Fast Food

Happy Hamburgers leaves customers feeling the same | Food And Drinks

Tucked away in a shopping center on the southeast corner of Shea Boulevard and Scottsdale Road, the Happy Hamburger restaurant is leaving customers with a state of satisfaction that mirrors its name.

Dave Vaughan bought it over three years ago from a man whose health issues had forced him to sell just nine months after he bought it.

In the beginning, Vaughan had to do it all.

“When we first opened, I was on the grill all the time,” he said.

Today, Vaughan is able to step away from the grill most of the time, though he still does some of the cooking.

But he’s also cooking another way that takes him from the kitchen for stops around the Valley.

Vaughan plays bass in a cover band called Chapman Brothers.

“I’m a recording artist,” Vaughan said. “The band on Sony records was a rock band – modern rock, not old rock.”

But his main focus is on the restaurant.

“We’ve taken some elements of the diner and put it into a smaller place,” he said.

“We can seat about 40 people in the dining room so we have a diner feel inside. We have black and white checkered floors and we have 50s music playing. We do have a jukebox in the corner that is kind of there for show.”

The restaurant serves big half-pound burgers and Vaughan prides himself on the signature burgers that come in doubles and triples.

The most popular menu item is the double cheeseburger, though he also touts his sliders.

The burgers “are not as big as they sound,” he said. “They’re thin patties. The double is equal to about a quarter pounder and the triple is equal to about a half pounder.

“They’re thick patties we roll into meatballs and we slice onions really thin. We don’t dice them but slice them. We throw those down on the grill and smash the meat into the onions. We cook it and put cheese on each one or we do hamburgers with no cheese.

“We stack them and then we steam the bun. It’s really flavorful. If you don’t like onions, we can do it without the onions. That’s our main thing.”

He said most customers order the way the burgers are featured on the menu: meat, cheese and onion grilled into the meat. No lettuce.

“We don’t put lettuce or tomato on the signature burgers…They come with shredded lettuce and pickles on the side.”

Customers also can choose homemade sauces such as chipotle, jalapeño kicker, ranch, Caesar, green chili aioli, Thousand Island and honey Dijon.

“I make my own marinara sauce because I’m originally from New York so I’m Italian,” Vaughan added. “I make a marinara sauce I use on a pizza burger which is really unique Arizona.

“Then I have chicken parmesan sliders. We added pizza sliders to the menu and obviously, we have regular sliders like cheeseburger and hamburger sliders…and we have a veggie burger with avocado on it.”

Toppings include double jalapeños, mushrooms, green chiles, bacon and eggs.

“We have all kinds of toppings,” Vaughan said. “That’s one thing that makes us different from the franchises…It’s a little different because not everyone has those toppings.”

House and Caesar salads are also on the menu, along with a couple of chicken sandwiches.

He even offers a breakfast burger topped with hash browns and a fried egg. And his frosty shakes include a wide variety of unique flavors, including peanut butter, Oreo and others.

He offers catering service and can feed a party with his “Happy Bundles” – 10 or 20 double cheeseburgers with three or six pounds of French fries for $119 and $215, respectively.

Despite nearby competition that includes franchise burger restaurants, Vaughan has survived despite not doing any marketing in the last three years.

“The secret to success is consistency, putting out good food and word of mouth,” explained Vaughan.

“In Google and Yelp reviews, we have 5-stars. We’ve done very well. Even though you can’t see us from the street, we still seem to do good. We survived COVID because I bought it right before COVID. We sustained ourselves through take-out orders.”

Vaughan, who is hoping to open two more locations but is unsure what part of the Valley or state, offers breakfast, lunch and dinner and is open 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday.

Information:, 10435 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480-630-2330.

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