Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | May 18, 2012

Happiness at Happy’s

Carlsbad, New Mexico

One thing I enjoy most about a road trip is finding interesting places to eat along the way. I’m not talking about the familiar big-name fast food places but about those easy to overlook places where local folks like to eat. After checking in to our hotel in Carlsbad, I asked the front desk clerk to suggest a place to eat that was a favorite among locals. He suggested that we eat at Happy’s, conveniently located less than a mile away. I figured that you can’t go wrong eating at a restaurant called Happy’s, so Dad and I headed there for a quick bite before going to see the flight of the bats at Carlsbad Caverns. As soon as we walked through the door a waitress warmly greeted us with a “Ya’ll come on in and sit anywhere. We don’t bite!” Another said, “Hey guys, the menu is up there on the wall. Just tell me what you want when you’re ready and we’ll get it right out to you.” That’s all it took to convince me we were at the right place.

After we ordered Dad asked one customer what he thought of the food. “Better than good!,” he replied while continuing to chew on a mouthful of food. Dad and I ordered burgers and fries, but I ordered the Jumbo Burger. I can now tell you that Jumbo is a relative term. When the waitress brought our burgers to the table my jaw dropped open like a cheap suitcase. Jumbo at Happy’s means a burger that is somewhere between 8 and 10 inches in diameter stuffed with enough meat to feed a little league team. A local seated at the next table looked over and smiled. I swear that this guy was the spitting image of Goober from the Andy Griffith Show and just as friendly. No kidding! He laughed when I said to him, “This burger is huge!” He looked at me and said, “Yuuup!” followed by “First time here?” I nodded affirmatively. “Just wait till you see my chef’s salad!” He wasn’t kidding. His salad was a quarter the size of his table. “Now, that’s a salad,” he said with a wide grin as he smothered it in Ranch Dressing.

Long story short, we lingered at Happy’s because the food was indeed better than good — and so were the people. It was fun eating at a place where local folks are known by name, where everybody who walks in looks at you and says, “Hey there, how you doing today?”, and where new guys like us are called “Honey” and “Dear” by the waitresses. This is the kind of small town stuff that makes small town living a bit enviable. The pace of life is slower, people actually know one another, and the folks who run local businesses seem to genuinely care about their customers. Happy’s is now officially on my list of favorite places to eat. We got more than our money’s worth in terms of the food. But, we got more than that. We actually enjoyed a bit of unexpected happiness at Happy’s.


  1. O, made me happy just reading your blog this morning. Reminded me of eating at The Green Frog Cafe in Heart, TX. Made me wonder, is the food that much better, or were the folks serving you. Have a great time with your Dad. Doyle

    • Good thought, DL. I think it is probably a combination of several things. Good food served by good people in a good atmosphere just seems to taste better. I will have to visit The Green Frog Cafe sometime. The name already has me curious!

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