Why I Am Happy at Happy’s
“There are no rules at Happy’s.” These words were proclaimed by Chef Michael Schlow to the Boston Herald upon the opening of Happy’s Bar and Kitchen in Fenway. Apparently, that piece of information was lost on the Boston Globe’s food writer, Devra First, in her review last week of Happy’s. Let’s examine it, shall we?
Fact: I have been to Happy’s twice.
Fact: I am not a food critic and have never considered myself to be one.
Fact: I enjoy food, I enjoy dining out, and I like to share my positive experiences with others.
Fact: These opinions are my own.
Opinion: Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
On atmosphere: “Eating at a place called Happy’s feels like being tickled against your will or told to smile when you’re not in the mood.”
I LOVE the atmosphere, decor and energy that exudes from Happy’s. If you want something more conservative, there are plenty of cookie-cutter, white-linen-table-cloth places in the city. Even outside the city. But sometimes we crave something less formal, more approachable, even more affordable and that’s where Happy’s hits the mark. If you prefer proper service where you focus on your food 100% and don’t want to be distracted by “bright retro murals” and “kookie” decor, then Happy’s is definitely not the place for you. Perhaps stepping into Happy’s requires a sense of humor, or maybe just the effort to not take one so seriously.
On the meatball: “Once the outside is gone, you’re left with too much plain, dry meat.”
Jon ordered the now infamous one-pound meatball on our second visit. When he cut into it, I have to admit, it looked dry and I was expecting it to be dry. After all, how do you evenly cook such a “monster” piece of meat? I don’t know the answer to that question but Chef Schlow does because it was so moist that I eagerly stole a second bite off Jon’s plate. I think the pasta that comes on the side is also worth noting. Simple rigatoni, lightly tossed with butter and Parmesan cheese.
On nachos: “DIY nachos are a simple but satisfying idea…”
Here we are in agreement. I love this concept, it’s perfect for sharing, and again, a dish that’s outside of the box.
On the menu: “… the food at Happy’s is all over the place, both in concept and execution.”
I love the menu at Happy’s. They must be tweaking things around as they continue to settle in because the menu has been different on each of my two visits. This is OK with me; it may take a couple of menu iterations to figure out what works and what doesn’t. That being said, I am ok with the sporadic menu that First seems to dislike. I think it fits the theme at Happy’s. There’s a vast selection of comfort foods:
Petra’s Super Mac N’ Cheese with bacon, peas and jalapenos ($9)
“Southern” BLT… Fried green tomatoes, pork belly, butter lettuce ($12)
Fried Chicken with cole slaw, biscuits and spicy honey mango sauce ($16)
Yet Happy’s still has offerings that are a little more upscale for those diners that want a little something more, like Portugese stew, grilled salmon, or shrimp tacos.
Again, if you want a well-structured menu, head to a Ken Oringer, or a Jody Adams, or even one of Schlow’s other establishments and let the Chef have some fun at Happy’s.
There are some other agreeable and positive points in the Globe review, but overall, I think it does Happy’s an injustice. I have been very happy on both occasions and would eagerly suggest you check it out if you haven’t already. In the words of Schlow himself, there are no rules at Happy’s, so check your attitude at the door and let yourself have some fun!!
What have your experiences at Happy’s been like?
Happy’s Bar and Kitchen is located in the Fenway area at 1363 Boylston St.
See our first piece about Happy’s: Cocktails and Small Bites at Happy’s Bar and Kitchen
February 2013 Update: Happy’s has closed