The Search for for Happiness Eventually Pays off at Happy Noodle Bar

Happy Noodle Bar opened last month in the space formally occupied by Nan Zhou. The small spot serves Chinese small bites and soups from various regions of China including Yunan and Xi’an. Then to round it out, the Happy people threw in Korean food and… a bloomin onion (not a joke! it is the first appetizer on the menu though not available when I visited).  Our foray into Happy Noodle Dining was not a continuous happy time.  Please have some patience by reading through the sad, the bland, and the ugly before you come to the good stuff.

Dumplings are a dollar for 4, but there are some wonky, busted dumplings. No love was put in to their construction and the filling was unremarkable.

Then we were brought out a floppy tortilla stuffed with some bland pork that they call Chinese pizza ($2).

A Chinese burger ($2.50) had a only bit more character courtesy of the chilies.

The raw beef roll ups that were added to a cauldron of Yunan Bridge Noodle soup ($10) were probably the most  exciting thing about soup; the broth was did not have much flavor.

We connected that peking Style Noodles with minced pork and soy bean sauce ($6)  was jajungmien, a Korean-Chinese dish I normally love.  Here, the black bean sauce came on the side, there wasn’t naerly enough of it and the bit of it we got to surround our noodles lacked  potency.

Ok, I promise, it gets better now.

I was most excited to see Xi’an liang pi on the menu, under appetizers. This is the one of the star dishes of Xi’an Famous Foods in New York City, and happens to my one of my favorite Chinese noodle dishes of all times. Rice noodles and pieces of wheat gluten are bathed in chili oil and vinegar and topped with cilantro and mung beans. The unique combination of flavors and textures is a beautiful thing. This is the first time I have seen the dish outside the Xi’an Famous Foods locations, where the noodles are made fresh all day.   Happy Noodle House’s rice noodles lacked the fresh, slipperiness that Xi’an Famous Foods delivers, however it was a version I enjoyed and would go back for.

Our other success was the Chairman Mao braised streaky pork over rice ($5.60). This dish was more about good cooking technique rather than bold flavors. Bright bok choi and soft mushrooms slices join several hearty pieces of braised pork belly (unfortunately covered up by the fungi in the above picture). Happy Noodle Bar did the Chairman justice; the pork was clearly cooked for hours as made apparent by the melted “streaky” layer of pork fat on each piece. Every ramen bar in this city should take note, this is what your charsu should look like.

For this round at Happy Noodle Bar, there was more bad then good, but the good was really good. Therefore, I suggest learning from my test of the menu- especially by ordering the liang pi if you have never tried it. Then, report back and let us all know if there are other hits and misses.

THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • Liang Pi!
  • Perfect pork belly

THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • More duds than successes; sad dumplings, bland soup
  • Can be out of many dishes

Happy Noodle Bar , 927 Race St (@ 9th St), 215-625-0133



  • Saddest description ever: wonky dumplings

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    Agreed, EarlE, but don’t forget “busted”!
    On the other hand, that Chairman Mao dish looks so pretty with the bright green…

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    I was just there Monday myself. I got the Pork Rib Noodle with House Special Soup. The ribs were quite tasty but it was impossible to help the broth. Not only was it bland, but either my request for no cilantro went ignored or it should have been mentioned that finely chopped cilantro is already part of the broth. There was literally NO other taste than cilantro, it was so bland. Anyone want a frequent-diner punchcard?

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