The ladylike side of Roadfood is nowhere more appealing than at The Happy Cafe, where, at two different lunches, females outnumbered males 10 to 1. If it’s musclebound fare you seek — sputtering hot links, four-alarm chili, boilermakers, and T-bone steaks — this is not the place for you.
If, on the other hand, you value Cordon bleu tomato-basil soup or southern-style savory tomato pie or warm casseroles or impeccable pimento cheese, or creamy-fresh (organic) chicken salad bedded on al dente broccoli salad barely bound in mayo and crowned with sunflower seeds, The Happy Cafe is a taste of heaven.
Step up to the counter and order from a small menu of salads, cold sandwiches, grilled paninis, wraps and — Thursday through Saturday only — chicken BBQ. The pulled chicken can be layered onto cole slaw or kale or broccoli salad or contained in a sandwich or a wrap. All the usual hyperbole applied to more rugged barbecue is inadequate here, for this chicken is elegant. I want to call it delicate, but such a tender adjective does not do justice to its refined smoky flavor, which is memorable.
I’ve saved the best for last: dessert. Caramel cake is out of this world, available as a cupcake, as mini-muffins, as a small bundt cake or as large cakes up to sixteen inches across. The caramel is an eye opener, applied in abundance, a masterful balance of butter and sugar and cream that is sweet-tooth nirvana. But after the stunning goodness of caramel commands all attention in the first few bites, one notices the cake it crowns: so soft and fluffy and flavorful. It’s like pound cake, but tender and light. When I asked the staff just exactly what made these cakes so wonderful, the reply was, “It’s mama’s recipe.” Mama is owner Sue Hodges’ mother, and I got the feeling that if anyone on staff told me the exact formula, they’d have to kill me.
Such a friendly place, bright and sunny, with a staff who are delighted when they make customers happy … which they do. The house motto is: Food, Family, Love.