The Happy Diner: Not Your Average Diner

  • 03/07/2013
  • Terelle Jerricks

By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

The Happy Diner isn’t your average diner. Unlike Burger King, when they say, “have it your way,” they really mean it. And if enough people like a particular dish, “your way,” then that dish will be named after you. That’s why there’s a chicken and vegetable soup named for Congresswoman Janice Hahn when she’s home from Washington D.C. That is also why there’s Port Police Burger which is a double paddy, fresh jalapeño burger with a habeñero pepper sauce infused mayonnaise.

“Everything is made with a sense of making it right and serving it with love and passion in what you do. That is probably the difference between Happy Diner and the average diner., Roman Carrillo, proprietor of Happy Diner said.”
If you pay attention to their special me menu on their blackboards (yeah plural, they have about three through the length of the diner), it’s almost a certainty you’re going to find something new from week to week. On the week of Feb. 19, they rolled out their Pastrami burger that came on a medium sized hamburger patty with grilled onions and thousand island dressing.

The cuisine runs the gamut of Italian and Mexican cuisine to American continental. The Happy Diner chefs are always creating something new, but rarely do they advertise the fact that they have it. They believe that if an item is good, its reputation will get around by word of mouth. You can even find items normally found at curbside lonchera trucks.

You can take your pick of grilled salmon over pasta or tilapia and vegetables, prepared anyway you like. Another item that’s emerged from their flair for the creative is their chicken enchiladas soup made from scratch, a soup Roman describes as very thin and flavorful.

The primary chefs are brothers José and Omar Carrillo. A third, younger brother Roman Carrillo is co-owner along with José, and is the guy who manages it all. All of them have paid their dues in restaurants throughout the Harbor Area. Among the dozens of places at which Omar cut his chops include the Hobby Nobby Coffee shop located next door to today’s San Pedro’s Cafe on Pacific Avenue, the Golden Goose and the Omelette and Waffle Shop.

Omar made the most of his time at the Omelette and Waffle shop, learning and improving upon their omelet recipes, which at last count was up to about 110 varieties, but its very possible they could have added a few more.

Omar doesn’t follow many celebrity chefs but he has learned from some of the best that’s passed through the Harbor Area such as the old Copper Room’s Chef Lawrence who consistently whipped up incredible fusion cuisine combining Asian and Croatian influences.

Roman is only 30 years of age. The restaurant experience of the three brothers combined totals 56 years.

The Happy Diner is a family affair with most members of Roman’s immediate family involved as well as parents, nephews and cousins. When a customer comes in he wants them to feel like they’re a part of the family too.

“I don’t want there to be a wall between you and I, if you feel uncomfortable I want you to tell me about what’s bothering you,” Roman said.

It’s not surprising that Roman feels that way. On the left facing wall upon enter the diner are the house rules: Hug often; Be nice & play fair; Help each other; Use your manners; Do your best; Forgive quickly; Use kind words; Try new things; Laugh every day; Respect others; Be yourself; and Never give up.

It’s looks like the house rules is a good description of a happy diner.

Details: (310) 241-0917
Venue: Happy Diner
Location: 617 S Centre St  San Pedro

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