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Chef puts some bite in revamped Fan eatery

Burl Rolett July 17, 2013 8
The bar area at Luckie's Bar & Grill. (Photos by Burl Rolett)

The new bar area at Luckie’s Bar & Grill at 2301 W. Main St. (Photos by Burl Rolett)

A Cajun-born chef is bringing new flavors and a new name to a Fan restaurant.

Executive chef Simon Smith has revamped the former home of Mediterranean Bistro and last week reopened the restaurant as Luckie’s Bar & Grill. The dog-themed grill has a bulldog mascot, which Smith said represents the restaurant’s resilience.

“He’s a strong-looking bulldog, but he’s got three legs and one eye,” Smith said. “It’s kind of symbolic in the fact you can knock him down but he’ll just keep trucking.”

Mediterranean Bistro opened last winter at 2301 W. Main St. The restaurant’s partners have changed, but Smith said Debbie Friedhoff, part of the original ownership group, remains. Smith began working with Mediterranean Bistro almost two months ago, he said, after a stint at Popkin Tavern.

Executive chef Simon Smith.

Executive chef Simon Smith.

An Oxford, Miss., native, Smith started in the restaurant business a dishwasher and worked his way into jobs as a cook and bartender. In Mississippi, he worked under John Currence, who was named the top Southern chef by the James Beard Foundation in 2009 and competed on “Top Chef Masters.”

Since taking over the kitchen at Mediterranean Bistro, Smith has redone the menu and redecorated the interior. The restaurant operated as Mediterranean Bistro until last week, when it closed for about five days before reopening under the Luckie’s name.

The new menu features mostly American cuisine. Smith’s favorite is a burger stuffed with blue cheese and bacon. In keeping with the canine theme, Luckie’s also has a Dog House Burger (beef with onion rings, barbecue sauce and cheddar). So far, Smith said, reception has been positive.

“Obviously, it’s going to take a little bit of time for it to catch on,” he said. “As long as we keep making people happy, they’ll keep coming around.”

Smith said he enjoys the challenge of working with restaurants to rebrand and improve them – he said Popkin made a “180-degree turnaround” under his guidance. But Smith hopes to open his own restaurant in the future, however, and to challenge Currence, his former boss.

“As far as my hometown is concerned, he kind of runs that place,” Smith said. “What I’m trying to do is flex my muscles and make my name in this town, and then head back there and take over.”

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8 Comments »

  1. Jason Guillot July 17, 2013 at 7:14 am - Reply

    Can’t wait to try Luckie’s…. though Mr. Rolett, being a native of Lafayette, LA (the real Cajun country), I would challenge your assertion that there is anything at all Cajun about Oxford, MS.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cajun

    • Tabitha Hanes July 17, 2013 at 9:44 am - Reply

      Thank you, Jason! I too have been laughing at the “Cajun” description of Oxford. I’m from Jackson, Miss., and Oxford is no more Cajun than Richmond is the beach.

    • Luckie's July 17, 2013 at 10:32 am - Reply

      Hey all, see my comment below for some clarification on the Cajun influence.

  2. Debbie Gilliam July 17, 2013 at 9:13 am - Reply

    Can’t wait to try Luckie’s. I’m from MS too and look forward to trying your new menu. I’m curious about the “cajun” as well. Never thought of Oxford or anywhere in MS being cajun.

    • Luckie's July 17, 2013 at 10:09 am - Reply

      While Oxford may be outside of Cajun country, it’s the cuisine that Simon grew up cooking and eating. He considers it his specialty.

      While Luckie’s menu isn’t all Cajun, Simon has incorporated a few of those elements into certain dishes, and diners can expect Cajun-inspired daily specials. First up – Friday night’s special for the grand opening will be a low country boil, so a pound of crawfish done right with all the classic fixings ($15).

      Thanks for supporting Luckie’s! Can’t wait to see all of you this Friday.

      • Tabitha Hanes July 17, 2013 at 10:26 am - Reply

        I’m definitely looking forward to what Simon is creating at Luckie’s! The writer has likely confused “Cajun-born” with “Cajun-inspired,” but either way, Simon’s roots in my home state will be what brings me to Luckie’s. Crawfish is something I’ve missed dearly since moving to Virginia.

        • Luckie's July 17, 2013 at 11:07 am - Reply

          Simon feels the same way about crawfish, which is why he’s so excited to serve them this Friday! Hope you’ll enjoy

  3. Gator July 17, 2013 at 1:11 pm - Reply

    Awesome! Now I don’t have to walk the whole extra block to Lady Nawlin’s! I can get my Arcadian hankerin’ taken care off sooner.

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