the lucky accomplice in fox park photo by izaiah johnson

2020 Best New Restaurants // No. 1 The Lucky Accomplice

There’s an old platitude that defines luck as what happens when preparation meets opportunity. The Lucky Accomplice pushes a similar line on its website, where an ultra-stylish purple and black banner reads “make your own luck.” The curious irony here is that, in light of the pandemic, the circumstances around the opening of chef Logan Ely’s newest restaurant could hardly be described as fortunate. “I really did not want to open it during this thing, but there’s no end in sight, so we’re going to have to make the best of a weird situation,” Ely told us shortly before his new spot went live. A second irony, revealed upon dining at the restaurant, is that The Lucky Accomplice is no supporting character, as its name may suggest – it’s the ultimate symbol of Ely’s journey to date.

the lucky accomplice chef logan ely // photo by izaiah johnson

Starting with his Square1 Project pop-ups and then at his first restaurant, Shift, which opened in 2018, Ely searched for ways to transform familiar ingredients like apples, onions and squash into brilliant and unique components of his small plate courses. Shift became a laboratory of sorts, where Ely could experiment in a controlled environment and diners could pop in to observe and experience his work. “I think I opened a restaurant for a very selfish reason, and that was just to learn and to grow,” Ely says, reflecting on Shift and its lauded tasting menu. “It was the next evolution and the next challenge, the next big chance to learn a lot. The only thing I was trying to accomplish with Shift was trying to get better and learn and make mistakes and fix them.”

After closing Shift’s dining room in the spring due to the pandemic, Ely and his team searched for a new paradigm, first doing barbecue, then to-go sandwiches under the name Shift Sausages & Sandwiches. Dishes like the smashed brat burger, which harbored an enormous tater tot within, and the french onion melt with yeast fondue, which harkened back to one of Ely’s beloved Shift courses, bridged utility and wild imagination. At the same time, though, Ely was also working on a mysterious new space called The Lucky Accomplice. At the end of September, he put Shift into hibernation as he finally opened his new restaurant.

eggplant and burrata carmelle // photo by izaiah johnson

With dishes named simply beets, grilled onions and chicken cooked in yogurt, the menu barely gestures toward how complex and intricate Ely’s flavors and textures actually are. Fluffy, almost-still-wet sweet potato bread is served alongside the most effervescent whipped quark with golden raisin gremolata. Together, they’re earthy and funky, full of bright citrus and sharp acid – a perfectly balanced starter likely to dominate any dip you’ve recently salivated over while scrolling Instagram. The eggplant and burrata carmelle, with its vinegar-packed tomatoes and impeccably cooked noodles, reminds us of how good pasta can be – and how often it falls short. 

The gigantic toasted raviolo, which hovers over a basin of Parmesan foam and spills over the edges of a normal-sized plate, is not a mere gimmick but an inspired invention that urges us to think differently about a dish we’ve had a thousand times. The everything tater tot and its crispy-creamy-cured combo of fried potato, cream cheese and salmon turns a brunch staple into an upscale revelation, the mutant sibling of something that could be a single-bite course on a Michelin-starred tasting menu.

toasted raviolo // photo by izaiah johnson

If you’re drinking at this restaurant, there’s a 100% chance you’re getting something extremely cool. The small cocktail list is full of classics like the Jungle Bird (rum, Campari, pineapple) and an Aviation spritz (gin, cava, creme de violette), while a featured Dreamsicle slushy found sweet marriage between a screwdriver and a vanilla dessert, complete with a head of foamy whipped cream. The smart wine program is full of hip naturals both by the glass and as bottles; draft beers include fresh brews from locals like 2nd Shift and Perennial Artisan Ales.

Or, if you’re feeling the weight of 2020, for $5 you can order The Lucky Accomplice, a beer-and-a-shot combo available as either a Busch with a shot of Jameson or a Logboat Snapper IPA with a shot of Comoz vermouth. The offering indicates with tongue in cheek that Ely and company aren’t taking themselves too seriously. They know you showed up for the confit carrots barigoule with black olive oil and walnuts but also recognize that you may just need a goddamn drink. From the combo’s name, we can infer that they probably do as well. 

everything tator tot // photo by izaiah johnson

The Lucky Accomplice is not an endpoint for Logan Ely, but merely another stop on his quest to improve himself and his craft. In his journey from avant-garde cuisine to sandwiches and back again, Ely has figured out how to comfort us by taking dishes and forms we know and elevating them to a highly ambitious place that barely feels like fine dining. Sophisticated but approachable, The Lucky Accomplice is a complete thought and a full expression of our moment, a place where people can go to log off and experience something truly new, whether it be an eye-opening bite of fried egg with preserved sunchokes and broccoli gremolata or the gargantuan toasted raviolo of their dreams. In the end, this restaurant offers seriously creative food and drinks that could only have come from this team, at this restaurant, in this moment. That’s why it’s the most important restaurant of 2020.