Getting to know Happy Boy Cafe in Observatory

by Courtney O'Brien • 5 MIN • 1102 Words

Getting to know Happy Boy Cafe in Observatory
The following interview happened rather unexpectedly, after casually enjoying a green juice at Happy Boy Cafe. Le Riche, the restaurant owner, came in and immediately attended to me as a customer, ensuring I would have a great experience by offering to let me use his mobile hotspot as the wifi was down and I was trying to get some work done. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it opened the opportunity for us to have a great conversation about the origin of Happy Boy and what it brings to Observatory.

We started off chatting a bit about who we are, myself being a realtor, and then I jumped into some questions to get to know the full story. This is what I learned.

What was the inspiration for the name Happy Boy?
Nostalgia was the main driving point on this one.
Le Riche explained by saying, “Kind of like with our music, our food, our drinks. You can see a play on words with some of the things on our menu. As we started out we went with a very simple menu and now that we’ve found our feet we are extending it a bit. We’d like to play more on the nostalgia of people’s palates and memories. And also a throwback for people, with a couple of things that people haven’t seen, tasted or heard of in a while. So that’s what we’re going for.”

When did you guys move into the area?
“We took occupancy in April 2022 and built it out for about 6 weeks, so we started with more or less a shell. So we’ve been going since about mid-May.”

How are you finding it being an establishment in this unique community?
“It’s been cool. I know this area pretty well. I’ve cut my teeth here before, I’ve had businesses here long ago, over a decade ago. Historically through Obs, I’m sure it must reflect in rentals and property purchase as well, but the hospitality tends to go through these waves. It goes through dips, and then it will be strong for a while, then dip again. Obviously after covid the area has taken a dip but I do think there is a resurgence bound to happen in the next few months.”
He went on to say, “There has also been a really big interest in terms of foreign students in the area and a lot of property owners have purchased specifically to accommodate exchange students or short term rentals for people coming into the neighbourhood. This has always been fun because you meet people from all over and it flips every 6 months. I’ve travelled a bit, and I know that people who travel here fall in love with not only Obs but Cape Town in general. They might come for a month or 2, but end up extending their stay or returning soon after they have left. I think it’s got a way of settling in people’s hearts and growing on them. I’ve always thought Obs is a cool area and I’m excited to see it re- form that sense of community I know it has."

This was a point I couldn’t agree with more - no matter where I’ve found myself occupying, I’m always drawn back to Obs. This flowed perfectly into my next question.

What do you think it is about Obs that keeps people always coming back for more or never really wanting to leave?
“Like I said, I think it’s the nostalgia thing. Where somebody has thrown their name away in the streets sometime in their life. Or for example Panchos down the street is 27 years old, I know a lot of people who have had their first dates there - it’s a great first date thing, frozen margaritas and mexican food. So I know people who went there on their first date and now they’re married. Or many years ago people who used to party here in their younger days or were studying up the road. People always come back because they get treated well here. It’s one of those things where you greet people off the street and you don’t find that anywhere in the same way as Obs. I also feel like there is an environment here where people are able to be themselves, and also figure themselves out. There isn’t much pretentiousness here.”

What are you hoping to bring to the community?
“Well, this road (Lower Main Road) predominantly already has Asian food, burgers and pizza. And these are very popular street foods, you can never go wrong with them. But what we’re trying to do more of a South African meets European cafe style, and a Brasserie kind of cuisine almost. We don’t want to tie ourselves down to one specific cuisine or stereotype. I feel that with food there are definitely trends so I don’t want to subscribe to just one style as I think it becomes boring for myself and boring for the consumer as well.
He continued by saying, “We started out simple but are slowly expanding. Some of this includes “stoner” and “hangover food” like sandwiches, breakfasts and dinners. So that’s what we’re going with, but just elevate it a bit. Some things that are “ugly-delicious” and moreish.”

Le Riche went on to share a bit more about his drive for starting up Happy Boy and how it truly is rooted in passion.

“I’m not doing this to become rich, but rather because I really love it and I’m passionate about it. I want people to be able to come in here and have a drink, have a meal and if I can blow them away - great. If they can also just feel like “Geez, that was great value for money”, and “it’s hard to find that kind of experience.” Hopefully we can elevate the street through that. People tend to not just come to one place in Observatory, you’ll come to Panchos, have a drink at Stones, have one at Armchair or come here and have a good time. So there’s a lot of cross pollination with foot traffic on the road. So it’s very important that what we are doing here is positive for the rest of the street as well.”

I thoroughly enjoyed sitting down with Le Riche and found our interview to be very refreshing and insightful. I fully agree that Obs just has a way of entrancing people, and I’m personally a Happy Gal to be under its spell.

Interview done by Courtney O’Brien and Le Riche, owner of Happy Boy Cafe

interviewhappy boy cafe observatory
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