Double Happy will put a smile on your face long after summer fades
The retro dairy bar offers first-rate milkshakes, solid cheeseburgers and a side offering dubbed the waffle fry, which should launch a new food trend
As we approach the end of summer — the season officially concludes on Sept. 22 — a famously strange two-stanza poem titled “The Emperor of Ice-Cream,” written by Wallace Stevens roughly a century ago, has begun rattling around my brain.
This is partly because I’ve had a banner year for ice cream consumption. But it’s also because, in stark and dark verse, Stevens’ poem conveys how time and life — like summer and ice cream — inevitably melt away.
I’m not here to mourn finalities, though. I'm here to celebrate eating more ice cream after the summer is over. And to talk about happy sauce — couldn’t you use some happy sauce? In other words, I’m here to appraise a quirky little dairy bar called Double Happy.
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An independently owned Southwest Side operation with throwback style and modern touches, Double Happy is an amusing anomaly. Unless you know of other old school-looking dairy bars offering foamy affogatos prepared with house espresso — brewed with organic, fair-trade beans obtained from a women-owned Peruvian plantation — and poured over house-made soft-serve produced with milk sourced from a sustainable local farm.
On the eatery’s characteristically eccentric website, you’ll find information about the protein structure of the special milk used by Double Happy. But you won’t find a menu.
For that, you’ll need to visit the cute orange-and-white building that houses Double Happy, which is easily identified by its giggle-inducing logo: a cartoon-style scoop of smiling soft-serve (that more cynical types will compare to a notorious emoji) floating above a similarly grinning, anthropomorphic to-go coffee cup.
Double Happy is a drive-through-only business, but it offers a couple of picnic tables and a gazebo on a nearby patch of grass. It also offers cordial, double-happy-making service.
The star of the small food menu is the irresistible Happy Burger ($3.99). Add another patty ($1.95) and you have the even more irresistible, immensely filling and aptly named Double Happy.
The burger’s glad-making properties partly derive from happy sauce — a zippy and tangy amalgam of ketchup, mayo and abundant worcestershire sauce. But most of the happiness is delivered by griddle-crisped patties wed to melted American cheese. While hardly transformational, this is the sort of old-fashioned cheeseburger promised in the commercials of corporate fast-food eateries, but rarely served by them.
The stars of the ice cream menu are first-rate milkshakes ($3.95). These rich and thick, but perfectly slurpable, creations come in various appealing flavors, including the wonderful spicy chocolate.
Simple grilled chicken breast sandwiches ($5.95) with pickles and melted Swiss are offered, too. They're satisfying enough, especially with spicy Buffalo or ranch sauce.
The waffle fry ($1.95) is a should-begin-a-trend must: Seasoned hash browns formed into a waffle by a waffle iron. Try this with the red-pepper-flecked, nacho-like cheese sauce (50 cents) advertised with the hefty, stadium-style soft pretzel ($2.45).
Another must is the chocolate brownie waffle sundae ($5.95): a big and comforting brownie with a crinkly exterior and a molten interior also cooked in the waffle iron and topped with soft-serve and sundae-appropriate flourishes.
Among other treats, the flavor of the sour apple “zinga ding ding” ($2.45) made me think its wacky name came from the sound a green apple Jolly Rancher makes as it changes from hard candy into refreshing soda pop.
House espresso fortifies offerings such as lattes ($3.45), iced lattes ($4.45), frozen-cappuccino-based “happy frappys” ($4.45) and that recommended affogato ($3.95).
While enjoying the latter, I imagined Wallace Stevens might say that, like life, it was bitter and sweet, hot and cold and fundamentally ephemeral. My ensuing un-Stevens-like thought: This won’t be my final dairy-bar affogato because I can just buy another — except for a possible short wintertime break, Double Happy has no plans to fade away.
1280 Brown Rd., Southwest Side