| Burgers |

The Mysteries of Lucky Burger

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The manager at Lucky Burger, at 1601 Richmond, doesn't know why the greasy spoon she runs looks like a giant blue pickle barrel, or why it was built that way (painted orange) when it opened under its original owners in 1975.

But the shop -- with its thin lunch counter facing an unremarkable stretch of Richmond and a clump of tables to the side -- can have any shape it wants. The food is what matters, and it's pretty good.

To be honest, the first time we stopped by (to grab a to-go order of the special, a $7.39 bacon-burger-with-fries, and some $2.99 fried zucchini), we were disappointed. We'd recently stopped by Stanton's, and by comparison the beef patty was thin and tough, though the bun, lettuce and tomato were surprisingly fresh and flavorful. The zucchini disks were wide, with thick breading, but mediocre.

Our second stop was better.

We made sure to eat in and soak up the ambience (accented by a row of plastic sea creatures over the counter, made quirkier by the fact that few if any of them are on the menu). Stop by for a late lunch and you'll find the shop's staff gazing at the traffic and eating bowls of beef noodle soup (also not on the menu).

What is listed on the menu is the standard $3.49 Lucky Burger, which we ordered "all the way" with mayo, mustard, lettuce, pickles, onions, and tomatoes, rather than the limited lettuce-tomato we'd asked for the first time. We sometimes shun all the fixin's for the unobstructed meat experience, but it's better to go whole hog here. Just accept the cow isn't the star of the show.

We also ordered off the "House Specialties" list and tried the fried rice with pork. We're not convinced it was a great value at $5.99 for a standard plastic plate, but it was tasty. The pork was sparse but good. The peas and carrots actually tasted like what they are, rare in our experience. Maybe we were just in the mood, but it really hit the spot.

Don't mind the construction on Mandell if you go. The shop also delivers within a two-mile radius, provided your order is $10.

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