Some families serve up dinners of macaroni casseroles and meatloaf, but for the Nano family — owners and operators of the Lucky Boy burger joint in central Phoenix — it's daily doses of creamy shakes, fries smothered in chili and cheese, and a burger called the Lucky International that'll have you banishing the Big Mac after the first bite.
First-generation Assyrians from Iraq, Tony and Najiba Nano, along with kids Valeen, Gilbert, and Ashureen, moved from Highland Park, Michigan, to Glendale in 2003 after Tony heard from some Phoenix friends that Lucky Boy was up for grabs.
The transition was tough, even though the Nanos had experience in the restaurant business. As new owners, they had to convince longtime regulars of Lucky Boy, which has been around since 1951, that change can be a good thing. After a fresh coat of paint and new chairs, they expanded the menu and ousted Pepsi for Coke. Next, Tony went to work on the ranch sauce, taking the cheese out and adding his own secret ingredients.
3430 North 16th Street
Lucky Boy's International Burger, a Fry Girl must-try, boasts another of Tony Nano's no-tell concoctions: his own version of 1000 Island dressing. Hot off Auntie Nano's grill (she's faster than Tony and does most of the cooking), mine was topped with crispy bacon and a roasted green chile. Whoa. Tangy sauce, a crazy-good flavor mix, and a solid burger taste that won't quit. On the side, chili cheese fries.
Trust this Michigander, we know chili cheese fries, and Lucky Boy's brought me back to the Coney Island joints I used to visit as Fry Baby. The good taste doesn't stop there.
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"We tried a smoothie machine a while ago," Valeen tells me. "It didn't work out."
Not surprising, given the Boy's reputation for suck-worthy shakes. Mouthwatering mixes are the way to go. My chocolate and butterscotch concoction was choice, but the Nanos tell me the cinnamon and coffee combo is a customer fave.
Today, the Nanos love Arizona and their steady stream of patrons love Lucky Boy. No recession here. In fact, you can bag a burger and fries for $3.69. And while the Boy's décor, despite the improvements, still feels like a '50s diner in need of a tune-up ("We used to have a jukebox in here a few years ago," Valeen says, "but it got stuck on 'Jailhouse Rock' and just kept playing it over and over"), the burgers, chili cheese fries, shakes, and family friendliness are all systems go.