Cocktails and Small Bites at Happy’s Bar and Kitchen
What happens when a successful Boston Chef creates a diner concept with upscale ingredients? A whole lotta fun. Chef Michael Schlow has one rule at his recently opened Happys Bar and Kitchen: there are no rules. Break out of the suit and tie, don a Sox hat and head to Happy’s for dinner before the game, or like we did, for some drinks and small plates among friends.
Upon entering, you will notice that the design of the restaurant was well thought out. A vast bar is located to the left and the space takes up the entire front of the restaurant. High top tables with no chairs give the Fenway Park crowd a spot hang out before the game, place their beer and order some finger-friendly appetizers. Tables are available in the bar area, but not too many, leaving the space open and able to accommodate a crowd.
A host stand is located in front of a large but unassuming curtain that divides the casual dining room from front bar area. We sat in the dining room and immediately started perusing the cocktail menu. A simple list of classics includes the likes of a Tom Collins, Negroni and Pisco Sour, all priced from $12-14. For the more adventurous, the New Twists consists of Happy’s originals like the A&P (also $12-14).
The evening that commenced was full of food from the appetizer and munchies menus, which were all perfect for sharing at the table. The menu is fairly large but not overwhelming and this post only describes the left side of the menu. On the right are entrees including a Grilled Pork Chop with cherry peppers, sausage and potatoes ($17.99), Chicken Milanese ($16.99) and Fall River-style Portuguese Fisherman’s Stew ($21.49). Daily specials boast the fun and creativity of Schlow and his team. The Never Been Frozen TV Dinner special changes daily, and featured chicken fried steak the night of our visit, served in true tv dinner fashion, in a sectioned tray with two sides and a dessert. Blue-plate specials include a monstrous 1-lb Meatball (Tuesday) and All-You-Can-Eat Fried Chicken (Monday), all while supplies last.
Here is just a small sampling of some of the great items you can find at Happy’s Bar and Kitchen.
Start Mexican with a spicy margarita and cool duck tacos. The spice in the margarita is noticeable but not overwhelming. The little bit of heat dissipates and leaves your taste buds able to taste your food. Two small duck tacos come in one serving; the creamy cucumber cilantro sauce will cool your palate, unless you also eat the Jalepeno sliver. Tender duck meat will melt in your mouth.
A&P (Lunazul tequila, spicy passion fruit, lime, agave; $14)
Duck Tacos with cucumber, cilantro, mint and chiles ($9.00)
Cured Meat Plate with garnishes ($10.49)
Homemade Ricotta with olive oil, sage and hot pepper flakes ($8.20)
For something more refreshing as the hot summer days approach, try a simple mojito with a wedge salad. As seemed to be a trend running through Happy’s cocktails, the mojito was not too sweet and well-proportioned. The wedge salad was a nice size for an appetizer salad, or so share with the table with other small plates.
The Greatest Wedge… Ever (seriously, that’s how it’s printed on the menu; $8.49)
Comfort dictates this last “pairing” of bourbon and mac and cheese. Happy’s rendition of a Manhattan wasn’t exactly a home run, but certainly acceptable. The mac and cheese was creamy, savory and had a nice play of salty bacon with smokey jalapenos.
Mr. Pete (Craig bourbon, burnt orange, bitters, sweet vermouth; $12)
Petra’s Super Mac and Cheese with bacon, peas, jalapenos and crunchy bread crumbs
Last but not least, we couldn’t pass up on dessert. One of Happy’s featured desserts is a Chef Schlow staple, appearing on the menus of two of his other restaurants, Via Matta and Alta Strada. This fun dessert is a plate of cookies with a side of marscapone cream for dipping, almost like a richer version of a do-it-yourself Oreo. We were also treated to a serving of Strawberry Shortcake, which boasted a very light ending to our meal. The shortbread was a great consistency: not too dense yet held up to the moist strawberries and whipped cream.
Mascarporeos of chocolate shortbread and marscapone cream
There is a lot more on the menu to taste and enjoy at Happy’s. I already have my eye on the TV Dinner Special and I’m sure at some point one of us will just have to try the 1-pound meatball. But until then, Happy’s brings a fun atmosphere to the Fenway neighborhood, with good food at reasonable prices.
Have you been to Happy’s? If so, what was your favorite dish?
February 2013 Update: Happy’s has closed