THE EATBEAT: Happy Joe's stays up and running during renovation
On a Saturday afternoon, you find a mixture of people at Happy Joe's Pizza and Ice Cream parlor on South Washington Street. Some children are there for birthday parties. Some couples are there sharing a pizza. If you get there before 1:30 p.m., y...
On a Saturday afternoon, you find a mixture of people at Happy Joe's Pizza and Ice Cream parlor on South Washington Street. Some children are there for birthday parties. Some couples are there sharing a pizza. If you get there before 1:30 p.m., you can enjoy buffet that includes pizza, soups, salads and hot dishes as well as a beverage for $8.75.
I went there on a recent Saturday because the UND football team was out of town. As I drove up, I was amazed to find the place under reconstruction. Still, there were signs of business as usual.
It was 1:30 p.m., the cutoff for the buffet. I was in the knick of time. So, I found three slices of pizza -- well, they are slender. Then, I skipped the soup and selected my favorites from a rather typical buffet. I added a helping of green bean casserole. And I couldn't resist the fries, which are especially crunchy and crisp. I filled a glass with Diet Sprite, since the beverage is included. And I found a booth where I could take in the sights and sounds of this popular eating place.
There were children carrying bags from birthday parties in the party room. There was a family nearby with children asking for money for the game room. I noticed the train that circles the whole place from a shelf near the ceiling was still there.
All of this will be the same, but there is a wholesale refurbishing in progress. The restaurant first opened in June 1976. Todd Halverson, the owner, said it will take a couple of months before there will be business as usual. He had wanted to launch into refurbishing for the past several years. He is optimistic about his business, giving up his work as a teacher and coach in 1992. He said the local Happy Joe's is usually top producer in its group.
Happy Joe's lays claim to being the creator of taco pizza. There is also a Reuben pizza that sells well. And recently, Happy Joe's has added a gluten-free pizza for the growing number of customers who do not tolerate the regular crusts.
Work on the pizzas is done by a crew of 40 full- and part-time employees who wear red and black uniforms.
Many families prefer the Wednesday night buffet, which is served for $8.75 from 5 to 8 p.m. and the lunch specials from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. There are lunch specials on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., when customers also get a soft drink included for $4.69. And there's a family special all day Monday and Tuesday, when customers can get a large pizza with four medium soft drinks for $18.99.
It's the food, the games and an ice cream bar that attract people. In the refurbishing, Happy Joe's will take on a new look while selling the traditional foods that have made it a favorite for many. As it is, Happy Joe's is a well-worn establishment. Still, the premises were generally well-kept when I visited the restaurant, and the women's restroom was clean though in need of updating.
Reach Hagerty at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (701) 772-1055.