Brother Luck’s Asian Influence Keeps the Fun in Funky at Lucky Dumpling

Luck invites folks to “fill up on dumplings.” Photos: Courtesy Brother Luck

Luck invites folks to “fill up on dumplings.” Photos: Courtesy Brother Luck

By Dionne Roberts

Before appearing on Bravo’s Top Chef, and the Food Network’s Chopped, and Beating Bobby Flay and launching numerous restaurants, Brother Luck could be found cooking solo in the tiny kitchen at the Triple Nickel Tavern in downtown Colorado Springs, creating a daily menu on a chalkboard. He describes a scene with raucous punk rock shows complete with “mosh pits, and mohawks and leather, and screaming on the stage.” 

It was the ground floor for Luck’s progressive journey and the nostalgic location of his newest restaurant, Lucky Dumpling. “It was a crazy 10 months,” says Luck. “They would break the tables every day, they would break the bar stools, it was constant.” 

Six years later, Luck may be in the same physical space but he has moved on from moshpits and mayhem.

The building itself warrants distinct sentimental value for Luck but the food focus, dumplings, holds even deeper personal connections, as he shares that they were one of the first foods he learned to make in culinary school. Luck is also currently penning an autobiography with an entire chapter that’s reminiscent of his “first food memory” where he says he discusses his “first bite that triggers emotion.”

“For me, it’s my father taking me to eat gyoza in Japantown in San Francisco when I was five or six years old,” says Luck. “I remember his excitement, these potstickers and dipping it in the soy sauce with the vinegar and the chili and it’s always been one of my favorite dumplings to eat to date.”

Chef Brother Luck prepares a serving of dumplings.

Chef Brother Luck prepares a serving of dumplings.

Luck’s choice childhood meal translates into a mixed menu that offers plentiful vegetarian options as well as chicken siu mai served with foie gras sauce, poached crab and coconut curry dumplings, crispy skin ducks, sides of pork belly and homemade bao buns. 

“I want it to be my version of an Asian concept,” says Luck. “Kind of funky, kind of fun. I’m not trying to do authentic, it’s not real. It’s got to be edgy, it’s got to be Brother Luck and that’s where Lucky Dumpling starts.”

The working-class food is served in typical fashion, blowing through the restaurant in steamer baskets filled with six to eight dumplings that cost on average between $8 and $12. 

“We’re not trying to turn this into a bougie spot,” says Luck. “I want you to come in and be able to fill up on dumplings. Lunchtime it’s quick and fast but dinnertime we want it to be chill.”

Luck sees Lucky Dumpling as a return to his roots, gravitating back toward the casual nature of his former restaurant, Street Eats, and a conscious choice to deviate away from Four, his more upscale, yet still approachable restaurant, also in downtown Colorado Springs. 

“I want to feel like the person that is creating that atmosphere is actually from the hood,” says Luck. “What I had at Street Eats I miss and I can’t do that at Four because it doesn’t fit, so this is kind of that outlet where I can showcase that.”

Lucky Dumpling has an intimate feel, a reflective vulnerability that allows Luck to express his cultural identity, bring diversity to the local landscape and pay homage to his modest beginnings. 

“The vibe that we’re going for is hip hop meets Bruce Leroy, a little Enter the Dragon, Sho’nuff type of feel, with graffiti on the walls,” says Luck. “This is raw, this is urban.”

Lucky Dumpling also offers Luck the chance to actually be present for the initial stages of opening, which he was noticeably absent for during the infancy at Four as he secretly left to compete on season 15 of Top Chef. 

“I’m really excited to be here for the whole process,” says Luck. “I missed out on that at Four and I was a part of it but I wasn’t there for the first few months of craziness. I came back and the team had done phenomenal but, it didn’t have my swag.”

Luck’s developmental strides bring him back full circle, arriving again at home base inside the vibrant red brick building that houses Lucky Dumpling. The significant location clearly holds an attraction that transcends his opportunities for extensive travel and dual participation on one of the most respected cooking shows on television. The universe seemingly “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop” and continues to draw him back to this exact same and very special spot. 

“Ironically I wound up hosting my first pop up dinners here and eventually I started Street Eats back here,” says Luck. “This space is for me, just … there’s something strange, something, magical. I feel like it’s called me over and over and over.”

Dionne Roberts is the editor of the Rocky Mountain Food Report, rockymountainfoodreport.com