The Happy Rooster has been a Philadelphia mainstay since 1968. A tradition of irresistible food and an atmosphere of old-school refinement mixed with quirky charm make it a favorite spot among locals and visitors to the city. The restaurant is now owned by the Jordans who recently opened Lou Bird’s, but in 1968 it was originally owned by Doc Ulitsky. He was very into French culture, that’s where the roosters came from, it’s a French symbol of good luck for restaurants. His wife Madeline was French-Lebanese.
With the exception of a whimsical rooster-themed stained glass window, the exterior of this corner bar is unassuming. Once inside, quiet music and low lights create a relaxing atmosphere.The front room is small and intimate. The bar’s history as an old boys’ club is apparent in the dark rosewood furnishings, antique brass lamps, and worn leather booths.
The ceiling is lined with wooden wine racks, and strands of delicate white lights create an ethereal glow. The walls are pinned with old pictures and souvenir menus collected by the former owners in their travels. The most notable design feature, however, is the impressive wall-to-wall collection of roosters (the decorative sort). Perched throughout in every size and medium, roosters definitely rule this roost.
We love the outside bistro seating, its ideal for people watching on the 16th and Sansom corner. The Happy Rooster has a seasonal menu created by Chef Lor Kats, using locally grown produce and the freshest ingredients from Philadelphia’s finest purveyors.
Whether dining at the bar or a table, you won’t want to miss some of the awesome items on the bar menu, available for $1 off during happy hour Monday-Friday 5-7pm. Two of the crowd favorites are the Tempura Fried Broccoli or Fried Calamari with Thai chili sauce. Both are lightly battered and fried to a perfectly crispy outside. The calamari are served with a sweet and spicy sauce that totally beats your typical marinara.
For the upcoming winter months the Smoked Gouda Mac N’ Cheese with tomato, bacon, mushroom, and/or lobster is also very tempting. We loved the Ropa Vieja Fries with braised flank steak and aioli. These fries were loaded up, but not too heavy with a drizzle of aioli. And they’ve got Chicken Wings, either Nashville hot or ginger hoisin BBQ sauced. If you’re looking for something lighter they also serve Flatbreads with tomato and cheese, fig bacon and bleu, mushroom garlic, or arugula and labneh.
The Happy Rooster draws a big lunch crowd and its not hard to see why. The Rooster Burger is perfection with onion jam, muenster cheese, and loads of sliced sweet pickles (homemade). We added bacon and a fried egg because, why not? Don’t say goodbye to summer- try the Maine Lobster Roll made with an entire lobster poached and packed into a toasted buttery split top bun with fries.
The dinner menu here is also impressive. Luckily you can still get the Rooster Burger or Maine Lobster Roll and they have Crispy Skin Salmon, Crispy Duck Leg, or Veal Parmesan.
We couldn’t believe the delicious creative desserts either. The Sweet Corn Custard with burnt meringue and berry marmalade with streusel was savory and amazing. The flavors like nothing I’ve had in any other dessert. The Lemon Cheesecake with peach ice cream and marmalade with streusel was also a treat.
The Happy Rooster is even serving up a great brunch selection. Reservations are appreciated. This back room is even offered at no charge for private parties of a 20 person minimum. Stop by for happy hour drink specials, as well as $1 off all bar menu items. You can grab $3.50 Miller Lite and Yuengling Lager, or sip on a $7 Chardonnay.
And you don’t want to miss Thursday nights at The Happy Rooster back room. This place gets packed every week with crowds flocking in for the karaoke. If you don’t believe me, you’ll just have to go and see for yourself- its a whole lot of fun.