The International Marketplace Remains Indy’s Best Kept Food Secret: A Review of Lucky Lou Chinese Restaurant
This past winter I spent a week eating my way through the culinary expanse that is San Francisco, indulging in wood-fired pizzas and Persian kebabs and Japanese ramen in an appropriately dive-y, dark lit basement. The gastronomic pièce de résistance of the trip, though, was the Chinese dim sum, a master class in small plates and tiny bites of traditional Cantonese food. Pushcarts maneuvered through the dining area with bamboo steamer baskets filled with har gow (shrimp dumplings) and pork siu mai (pork and shrimp dumplings). It was traditional Chinese executed with skill and delicacy; a singular experience that I imagined could only really exist within the border walls of China or in sprawling metropolises like San Francisco or Manhattan or Los Angeles. Indianapolis? Not so much.
But hidden amongst an oasis of incredible international restaurants in Indy’s aptly-named International Marketplace district is Lucky Lou. The exterior is unassuming: neighbored by a Dollar General, cherry red signage (“Lucky Lou: Chinese Restaurant”) adorns its worn, strip mall façade; what lies within is in striking contrast to its outer peripherals. A testament to the recent wave of five-star worthy strip mall eateries (See: Why LA’s Coolest New Restaurants Are in Strip Malls).
The food is sublime. Paying homage to the traditions of Cantonese cooking, the sweet and sour soup is flavorful without overwhelming the palate, the sauteed green beans are caramelized and delectably accented by large pieces of stir-fried onion and garlic, and the lo mein is likely the best you’ve ever tasted.
The genius of Lucky Lou is in the dim sum (If you aren’t family with dim sum, think of it as Chinese-style tapas). Small plates of dumplings and steamed buns and barbeque pork steamed buns are served family-style. Skip the weekend carts (and the crowds) for a build-your-own approach. The picture-studded menu is inundated with homeruns, and the har gow and fried shrimp balls are particularly fantastic.
The entire experience—the food, the atmosphere, even the strip-mall glitz punctuated by glowing, neon signs—of a visit to Lucky Lou is distinctly rewarding. Will yourself to journey to the International Marketplace to bask in the splendid flavors of Lucky Lou.