February 25, 2013
Who eats: Business folks, neighborhood types
Why eat: A taste of Canada in Chicago
Ambience: This place is your basic hole in the wall. If you're trying to impress a staid, buttoned-down business client, you'd best look elsewhere. But if you want to impart some sort of hipster vibe, BadHappy is your place. It's tiny ¿ just four bare-bones wooden tables with a slim wooden bar that runs the length of the establishment. You can sit and look straight into the open kitchen while shoveling food into your mouth, using plastic utensils. The music can be loud, with alternative rock and rap playing the day we were there (don't let that scare you ¿ it was good stuff). The walls are painted red, yellow and black and adorned with press clippings, awards and stickers proclaiming the fate of patrons who have attempted the Triple-Double Challenge ¿ downing a triple burger totaling 18 ounces, two full poutines (fries with cheese and gravy) and a shake in less than 30 minutes. Most failed. In short, the place oozes edginess.
Dress code: All over the map, but in the winter bring a coat. We got there just after it opened at noon, and it wasn't super warm.
Noise factor: As noted, the music can be loud, and the place is small enough that you can hear your food sizzling on the grill.
Service: You order by checking boxes on a plastic menu and handing them to the cook. But both of the employees we encountered were incredibly nice, enthusiastic about the food and knowledgeable about the menu. When the cook brought out our food, he told us, "Just so you know, everything ¿ the burger, the bun, the egg ¿ was fried up in bacon fat." I love a server that believes in full disclosure.
Cellphone reception/Wi-Fi: Full cell
Menu: Poutine and hamburgers
Reliable options: If you're on a diet or worried about your cholesterol, there isn't much on the menu for you. If you're willing to throw caution to the wind, the world is your culinary oyster. The Quebecer poutine ($10.50) expertly mimics the signature dish found north of the border, with crispy, thick-cut fries smothered in a rich, salty brown gravy and topped with large, plump cheese curds. The restaurant offers five other versions of poutine, including one for meat lovers (The T-Rex, $12) and a Greek-themed variation (The Zeus, $12). We tried BadHappy's most popular item, called The Good, The Bad & The Happy ($13), which combined fries with pork belly, truffle mayo, foie gras mousse, gravy and cheese curds. It was topped with a sunny-side-up egg, and it was sumptuous. Perhaps even better than the excellent poutines were the burgers, of which there are seven. Each 7-ounce Angus beef patty comes with unique toppings. We tried The Nate ($11), topped with barbecue pulled pork, an onion ring, macaroni and cheese, Cajun mayo and pickles. Somehow, it all works. Sloppy and seemingly deadly, there was not a crumb left on our plate. We also tried The PB & Jerk ($11), a burger slathered in jerk-style peanut butter, with "Happy Sauce," sharp cheddar cheese and pickles. It might have been the best thing we tried. The peanut butter gave the burger the perfect amount of zip and blended surprisingly well with the meat and cheese. Though BadHappy offers milkshakes, the only pop available was a cooler filled with bottles of locally manufactured soda. So no Pepsi, no Coke.
Expect to pay: $15-$20 per person.
Contacts: badhappypoutineshop.com, 312-890-2165
-- Jon Yates