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A Truly ‘Happy’ Holiday

“Clap along if you feel like a bowl without a spoon, let’s talk about Happppppy’s!”
–  Bruno Mars

Happiness is generally described as a warm fuzzy feeling but this season things are about to get a little more chili – literally. This time, the food dude crew hopped in a one-horse sleigh and made their way down to Happy’s Chili Parlor on 514 N. 12th St. Happy’s is a fourth generation family-owned establishment that truly puts the soul into soul food. Eugene Thomas is the current owner of this hip and happenin’ food joint as well as the master chef behind all of its finger licking good creations.

Paducah | Calligraphy | Bob Ford
Paducah | Calligraphy | Bob Ford

Eugene’s grandmother started the business in 1929 in an effort to give the people of Paducah a little taste of, you guessed it, happiness. (What better way to do that than through home-cooking?) Eugene’s father took over in 1951 and ran the local hot spot for almost four decades when tragedy struck. Eugene’s father was shot and killed during business hours in 1998. Not wanting his family legacy to disappear, Eugene, the oldest of all his siblings, decided to make the ultimate sacrifice. He gave up his life in California as a renowned hairdresser and restaurant owner to return home to his birthplace to take up the mantle and has been running things ever since.

As we walked inside the funky food foundation our ears were met with the sounds of hip-hop and laughter. We passed two pool tables and a Pac-Man arcade set-up on our way to the counter. (There’s nothing like chowing down on virtual ghosts as you wait to chow down on the real deal.) What laid before us was nothing short of an ‘H thang.’ (Happy…you get the point.)

The spread was enough to make Biggie look Smalls. Our Food-Tang Clan had our choice of fried catfish, chicken wings, collard greens, yams, cornbread, mac & cheese, slaw, red beans and wild rice, a chili dog sandwich, a beef brisket sandwich, a pork sandwich, hot tamales, seasoned fries, beef tips, Happy’s famous ribs, onion rings, potato salad, and pig feet (or “trotters”.)

After our team consumed this bounty of bliss, we turned our gaze toward the BIG Happy. (Happy’s burgers come in 3 distinct sizes; the Happy Jr., the Happy Burger, and the BIG Happy.) I’m not sure what’s bigger, Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers or the BIG Happy Burger…Either way, the sandwich was a touchdown. Best of all, everything Eugene makes comes from scratch, including the special sauces!

We asked Eugene – AKA Happy – if he had anything to say to the Paducah community, and these were his words:

“Thank you so much to everyone in this town for all the love and support. Food is my passion and I love having the chance to share that passion with all of you!”

Happy’s has been going strong for 90 years and their goal is to make it to 100. Let’s help make that a reality! There are also plans to incorporate a rooftop club atop of the Chili Parlor equipped with a VIP lounge.

I normally give a thorough rundown of each item, but due to the large quantity of food, we decided to do something a little different. Check out the photos to see just what we were dealing with. Visuals alone should be enough to get you in the door!

So the next time you feel the urge to ‘lose yourself’ in great flavor, head on down to Happy’s! Stay tuned for more reviews down the road.

Happy Holidays and as always, chow!

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