Food & Drink

Folklore to replace Lucky Dumpling

Out with the Asian theme, in with Irish food, an ancillary cocktail bar and a repurposed Studio upstairs
News  /  Food & Drink

Wobbly Olive and Allusion Speakeasy owner Sean Fitzgerald (left) is partnering with Brother Luck (Four By Brother Luck) to transform the former Lucky Dumpling into the new Folklore Irish bar.

Photo by Matthew Schniper

Lucky Dumpling recently shut down after four years in business, with chef/owner Brother Luck (Four By Brother Luck) promising something exciting in its place, soon. A full interior renovation remains underway, with a target reopening as early as St. Patrick’s Day.

That would prove auspicious if he makes the mark, because the new something happens to be an Irish concept named Folklore. And partnering in the project is Wobbly Olive/Allusion Speakeasy owner Sean Fitzgerald.

Now — before you can say “What in the holy Jack Quinn’s hell are they up to?!” — they would jokingly have you consider that their last names are Luck and Fitzgerald … like, perhaps it was predestined. They’re big fans of our town’s other Irish entities, including Quinn’s and Abby’s, and they believe there’s room for more. They even sought the informal blessing of Greg Howard (Patty Jewett Bar & Grill), who formerly ran McCabe’s Tavern downtown, proving that there’s plenty of Irish love to go around, even in a concentrated city core.

The two, who’ve been pals for more than a decade, say they’ve tried to hook up before on a business venture (even considering the long-vacant Sunbird spot overlooking I-25) but it was never the right thing at the right time that they were both equally enthusiastic about. Luck did however introduce Fitzgerald to Mark Henry, who he ended up partnering with to place Allusion Speakeasy inside Rooster’s House of Ramen (which, side note, also just closed and will imminently reopen as something new — I’ll have another blog post on that later this week). But on a recent trip together with their wives, to celebrate their respective anniversaries, they dreamed up the idea for Folklore.

“I’ve been to an Irish Pub in Tokyo, in Rome,” says Luck. “No matter where you are in the world, you know what you’re getting. And I think there’s something fun about the social element.”

“What it came down to,” adds Fitzgerald, “is that storytelling aspect of Irish culture and seeing how we can tell stories — there was a quote that we found that says ‘there are no strangers here, just friends we haven’t met yet.'”

Luck says part of what factored into closing Lucky Dumpling was it was originally only conceived for 30 seats. This was before the pandemic hit, which led him to a patio buildout and two other expansions (including taking over the former Triple Nickel space adjacent). The concept was becoming strained under the new volume, as things like the labor shortage and supplies issues arose around the industry. “Why continue to fight with a concept that’s struggling to survive?” he says. “Dumplings didn’t make sense anymore.

“It comes back down to the conversation we had on State of Plate, where we don’t want to be okay with mediocrity. And if we’re going to change it, we have to be the ones to initiate that… we want to step it up and offer something that makes sense for the community and us as operators, and our teams. That’s one of the biggest parts of this decision — it’s about longevity.”

So, with Folklore, the two have created a new layout, that being an Irish pub in the area formerly housing Lucky Dumpling’s dining room and open kitchen (which is getting walled off), with an ancillary cocktail lounge in the former Triple Nickel space, informally to be referred to as the Tipperary. (That’s a county in Ireland but also the name of an obscure classic cocktail they’ll serve, says Fitzgerald. It’s made with Irish whiskey, sweet vermouth and green Chartreuse.)

A homemade shephard’s pie, an example of menu items to come.

In the pub, expect traditional Irish fares like Guinness beer and Jameson and lamb stew, fish n’ chips and shephard’s pie. Fitzgerald says he grew up with his mom making shephard’s pie every Sunday for them to eat on for several days, and he held no present fondness for the dish. That is, until over at Luck’s house one night when Luck whipped one together spontaneously “and it was the best I’ve ever had in my life.”

Luck chimes in to say “as I’ve progressed in my career, my food actually gets simpler. Because you’re no longer trying to prove what you know and what you’re capable of. You’re just trying to execute things that are delicious. And the simplicity is such a refreshing approach to all the years of hard work to just get back down to the basics of good caramelized vegetables, a nice red wine reduction showcasing some some beautiful lamb in its prime, and having a properly whipped potato.”

That said, he’s not holding back from re-creating some classic dishes, such as Scotch Eggs for Folklore. He says he loves eating them but hates making them, so he’s essentially deconstructed the dish — Fitzgerald and Luck both roll their eyes and Fitzgerald playfully threatens my life when I say “deconstructed”… ahem — I mean, um, recomposed the dish to be a sausage croquette served with a sous vide egg finished with a mustard vinaigrette. “So you aren’t trying to bread these things into giant footballs.” (Can you feel his disdain?)

As for the Tipperary, Fitzgerald’s inaugural menu will feature 12 forgotten classic cocktails “that have a really fun story behind them,” he says, challenging that most of us have never heard of these drinks. (Of course, he had to consult once-local cocktail wizard Nate Windham for some of the history.) And on an opposite page of the menu, he and his team will take those same classics and put their own spin on them for a modern take.

“Every single drink that we touch, we’ve made something for,” he says. “We’ve crafted something for that craft cocktail.” (This comment comes after we’ve all lamented overly expensive cocktails that have no justification for charging a high price. Fitzgerald says he’s always asking himself ‘how do we provide value and a better experience’?) He says future menus will continue to reveal forgotten drinks and their backstories — he says there’s no shortage to be researched.

“And that’s the connection to Folklore’s concept of storytelling,” says Luck.

Courtesy Sean Fitzgerald

Courtesy Sean Fitzgerald

Courtesy Sean Fitzgerald

There’s another aspect to this new project, which is The Studio upstairs (once the location of Studio A64 Cannabis Club), which Luck had already converted into a private event space and intimate open kitchen. The space only seats 24 people. Now, Luck will open for two, reservation-only seatings between 5 and 9 p.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays, for five course meals ($85) paired with your choice of drinks (extra cost) from a separate bar in the rear of the dining space. (Folklore itself will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; midnight on weekends; with the Tipperary opening daily at 4 p.m.)

“It’s essentially going to be a higher-end version of Four,” says Luck, “where we take you on a journey, and personalize the experience even further.” He says he’ll write biweekly menus, and call guests to gauge their food preferences and specially tailor menus. “Focus on what they’re celebrating, if they’re here for a special occasion, or whether they’re just here to enjoy culinary delight… The focus up here is to slow down… but we want to maintain a casual vibe, you don’t have to hide your tattoos or wear a button down. We want you to enjoy beautiful food without having to be uncomfortable.” (And since there’s only a stairway to upstairs, for anyone mobility limited, Luck’s team will be happy to serve The Studio’s food downstairs to them, as well, he says.)

He notes it’s also an opportunity to bring up the next generation of chefs, including pulling students from the training program happening over at The Well with Shovel Ready. And Fitzgerald notes also training young bartenders and helping feed our local talent pool in that arena, too.

Before we end our interview, Luck takes the big-picture, holistic approach to couching what he and Fitzgerald are doing here by creating Folklore: “Look at the death of fine dining. We’ve talked about this over and over the last couple of years, but you have another restaurant like Noma closing its doors, you cannot have a module anymore that supports that kind of brigade. And most of those brigades are underpaid, or volunteer, or stages. And that’s  not a sufficient way to continue to operate in our industry. We’ve got to pay our people, we’ve got to make sure that they’re getting their hours. I’d rather have a special forces than an entire brigade. I want a small, tight team that gets paid well and executes well. And that’s what’s exciting about scaling this back is we are going to have a smaller kitchen downstairs, a smaller bar downstairs, a smaller kitchen upstairs, where these teams are going to execute on a higher level, because it’s more intimate.”

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