Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Happy Jack's: Fort Erie, Ontario

The Patio @ Happy Jack's
Having grown up in Niagara with friends in Fort Erie, Happy Jack's was always the go-to spot whenever we had a craving for Chinese food (and/or a restaurant with a super fun name). I recently went back for the first time in a few years and it was exactly the same – in fact, the décor might very well be the same since it opened in the 60s. Very traditional, somewhat dark but cozy inside with a beautiful relatively new patio outside that faces the Niagara River. 

Happy Jack's Special-
Pineapple Cocktail
Located on Niagara Blvd., Happy Jack's is something of a Fort Erie staple. While many other businesses have come and gone in the area, they have been around since 1967 and are consistently busy. No, their food isn’t going to blow you away with crazy re-interpretations of classic dishes and odds are you won’t find foodies snapping pics of their meals (except me, obviously!). What you can depend on, however, is classic Chinese fare done well with a lot of selection, fresh ingredients and excellent service. Since I was with my Mom and brother, we opted for the Dinner for Three (only $39.95) with a few additions (namely Jaa Doo Chicken Wings, which are my fave and Singapore noodles for Mom).

Minestrone (jk: it's obviously
Won Ton Soup)
Dinner for Three starts off predictably with a bowl of won ton soup. The soup is hot, salty and the won tons are meaty, not chewy. 

[SIDE BAR: While I was eating my soup I was suddenly very distracted by the drinks being delivered to the table next to us (read: at the other end of the dining room). I didn’t know what they were but I wanted one because it came in an adorable porcelain lidded pineapple. I immediately tracked down our server to get one (still without knowing what it was). It turned out to be the Happy Jack's Special, a delicious pineapple cocktail, which I really enjoyed!]

Following the soup were crispy egg rolls. While the egg rolls themselves were pretty standard, the real treat was the homemade plum sauce – a somewhat thick, sweet version with pureed plums that went very nicely with the rolls.

Chicken, Vegetables & Almonds
The server returned to clear the plates and brought over fresh hot plates. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before but I really love when restaurants warm your plate. It makes a big difference in the overall meal and shows that they are taking that extra step to ensure you enjoy your food.

We then received the rest of the meal – big heaping plates of breaded shrimp, Goo Loo Yuk (Cantonese style sweet & sour pork), chicken and vegetables with almonds, barbecued pork fried rice as well as our Singapore noodles and wings.

Goo Loo Yuk
Goo Loo Yuk: Good sized pieces of pork that were breaded and coated in a tangy sweet and sour sauce. The dish also had pieces of pineapple and fresh slices of tomato. While the breading was a bit heavy, the dish overall was quite good and I added the tangy sauce on pretty much everything on my plate.

Chicken and Vegetables with Almonds: This was probably my favorite dish from the Dinner for Three selection; cooked yet crisp pieces of broccoli, carrots and celery, sautéed with mushrooms, onions, chicken breast and almonds in a light garlic sauce. Savoury, warm and comforting.

Breaded Shrimp: These were probably my least favorite. They basically take large shrimp, batter them and fry them. While this may sound okay, the problem here is that the batter to shrimp ratio is way off – too much batter and not enough meat.

BBQ Pork Fried Rice
Barbecued Pork Fried Rice: While many Chinese food restaurants tend to overcook and dry out their fried rice, this version was particularly moist and flavorful. The rice was a dark brown and speckled with pieces of bbq pork.

Singapore Noodles: You can’t really go wrong with this dish. Thin egg noodles are coated with a mild curry sauce and fried up with mixed veggies and tiny little shrimp. The noodles weren't mushy nor were they too crunchy from being fried (aka: Goldilocks approved).

Jaa Doo Chicken Wings
Jaa Doo Wings: This is my favorite kind of chicken wing – crispy fried, no sauce, and super salty. The wings were pretty tiny, but deep frying them kept them tender and juicy beneath a nice coating of crispy, salty goodness.

Happy Jack's is the kind of place where you will see mostly regulars who know exactly what they want as well as a lot of takeout. While they aren’t serving up anything fancy or mind-blowing (except for those pineapple drinks!) there’s a reason people have been coming back for over forty years. All in all, a very satisfying meal with leftovers to last for days!