Photography by Elly Hazelrig
As you step inside Good Fortune on South Main, you’re met with a wall of color. Artist Ivy-Jade Edwards’ immersive, Japanese-inspired mural is splashed along the left wall of the restaurant, opposite the busy, full bar.
Whether you choose a seat inside or outside on the heated patio, you’ll find friendly service and a small, 11-item, Asian-fusion menu. Part-owner and Chef Arturo Leighton confirms: “Our menu is small so that we can focus on the flavor.”
“We’re not reinventing the wheel. We’re just confidently offering something people have never tried before.”
Arturo, along with his partner, Chef Sarah Cai, opened Good Fortune to glowing reviews in August 2021. They are both young, ambitious chefs with surprisingly long careers. Arturo has been working in professional kitchens since the age of 18, and Sarah, a Memphis native, worked in New York, Florida, and China before setting her sights on opening her own spot in Memphis. The pair have also traveled extensively together over the years, eating their way through Africa, France, Germany, China, Korea, and Thailand.
After landing in Memphis, it hasn’t taken them long to be embraced by the Memphis foodie community, evidenced by their recent Edible Memphis and Spirited A.F. ChampionSip: Mocktails win in January. Their mocktail creation, Cloud 9, is a take on a classic fizz, inspired by the spiced flavors of rum. It’s loaded with aromatics and boosted with toasted coconut and marshmallow to create depth of flavor and a luxurious texture.
They also won the Most Tagged Mocktail award, and it’s really no wonder. With eye-catching purple foam made from butterfly pea flowers, Cloud 9 really suits the ethos of the restaurant. Head bartender Hollie Jean Johnston says, “We like to have fun. So [Cloud 9] is a really good mirror of our team and the fun we have together.”
But it’s more than just fun.
Everything at Good Fortune is based on an intentional practice of using and repurposing the freshest global ingredients possible in all of their food and drinks.
With a weekly haul from Viet Hoa grocery, they pack in lemongrass, jackfruit, galangal (a ginger variety), kaffir lime leaves, lychees, and more fresh Asian produce into their menu offerings.
Hollie Jean says that it’s always their intent to creatively make the most of each specialty ingredient. “A good representation of that is the ‘I Don’t Speak Mandarin’ cocktail that I did for Lunar New Year,” she says. “I used every part of the [mandarin orange] that I could—the peel, the leaves, and the fruit. We really honor the ingredient without adding in too many others.”
Sarah echoes this: “We cross-utilize some ingredients from the kitchen into our beverage program. So that also helps us maintain freshness and quality of produce.”
She’s proud of the bar setup they’ve created at Good Fortune—and for good reason.
“We have the most Asian spirits of any bar in Memphis,”
she says. Thai rum and Japanese whiskey are two of those Asian options.
The thoughtful touches extend beyond the bar, to the kitchen, and throughout the restaurant. “It’s quite the labor of love,” Sarah says.
Their made-from-scratch cooking requires significant time and energy. “We have one person that’s full-time dedicated to noodles, one person full-time dedicated to dumplings,” she says. “It’s just kind of always how we’ve done things.”
Sarah credits travel as her muse for the menu, featuring her take on noodle soups from all over Southeast Asia.
Growing up in China for six years allowed her to travel and taste cuisines from all over the region, like Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and across China. Those travels are what inspired the flavors you can taste today at Good Fortune.
Arturo also shares a global perspective. His parents are immigrants from Chile, and Arturo grew up in Florida and ended up in Memphis after meeting Sarah. Working on South Main, he’s found one of the most welcoming communities he’s ever known. “I’ve lived in a lot of places,” he says. “And this community just accepted us with open arms, and we’re super thankful for that.”
It hasn’t been all easy-breezy since they set their sights on opening a restaurant in Memphis. They were originally poised to open Good Fortune in March of 2020. But Arturo says that the pandemic delay was a massive blessing for their business.
“It kind of pumped the brakes on what we wanted to do and let us refine the menu to what Memphians really wanted,” he says. “We were able to do some pop-ups … that helped us have a better perspective of what the community wanted. And it turns out they want noodles and dumplings.”
And noodles and dumplings you shall find. You’ll also find the fantastic GFC Wings; wontons with pork, shrimp, or Impossible meat; and bao buns with pork or tofu. They make it a point to offer foods and flavors that are accessible to all. Vegans, meat eaters, cocktail connoisseurs, and teetotalers are all welcome and will find something to delight. The menu is ever-shifting, so visit often. And don’t forget to finish your meal with taiyaki, the Japanese fish-shaped waffle cone with housemade soft serve that comes in rotating seasonal flavors like red bean and black sesame.
“What we really want people to know is that we take a lot of time and attention and love to make everything from scratch,” says Sarah.
“We have some broths that take six hours, and we have some that take over 24 hours. It’s very unique, and it’s something that really sets us apart.”
Two more ultra-unique components set their business apart. First, they do not offer takeout—at all. While that might surprise some guests, for Sarah and Arturo, it comes down to freshness. “Taking our food to go would dramatically decrease the quality of the product,” Arturo affirms.
Second, they do not accept reservations, believing instead that their food should be available to anyone, at any time during open hours. By removing the exclusivity of reservations, it becomes a place where anyone can expect to walk in the doors from 4 to 10 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, and be seated and served quickly.
Whether you’re there to experience the ambiance, the creative bar concoctions, the house-made noodles and broths, or everything combined, Good Fortune delivers on an experience unlike anything else in Memphis.
“We have this business because we want to help introduce Memphis to a lot of flavors that aren’t here, but people still want to try it,” Sarah says.
“There’s so much out there to taste. There’s no reason to ever stop creating.”
361 South Main Street
Jordan Arellano is a freelance writer, dog mom, and Memphis transplant who has called the 901 home for over five years. Her background is in nonprofit and marketing. When she isn’t reading, writing, or stress-baking, she travels as often as possible and eats all the vegetarian fare Memphis has to offer. @are.jordan
Elly Hazelrig, of Haze Photography & Media, is a Memphis-based photographer from Chicago. She aspires to inspire. @haze.photog