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Cashew chicken-connoisseurs are in luck if they find themselves downtown, as a new restaurant, Lucky Time, opened its doors in the heart of Springfield’s most-central district.
The eatery, a Fair Grove favorite for more than half a decade, opened on the corner of Walnut Street and Jefferson Avenue in July 2023. Owner and head chef Chea Nguyen moved his restaurant into Springfield to spur future growth, but his hopes of bustling downtown streets have been stunted in the face of the ongoing Jefferson Avenue construction.
“Before we rented this place, we saw a lot of potential,” Nguyen said. “Hopefully, business will pick up, but right now it’s dead.”
Ngyuen may not have to wait long for the construction crews to stop in front of his door. The $1.7 million ‘streetscaping’ between St. Louis Street and Walnut is in the last phase. The road work signs may go down as early as next week, Nguyen said, citing conversations he had with his landlord on the construction.
Nguyen is no newcomer to the Springfield restaurant scene. He immigrated to the United States from Cambodia when he was 12 and spent his adolescent years in the back of his father’s restaurant, the Chinese Wok, which started in Nixa and later expanded to Ozark and Kimberling City, Nguyen said.
His father’s restaurants have since closed, but Nguyen kept family at the heart of his business. His wife, Ratamak, covers the front of the restaurant while Nguyen sports a chef’s coat in the back. Their daughter, Angel, 4, can often be found helping her mother.
The move from Fair Grove is bittersweet, Nguyen said.
“Fair Grove is such a small community, where everyone knows each other. It’s very sad,” to leave, “but you have to grow. You have to expand.”