The name of the place doesn’t make sense, at least not to me. Because during each of my three visits to 544 Yale St., I never felt as if I had a lack of good fortune or would need some the following day.
Going to Better Luck Tomorrow, for fans of good food, good drinks and good times, feels like hitting the jackpot from the moment you walk in.
The popular Heights gastropub, which opened in 2017 and is owned by Bobby Heugel and award-winning chef Justin Yu, features a funky-yet-relaxed vibe and an eclectic crowd that can congregate in booths, at the bar or on one of two outdoor patios. No matter your preferences – in a seat, in a glass or on a plate – quality and attentive service are constants.
Another common thread, at least in my experience, is the fried chicken. I ordered it the first time I went to Better Luck Tomorrow and felt compelled to get it again the next two times.
It’s that good – maybe the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten. It’s also the most unique.
The menu says the chicken is tossed with brown butter and seasoned schmaltz, which is rendered chicken fat, and it’s served cut into pieces, topped with fresh dill and parsley and with a lemon wedge on the side. It’s flaky, crispy, juicy and tasty, with hints of both sweetness and spice.
Better yet, the $17 dish is accompanied by greens and a starch served together as an equally scrumptious side dish. A few Hasselback potatoes, which are baked and cut about halfway through in several slices, are topped with fresh watercress dressed in tangy, lemony goodness. I like to eat the two together, and they make for a perfect complement to the chicken.
I’ve tried four of the other nine food options at Better Luck Tomorrow, and none disappointed. The Wagyu Beef Salad is similar to a Caesar – with greens, herbs, pickled peppers and a tamarind-buttermilk dressing – and topped with tender, medium-rare steak. The Party Melt, with a beef patty, crispy cheese and caramelized onions, is like a patty melt but better.
Better Luck Tomorrow has vegetarian options, too, including fried cauliflower and griddled corn. The former was hearty enough to be a meal, with the crunchy cauliflower mixed with almonds, raisins, a guajillo-tomatillo sauce that is equal parts spicy and sweet – and fresh mint, which brings the dish together without being overpowering.
The dark red seasoning on the corn, though, was a little much, making it a little too salty and a little too messy. But the corn was left on the cob, cut into small pieces and grilled until parts of it turned black – which made it tender and juicy – and the dental floss pick served with it made for a clever, thoughtful touch.
Gestures like that are common at Better Luck Tomorrow, where guests are greeted with a glass of water before ordering. And while the place specializes in serving quality foods and drinks, the staff isn’t too stuffy to cater to specific needs.
For example, the bartender during my most recent visit created an off-the-menu, non-alcoholic cocktail based on a brief description of personal preferences. She blended raspberry syrup, ginger beer and a splash of Topo Chico into a fizzy concoction that was refreshing, slightly sweet and garnished with fresh mint and lemon peel.
Better Luck Tomorrow has a full bar with 12 craft cocktails, including a Cold-Fashioned, which is its take on an Old-Fashioned. It includes a balanced mix of bourbon, rum, Brandy de Jerez, piloncillo (raw cane sugar) and bitters, garnished with an orange peel and chilled with one big ice cube.
The bar offers red, white and sparkling wine as well, along with a small-but-solid selection of local craft beer. There are two pale ales, a cream ale made by Heights-based Eureka Heights Brew Co., a wheat beer, a grapefruit radler and a coffee porter.
Along with a weekday happy hour, Better Luck Tomorrow offers a trio of Houston-specific specials. When it’s hotter than 95 degrees outside, highballs are half off. When it’s colder than 40, hot toddies are half-off. And when it’s raining, hurricanes are half-off.
Good luck finding a better place to eat, drink and be merry – today, tomorrow or any time – and don’t forget to try the fried chicken with the potatoes and watercress. It’ll keep you coming back.
Better Luck Tomorrow
Address: 544 Yale St.
Hours: 3:30 p.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Saturday-Sunday
Food pricing: $6-$17
Healthy options: No
Star of the show: Fried chicken with Hasselback potatoes and watercress