Red Wagon Pizza has been living in the shadow of the not-so-far-away Pizzeria Lola and the whole Ann Kim empire since its birth in 2014, and that’s a shame. It’s a remarkably consistent and well-loved spot, a reliable dynamo of both comfort and innovation. And it should come as no surprise to fans of the spot that when Kristy Dirk, a longtime Red Wagon pastry chef, spun off her own breakfast restaurant and bakery, called Lucky Oven, she managed to capture a lot of the same magic. You can see the through lines from Red Wagon to Lucky Oven — quality, scratch-made fare, and plenty of original culinary thoughts, without ever losing sight of deliciousness. The contributions of Patisserie-46-trained chef de cuisine Adam Beal are also no doubt shaping the menu and honing the quality of the baked goods that fill the restaurant’s cases.
The spot is not particularly large, but it’s sunny, anchored visually by a charming display of vintage Easy-Bake Ovens, and (on a recent Sunday morning) absolutely thronged by enthusiastic diners.
Let’s start with one of the most ambitious things on the menu, the Steak Sandwich ($14). We didn’t know that we needed a $14 steak sandwich for breakfast until we tried it, but we’re converts now. The steak is tender, marinated in a flavorful chimichurri sauce, and cut into small, easy-to-manage chunks that fill the interior of a housemade ciabatta roll. The steak swims in a potent mixture of aioli, beautifully caramelized onions, and pickled peppers that makes the whole sandwich a veritable umami body slam balanced with enough brightness and heat to even it out. It’s ravishingly good.
Our Brioche French Toast ($9) didn’t look like much on the menu or on the plate. It’s just a couple of big slices of rich bread drenched in eggs and dairy, sauteed on the griddle, and served with a generous schmear of fruit compote. Somehow, however, this stuff transcends its simplicity. The pieces we got were finished perfectly (deeply browned just to the point of charred, but not crossing that line) and had the slightly crunchy, slightly chewy texture that the best pain perdu tends to sport.
It’s easy to steer an order of eggs Benedict into the realm of the inedible. All it takes is too much salt, too much richness, a broken Hollandaise, or a general sense of dreary excess. The Beeler Ham Benedict ($11) at Lucky Oven has none of those problems. The English muffin base is perfect: chewy and structurally sound but not clunky or difficult to cut. The ham is mellow and flavorful, the hollandaise balanced in terms of quantity and seasoning. The dish comes on in a mild, genial manner, but the more you eat the more you like it.
Lucky Oven’s dedication to scratch fare and sunny, modern ambiance seems to suit the neighborhood perfectly, and the place would seem to be facing just one major problem: whether to expand.
Lucky Oven Bakery
Bakery and Breakfast in Armatage Minneapolis
5401 Penn Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55419
OWNER / CHEF: Kristy Dirk / Adam Beal
Daily 7 a.m.-3 p.m.
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Not really
ENTREE RANGE: $8-$15
NOISE LEVEL: Amenable din
PARKING: Limited street parking