Café Good Luck adds tasty diner fare and a touch of whimsy to Dartmouth’s downtown dining scene

Boutique, but bustling, Café Good Luck is the newest addition to the lesser-known end of Portland St.

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The service-style is short-order but there’s not a greasy spoon in sight at Café Good Luck, the charming Dartmouth eatery that contrasts classic mom-and-pop diner elements such 1980s-style Pyrex coffee cups and cheerful paper “Welcome” placemats with fresh, delicious sandwiches and light meals.

Located on one of downtown Dartmouth’s busiest streets, the stroll from the ferry terminal to Café Good Luck is a pleasure in itself, if only to marvel at the economic diversity that Portland Street presents. Packed full of small businesses, the three-block stretch features a pawn shop, a comic book store, a cobbler, two tattoo studios, a lingerie store (Fashions with Class and a Lot of Sass), and even the headquarters of the Dartmouth Darksiders, a motorcycle club reportedly connected to the Hell’s Angels.

The café has distances itself from the crowd at this end of Portland Street, farther from the harbour. Trendy Yeah Yeah’s Pizza, Two if By Sea, The Canteen, Stone Pizza, as well as newcomers New Scotland Brewing, Lake City Cider and Brightwood Brewery are all at the other end of the street, just a stone’s throw from the Halifax ferry.

But Café Good Luck’s slightly-down-the-road location doesn’t seem to have affected its traffic one bit. When I visit early on a Tuesday afternoon, the small restaurant is literally packed with business people, young families and ladies who lunch.

I am lunching today with my favourite companions, 9-year-old Lucy and 4-year-old Michael. My kids are discerning diners; but they are also impatient, wriggly, noisy and messy, so they will push any restaurant to its limits in terms of the stability of the chairs, the proximity of fellow patrons, the readily availability of napkins, and most importantly, the speed of service. Café Good Luck comes out strong on all counts.

The service here is café-style. You grab a menu from a stack by the door, order and pay at the counter, then sit down and wait for your meal. Although this seemed slightly chaotic at first, the fact that our freshly prepared food and drinks arrived within five minutes of ordering was ample compensation for the rush at the counter.

“We like to cater to families,” says Sonny Adamski, who co-owns the café with partner and chef Emma Adamski. The Adamskis, along with Graham Read, are the entrepreneurs behind Manual Food and Drink Co., which owns The Dairy Bar, a seasonal ice cream bar at the Stillwell Beer Garden in Halifax.

Sonny Adamski doesn’t hide his love for Dartmouth. Café Good Luck is “tailored to the feel and spirit of downtown Dartmouth and the people who live there,” boasts their new webpage. Adamski happily admits that after exhausting his search for a Halifax business location, he’s as happy as ever in hometown Dartmouth. The only reason he ever crosses the bridge these days, he says, is because of the Dairy Bar.

Physically, Café Good Luck is “boutique”, with only 19 seats inside and a handful of small patio tables on the curb. The décor is clean and white, the plates have a cheerful single red stripe around their circumference, like you would find in a diner, buy they are surprisingly light, made of something else, not ceramic.

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The bathroom décor is fresh but slightly wacky—a requisite, it seems, on the Halifax-Dartmouth dining scene. (No spoilers here; you will have to pee for yourself!)

At the helm in the kitchen—a clean open area that nearly equals the size of the restaurant—is Emma Adamski. She’s busy today, but taking it all in stride. Every few minutes, there is the cheerful ding of a restaurant bell as a new dish is passed from the kitchen. Things really move here.

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My kids are entranced by the kitchen-viewing experience, including the preparation of a croque monsieur: “Look Mummy, she’s blowtorching a sandwich!” The sandwich is one of the most popular items on the menu. It’s not what I’ve ordered but it looks so good: perfectly grilled cheese, dripping down from the top.

On the waitress’ recommendation, I have opted for with the gravlax bagel.  It’s a large portion of food, with several delicate elements: a whipped dill-infused cream cheese called Café Good Luck Schmear, thinly sliced radish, tasty thick slices of smoked salmon. It’s aesthetically pleasing served open-faced, but once I’ve snapped a photo for Instagram, I choose indulgence over manners as I smash the two sides together and eat it like a sandwich. It’s the right approach. Together, the flavours are delicious.

My kids are going breakfast-style with a BLT made with local multigrain bread from Mahone Bay-based Boulangerie La Vendéenne. The sandwich is simple, served with potato chips. The house lemon aioli has a delicious tang, and the deep blood red colour of the tomatoes indicate their freshness.

Our meal ends with a soft serve ice cream sundae and three spoons. It’s no surprise that the ice cream is good, considering the Dairy Bar connection. Next time, we’ll try the other fun dessert item: brioche with sprinkles.