NORTHFIELD – The Happ Inn Bar & Grill in Northfield is the perfect option for families who are celebrating Passover this year but want to leave the cooking to someone else.
The restaurant is a local favorite on the North Shore, especially for its private rooms that accommodate larger groups. “We have more parties with fourth generations than I can count,” TJ Bachmeyer, General Manager told DailyNorthShore.
The Happ Inn certainly makes it easy for people who just want to enjoy the holiday. “Everything but the seder plate,” Bachmeyer likes to say about The Happ’s Passover meal. The meal is available April 10 through April 12 and can be ordered family-style or a la carte in the restaurant, or for take-out as well. “We do the cooking, you take the credit,” Bachmeyer said.
And while some may suspect someone’s bubbe is in the kitchen cooking this delicious comfort food, the special Passover dinner is freshly-made on site by Executive Chef Freddy Sanchez, just like The Happ’s regular menu. Over the years Sanchez has perfected the art of cooking a Passover meal. “I’d never focused on Passover food until I came to The Happ,” Sanchez said.
Take the matzo ball soup. A steaming freshly-made chicken broth is poured from a small pitcher into a bowl where a large perfectly formed matzo ball sits. Sanchez makes fresh matzo balls daily, a technique he compares to making tamales. According to Sanchez, like tamales, matzo balls need to have enough fat to get just the right texture. “My technique has gotten really good,” Sanchez said.
In addition to matzo ball soup, the Passover menu includes an assortment of traditional favorites. A plate of homemade chopped liver is served with matzo and all the fixings. The spread is made with chicken liver, onion, garlic, a touch of brandy and hard boiled eggs. The liver is creamy and light, offset perfectly by the toppings.
Two Happ Inn favorites are the braised beef brisket and wood oven roasted chicken. Both can be served with horseradish mashed potatoes and glazed carrots. Sanchez said he slow roasts the brisket for about eight hours, after lightly seasoning the meat with a house made blackening season. The end result is a tender cut of meat that simply melts in your mouth it’s that good. The roasted chicken is a beautiful golden color — the result of the wood-burning oven — and served in its juices. Moist and tender, it’s clear why this dish is a customer favorite.
And what would be a Passover meal be with latkes? The potato pancakes are served with sour cream and apple sauce and are perfectly cooked — crispy on the outside, soft in the center. But if that isn’t enough, diners can choose from a decadent flourless chocolate cake drizzled with raspberry sauce, or matzo dipped in chocolate to finish off the meal. The cake is made by the restaurant’s own pastry chef.
Happ Inn owners Debbie and Carlos Nieto applied 30 years of restaurant know-how to the Passover meal. When they opened The Happ Inn nearly eight years ago, initially they were intimidated by the size of the restaurant. But relying on their own experience in the industry — the Nieto’s also own Nieto’s Restaurant and Cafe Central in Highland Park, as well as Carlos’ Restaurant of Ravinia — they’ve created a local favorite that they’ve expanded over time. A few years ago the Nieto’s opened two private dining spaces adjacent to The Happ Inn, for parties ranging from 25 to 80 people.
Situated just off the highway in Northfield, the The Happ Inn is in the perfect meeting spot for North Shore residents and city folks. As Bachmeyer likes to say, “where Chicago and the North Shore meet.”
For more information about The Happ Inn and for reservations go to www.happinn.com.
Braised beef brisket.