The braised lamb shank platter at Happy Greek. Photo by Michael A. Foley/Rycus Assoc.
Tasty food makes me happy, and tasty Greek cuisine makes me happier still. The Short North’s Happy Greek has been pleasing customers for several years with its fresh and lively dishes at reasonable prices.
One good test for any Greek place is the classic egg-lemon soup. Here, the dish, with what seemed to be freshly made chicken broth, was just right, particularly on a cold day. Dips and spreads are popular items in this cuisine, and the ones at Happy Greek show why. For $7.99, the place served a substantial platter of four spreads; my favorites were the spicy feta and the garlicky roasted eggplant with red peppers and walnuts.
The stuffed grape leaves were substantial, too, with just the right proportion of meat to rice and a luscious egg-lemon sauce. Salads were good, though the tomatoes are what they are in winter.
There were many kinds of pastas, including such Greek-American amalgams as Grecian Seafood Pasta. They weren’t bad. Better food was to be found in the kebabs—your choice of beef, chicken, lamb or the nicely done keftedes (a mixture of beef and lamb with parsley, onions and herbs). Kebabs came with a big serving of rice, a medley of vegetables—often peppers and squash—and roasted lemon potatoes, which, sadly, suffered from too much pre-cooking on two samplings.
The platter was the way to go for gyros. For about 10 bucks, I got a large oval serving dish piled with gyro meat (beef or lamb), crispy fries, rice pilaf, a side Greek salad, pita bread and creamy garlic sauce. Maybe the best thing I had here was the lamb tenderloin platter. The delicious lamb was marinated in good herbs and oil, then pan-seared with peppers, onions and tomatoes. It came with the rice, fries, pita and salad. It was plenty for two reasonable appetites.
There was a lot of seafood on the menu: calamari, snapper, salmon, scallops and shrimp. The one fish dish I sampled, Grouper Athena, was grilled with herbs, lemon and good oil and topped with a tomato wine sauce and feta. It was fine, though the sauce obscured the taste of the fish.
In fact, there was a lot of most everything on the menu (mixed grills, chicken dishes, braised lamb shank, stuffed pita sandwiches. . . .). Though I got to just a modest portion of it, based on the sampling I did taste, I’m confident the rest would be worth ordering.
For dessert, I found the usual Greek sweets, such as baklava and the like. They were fine. Wine, beer and liquor were available. Though I normally wouldn’t recommend the stuff, try retsina—wine flavored with an evergreen resin—just for the full Greek experience.
I dare you.
660 N. High St.
Price range: Appetizers, soups and salads $3.25-$8.50 (more for salads topped with meats or seafood); pastas $10.99-$13; kebab/gyro/meat platters $9.99-$14.99; entrees/specialties $9.99-$19.99.
Hours: Monday through Thursday 11 am to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday till 11 pm, Sunday noon to 9:30 pm.
Rating: *** 1⁄2