Inside: Happy Greek
Bar/pub sports Mediterranean fare in a laid back atmosphere
Special to Metromix
It's no secret that one of the most important parts of the Greek culture is the celebration of food and drink. This dates back to ancient times, when people needed little excuse to enjoy a good wine and a little hummus. Not much has changed in the modern world, especially at the Happy Greek in the Short North and in the Gateway, where plentiful Greek food options and an extensive beer and wine list await anyone with a hunkering for a taste of the Mediterranean.
Food: The Happy Greek really captures what it means to be happy and Greek: there is so much food to choose from on the extensive menu that it can be hard to decide on just one thing to order. You've got spreads and regular appetizers, like spinach feta dip ($5.50 for lunch, $6.50 for dinner) and falafel served with hummus ($5.99 for lunch, $6.99 for dinner).
From there things get considerably less decisive: do you want a salad, pasta, seafood or vegetarian dishes, kebobs or one of the tempting dinner entrees? See, so many choices! We tried the kebob and the semi-tough and chewy chicken didn't rock our world, but the lemon sauce on the rice pilaf was delish, as was the tomato sauce-sautéed peppers and onions on the side. Neither sauce was overwhelmingly spicy or citrus-y, but they were definitely not bland, either. Oddly though, there was literally half of a peeled potato also on the plate that we didn't know what to do with, or why it was even a part of the dish. The whole thing was doused with the lemon sauce, and the combination of potato and lemon was overpoweringly reminiscent of vinegar.
The Grecian seafood pasta is a mix of sautéed calamari, shrimp and scallops, mostly heavy on the shrimp. The combination is mixed with your choice of linguini or fettuccini noodles, all topped with a sweet tomato-basil sauce, onions, tomatoes and green peppers ($12.99 for lunch, $15.99 for dinner).
We've heard some awesome things about the gyro as well, with thin-sliced gyro meat, creamy garlic sauce, lettuce, tomato, onion and banana peppers served on a pita (with French fries; $5.99 for lunch, $6.95 for dinner).
Libations: If you're into Greek wines and beers, then the Happy Greek is definitely for you. There are four different Greek beers that are $3.50 each, as well as a good draught beer selection: Stella Artois, Great Lakes seasonals and Newcastle, ranging from $3.50-$4.75.
There is also a happy hour Monday through Friday with specials updated daily.
Décor: The interior of the Happy Greek has that mildly cheesy mural-of-Greece thing going on everywhere. The bar is also backed by a faux-Greek temple front and colonnade. Both of these things can be picturesque and fun, or tacky, depending on how you feel about them, but either way the place feels pretty comfortable inside.
There are the usual window-side tables that come with every Short North place, and this is where you'll find the best lighting and also where you'll get the most people looking in at you while you eat. The dining area is extensive, however, and is divided into two areas: the main area has a few tables and the bar and kitchen, and the second dining area is more for families and people who like a classic dining vibe. There is a mix of dark wood and terra cotta tiled tables that give just a hint at the Mediterranean spin, without being over the top.
Service: The service at the Happy Greek is a particular kind of let down- it's average at best. You get the sense that the servers are trying to not be noticeable because they don't say much, but they are definitely noticeable when refilling drinks and that sort of thing.
During a recent visit, we might have been interested in ordering dessert, but our server would never know it because he was too busy with too many tables (on a weekday evening, not even a weekend night) and didn't even ask if we wanted anything else, instead just delivering the check to the table. We also might have been interested in taking the rest of that chewy kebob home, just for the rice pilaf, but this was also whisked away and never seen again.
This was a bad way to end our stay, as the rest of the visit had been average, so we didn't even bother asking for anything else and just accepted the check in defeat.
Crowd: Just about anyone can come to the Happy Greek and feel like they fit in, in terms of menu items and the atmosphere. This dining hot spot is great for eating with friends and family, and is also a fun date night idea because it's not too formal or too casual. The Happy Greek is busy steadily throughout the day, with a large crowd for both lunch and dinner, and also a fair number of people stopping in to pick up a very reasonably priced lunch. Things can get bustling during the dinner hours, but generally the Happy Greek stays at a moderate volume. There is a separate room for parties and larger groups to accommodate families and business diners, and to also keep the noise apart from more one-on-one diners.
Insider's tip: As fair warning, we've heard that the overall experience at the Happy Greek can be inconsistent, either through the menu items or the service. This seems like an odd customer perspective for a place that is regularly voted best Greek food in Columbus, but our advice is to go in with moderate expectations and to make the best of each experience-the wine and beer list does rule, after all.
Also, lunch prices are available Monday through Saturday until 4 p.m.
Bottom line: Overall, we were a little under-whelmed with what is considered "the best Greek food in the city." However, if you're in the mood for Greek food, Happy Greek is conveniently located and has an extensive menu to keep anyone entertained, as long as you keep your expectations on the average side.
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