Homemade pasta with tomato and fresh basil sauce ($13.99) was al dente in the American sense (Italians eat dried pasta half-cooked) with a great marinara. "Prime filet mignon" ($28.49) is a good portion at the price, with a paper cone full of French fries: wonderful, if somewhat oversalted (as were the crisp green beans).
"Portuguese fisherman's stew . . . Fall River style" ($21.49) is a clear-broth soup with a half-dozen littleneck clams, fresh and sweet codfish, cherry tomatoes, spicy Portuguese sausage, and toasts for dipping.
Moving behind the bar, craft cocktails are an immediate strength here. The Safire Negroni ($11) is the queen of all Campari cocktails, spiking with a traditional gin and adding some bitter vermouth to produce a stronger, deeper-flavored version of the bittersweet liqueur. A Woodford Reserve Manhattan ($11) may overplay the bourbon; bitters and vermouth should soften the bare alcohol.
In addition to mixed drinks, a short list of beers (drafts, bottles, and cans), and some wines, Happy's does have homemade lemonade ($3) and roiboos tea ($3) as well as coffee and good decaf ($3) served at dinner from teapots.
Desserts are overthunk. The best is likely chocolate pudding ($7.29), served in a stemless tulip glass with a lot of whipped cream and three shortbread wafers. Strawberry shortcake ($9) was short on strawberries, but magnificent on pastry. The Nutella tart ($9) does work, because it is done in a pie shell, so it eats rather like a chocolate pecan pie.
Service is good when busy, hovering when not. Servers are encouraged to wear their own T-shirts in a kind of deliberate informality. Happy's is trying to be a neighborhood restaurant for all comers, and that may be part of the confusion. The little stuff will be fixed the day this column comes out, but the conceptual issues may take somewhat longer. If so, I think Happy's is going to be a very fun restaurant in six months.
Robert Nadeau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HAPPY'S BAR AND KITCHEN |1363 BOYLSTON STREET, BOSTON (FENWAY) | 857.753.4100 | HAPPYSBARANDKITCHEN.COM | OPEN MONDAY–WEDNESDAY, 7–11 AM, 11:30 AM–10:30 PM; THURSDAY–FRIDAY, 7–11 AM, 11:30–1:30 AM; SATURDAY, 7 AM–5 PM, 5:30 PM–1:30 AM; SUNDAY, 7 AM–5 PM, 5:30–10:30 PM | AE, MC, VI | FULL BAR | SIDEWALK-LEVEL ACCESS | NO VALET PARKING