Happy's is the recent Fenway opening from Michael Schlow -- the notable restauranteur behind Tico and Radius, among others -- and is another example of what I like to call the passive-aggressive domestic drama bar. You're familiar with the premise, I'm sure: "What's wrong?" "Nothing is wrong." "Are you sure?" "Yes. Everything is fine."
Everything is fine here. The space -- with a high tin roof ceiling that adds to the roomy, warehouse-like feel in the front bar, and an adjacent dining room that leads back to the kitchen -- is certainly a step up from whatever depressing steakhouse chain used to be here (I've already forgotten). So too is the food: hearty, comforting plates for sharing at the bar like duck tacos, straight-ahead buffalo wings and perfectly crunchy meatballs in a basil tomato sauce. The brick walls are colored with splashes of graffiti, and a cheery cartoon mural on one wall seems like a suggestion toward mimicking the spot's namesake: "Fine! I'm happy. Are you happy now?".
While the bartenders seem keen to experiment, and certainly competent enough to shake up a perfectly fluffy pisco sour, the cocktail list here seems geared toward entry-level cocktailers, despite their calling out some venerable oldies on the list -- Negronis and Old Fashioneds and the like.
On one visit, the bartender seemed especially determined to let us know he could work outside the bounds of the list and make "anything we wanted." Not a great vote of confidence for drinks like The A and P, made with jalapeno-infused tequila, passion fruit, lime and agave, which tasted mostly like a glass of passion fruit with a light spice burn on the back end. (Taking a sip of the tequila on its own, which was quite nice, unlocked the cocktail and made it easier to mentally deconstruct the flavors midsip.)
His offering, reusing the spicy tequila with St. Germain, strawberry puree, Cointreau, lime and orange juice with a sugar and cracked pepper rim, was, as promised, much more interesting.
Much like getting in a fight with your significant other can be a good way to change things up every now and again, a visit to Happy's might add a little drinking spice to your routine, but it's not necessarily something you'd want to do all the time.
If you go
1363 Boylston St., Boston