, Lucky Boy has managed to escape the slavitude of the Coke and Pepsi monopolies. You can actually get an RC Cola (remember those?) or a Diet Rite soda in a can. A can, by the way, is a much more sanitary way to indulge in soft drinks (another of my soapbox tirades saved for another day).
Chinese fare includes sweet and sour pork, Mandarin chicken and other American favorites. We’ve observed that there’s almost a fifty/fifty split among patrons ordering burgers and Chinese food. The sweet and sour chicken is pretty much what you’d expect for the pittance at which it’s offered. It’s rather heavily breaded and topped with a lacquered-on orange sauce that emphasizes the sweet component of sweet and sour. It’s not gourmet Chinese food, but it is what you expect and appreciate most when funds are low.
Lucky Boy is much more than an anomaly worth visiting only for the experiential aspect. It serves a genuinely good green chile cheeseburger as well as other surprisingly good items. You can’t beat the prices and the service is warm and genial.
3521 Constitution, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 11 March 2015
# OF VISITS: 9
BEST BET: Green Chile Cheeseburger, Egg Foo Yong Sandwich