Coffee and pretzels, beer and waffles, this Division Street diner provides a taste of the US
Anywhere that sells T-shirts that say: ‘Don’t go bacon my heart’ has to be at least half way to a glowing review.
The Lucky Fox on Division Street is that place.
Small, quirky and welcoming, the Lucky Fox – presumably NOT named after the stuffed one they have in a glass case on the wall – is a bit of a find.
With a feel somewhere between an American college town diner and a vintage clothing store, Lucky Fox fits right in to the youthful eclecticism of that part of town.
It’s cool but it doesn’t try too hard.
I took my own trendy, bearded student along with me for a second opinion on breakfast there and he thought it worth two grunts of approval rather than the usual one.
Lucky Fox is the project of Richard Ledger, a Sheffield lad through and through who grew up on the Manor estate, left Myrtle Springs school at 16 with no qualifications and started work on a £55 a week GNVQ course in health and safety.
Among his previous working lives he’s worked in Boatworld, formerly on London Road, and ran a shop called Toast in the Forum further along Division Street.
Now aged 30 and with no restaurant experience, Richard went against all sane advice and opened the Lucky Fox eight months ago.
Whatever possessed him?
“I have always been interested in food and I thought there was a gap in Sheffield for a real American-style diner. Not the Cadillac and pony tails kind of ’50s place that’s a bit of a cliché, but something that captured what is going on there now.”
Richard spent three weeks in New York last year going to eateries in Brooklyn and Williamsburg to come up with style and menu ideas.
The Lucky Fox is named after his favourite animal and his favourite New York bar, the Lucky Dog.
“We have made mistakes but it’s working well now.
“We are busy most days and the weekend evenings are great.”
Something of a learning process for Richard and his cooks Sam - a holder of a degree in fine art - and Tasmin, who’s worked in cafes and restaurants across the city.
But he got one thing right from the start.
If the pie tastes just like Momma made, it’s probably because Momma actually made it - this morning.
Momma being Val Ledger, Richard’s mum who was working at Atkinson’s when her son made her an offer…
“My mum comes in every morning at 7am to make the pies and people love them.”
They certainly do.
The Sour Cherry Pie that I had for breakfast dessert - a much neglected course in my view - was excellent with tons of cherries but not too sweet, crisp, melting pastry a good blob of cream and that certain home-made something that stands out a mile.
Before that I had ordered bacon and pancakes with maple syrup to get in the American mood.
The bacon – specially cured for the Lucky Fox by Sheffield market butchers of legend Wateralls – was thick, meaty and tasty.
I expected US-style streaky strips but this was the real English deal.
The pancakes could have been lighter but the combination of salty bacon, maple syrup and pancake washed down with good coffee is irresistible.
My son Joe had fried chicken and waffles with maple syrup and cinnamon butter.
Not your every day breakfast but cracking, simple stuff with moist chicken breast meat, crunchy coating and crisp waffles made gorgeous by the American classic flavours of cinnamon in the cinnamon butter and maple syrup.
Between us we had the interestingly named Hippy Bagel - a toasted bagel with a mountain of water cress, a poached egg, tomato, avocado and a tub of excellent salsa.
More brunch than breakfast but a cracking combination.
What about those beers?
“I wanted to offer some different beers so we get them from small producers all over America.
“We have Brooklyn Lager and Sam Adams beers that people will have heard of but we get some really obscure ones too.”
Low-key blues and soul music gives the Lucky Fox a good feel to it and attracts local shop workers and students, builders and office types.
“People are realising they can come in for food and beer on Friday and Saturday nights and it’s getting popular.
“The beers go down well and eventually we want to open until 9pm in the week.”
The thing that got me interested in the Lucky Fox was the board outside that said: “Beers colder than your ex-girlfriend’s heart”.
And what about those ‘bacon my heart’ T-shirts?
“We had a competition among the staff to come up with the best bacon pun and that one won.
“We got T-shirts made for the staff and people can buy one if they want to,” he added.
Enough to make anyone want to work there – I’m looking for a baconcy.
For three breakfast meals, a sour cherry pie and two Americanos we paid £26.50.
Star ratings out of five:
Lucky Fox, 72 Division Street, Sheffield S1 4GF.
Open 10am to 6pm Monday to Thursday, 10am to 10pm Friday and Saturday.