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Happy Child

Posted by Alexandra Grigorescu / Listed on January 24, 2013 / review policy

happy child torontoHappy Child recently opened in the former location of Double Deuce Saloon on West Queen West. Its only signage is a sandwich board and the logo of a somewhat deranged looking Big Boy-style child's face (replete with swollen cheeks and ominous eyebrows) that is more or less the space's calling card. And yes, they have T-shirts for sale.

happy child torontoInside, the space is not quite cozy. It has the worn-looking, long wood communal tables that are becoming ubiquitous (i.e. just-opened Oddseoul), and unpleasantly so--you try having an intimate conversation with your significant other while a gaggle of girls gossips beside you. The lighting is dim, red-tinged, and mainly provided by a scatter of candles and the Double Deuce's huge, retro-looking sign proclaiming "Cocktail Bar." Don't expect an expansive menu of signature drinks, though; Happy Child is keeping it classic for now.

happy child torontoHappy Child toes that same line between bar and restaurant as so many recent west-end openings, with a fairly affordable bar menu; draught beers including Sapporo and Hoptical Illusion come in around $7, and a succinct but thought-out list of wines by the glass tops out at $10. I try the Rosehall Run 2009 Pinot Noir, which is fruity with a touch of oak-infused smokiness.

happy child torontoThe food goes beyond simple bar snacks, though, with a classics-turned-upside-down approach to late-night, drunken standbys (they're serving until 2 a.m.) like fried chicken, noodle soup (Happy Child's comes with Peking duck), and grilled cheese (with a side of tomato soup). Each of the ever-changing menu items are $10, and they're conceived by Fan Zhang, who has previously worked at the Drake Hotel, and (more pertinent to this particular dining set-up) 416 Snack Bar.

Around dinnertime on a Wednesday (with the city well in the grips of winter), the place is somewhat deserted, although the sandwich board outside proclaiming "new bar!" draws some craned necks. Service is quick, attentive, and knowledgeable.

happy child torontoThe Philly cheesesteak is incredibly flavourful, thanks to beautifully seasoned short ribs, a soft, slighty crusted bun, sautéed green peppers and onions, and a housemade cheese sauce that blends old cheddar and parmesan into a combination that's surprisingly reminiscent of elevated Cheez Whiz. I have one complaint, though, and it's a big one--the cheesesteak comes in at about half the size of what you'd expect, and even with the meager helping of Miss Vickie's-style chips, it's not exactly a meal.

happy child torontoIt's a similar story with the KFC-style hen--tender Cornish hen is brined, sous-vided, then buttermilk-fried for a batter that's tempura-light, and accompanied by a sadly too-small side of tart and creamy coleslaw. I found no fault with the taste--the batter is lightly-salted and thin enough to let the meat itself shine through--but the portion size is in keeping with the spot's tapas mentality.

happy child torontoHappy Child is, for now, still something of a quiet secret, but I'd wager it'll soon draw big crowds, as soon as it expands past its current Wednesday-Sunday hours, and particularly if those crowds come prepared to order generously, and share. That, or have a special affinity for big-eyed boy mascots gone terribly awry.



Jer / January 24, 2013 at 11:11 am
Do you know the hours by chance? Not sure why a company even bothers with a website and doesn't put basic information like hours on it??

bobby / January 24, 2013 at 11:24 am
Weird, the first comment was not negative, how strange, I was expecting hate right off the bat. Spot looks fun!
gr1 / January 24, 2013 at 11:30 am
not open mon-tues. i assume they're 5pm-ish to close every other night.
Sophia / January 24, 2013 at 12:42 pm
Bar rail $7...non merci.
Ken / January 24, 2013 at 02:59 pm
Great write-up as always Alex, particularly your candid feelings about portion size. Excellent details in the preparation behind each dish too. Thank you as always.
The Wares / January 24, 2013 at 03:56 pm
Want a Thursday nite house band ?
raymes / January 24, 2013 at 05:57 pm
Can't wait!
HAPPY CHILD / January 24, 2013 at 07:01 pm
little overpriced / January 24, 2013 at 09:02 pm
I would gladly pay $8 for a smaller than average meal (I actually prefer smaller meals) but whenever I see double digits (ie $10) I get disappointed.
mayor dodge replying to a comment from little overpriced / January 25, 2013 at 11:57 am
I agree. Its just riles me up when I go to places that employ chefs who think 8oz. of meat be diced to 12 portions. TO has a bad rep for that drizzle food kind of cooking. Fancy grub, fancy price ok, tiny grub, big price, go to h3ll, chef.
Shelly / April 29, 2013 at 10:38 pm
Pro: Great area, great ambiance... cool dj's.... and I think there is even a patio in the back.

Con: Drinks are WAY too expensive, especially when there is amazing Beaconfield a few doors down with cheaper drinks and more selection. Food is awful and way over priced. I got the BBQ RIb Sandwich. It was piece of meat, BBQ sauce, two little pickles and a few onions on a small, dempster hot dog bun. 8 bucks with tax. I would have been better off eating street meat.


Just go to the Beaconsfield... and if you're hungry after serving hours, Barton Snacks has an awesome Jerk Pulled Pork Sandwich that will fill you up, no probs.

Thank me later.
Watchout / January 14, 2014 at 02:50 am
see this article before going to Happy CHold:;mg=reno64-wsj&

This restaurant is reading your cell phone data... no exaggeration...
gr1 replying to a comment from Watchout / March 6, 2014 at 02:13 pm
sensationalist and ignorant. you provide far more 'personal' details casually using the internet than your mac address being collected by the service. turn off your wifi if you don't want to share your data.
Awesome replying to a comment from gr1 / March 6, 2014 at 02:26 pm
You're an idiot.

I was going to point out how stupid your reply was but frankly it's so inane I think maybe you're one of those people that are better off living in the bliss of ignorance.

Good luck with life guy.
You Idiot replying to a comment from Awesome / March 7, 2014 at 02:44 pm
WHat are you on about dummy? He pointed out the obvious. Stupid mug. Go back to paranoia town idiot.
Anotyher / March 7, 2014 at 03:56 pm
Another privacy genius I see.
Gary Obvious replying to a comment from You Idiot / March 7, 2014 at 04:21 pm
Speaking of mugs, that 'happy child' mascot looks suspiciously like that kim jong un dude.

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