Happy Gillis is an adorable, family-owned cafe in Kansas City, MO. It serves tasty biscuits and gravy, giant chocolate chip cookies, and draws dozens of urban regulars to breakfast and lunch each week.
Serving love and great food sourced from local farms nearby is part of their seven-year secret to success.
It took Abbey-Jo and Josh Eans seven years to get Happy Gillis Café in the green and then 2020 tried to take it all away. Luckily, Happy Gillis remains open and happy.
All You Need is Love
Abbey-Jo and Josh Eans got married. Then they graduated from the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. They moved back to Kansas City and started some restaurants, including Blanc Burgers & Bottles. In 2013, they purchased Happy Gillis Café and Hangout. Then the pandemic hit.
When the March 2020 quarantine was announced in Kansas City, the Eans announced across-the-board layoffs for both their café and ramen shop.
“It was hard to look people in the face who we spent every day with and tell them that we couldn’t afford to pay them,” says Abbey-Jo. “It was devastating.”
After the layoffs, she found going into the café every day and hoping a customer would show up too depressing. For their own happiness, Abbey-Jo and her husband completely closed their restaurants until fall 2020.
“We had worked very hard for seven years to get our restaurant where it was financially,” said Abbey-Jo. “Not all restaurants have that opportunity [to completely shut down] because they are months behind on their invoices.”
Abbey-Jo said in hindsight it was really smart of them to make sure not to carry a lot of debt in. case something unexpected happened.
Happy Gillis Delivers
Because of Happy Gillis’ cult following and loyal customer base, Abbey-Jo quickly realized that people still wanted to be comforted and fed.
“I had always been amazed how far people would drive to come to Columbus Park to eat our bacon and eggs,” said Abbey-Jo, Happy Gillis Cafe Chef.
Many people, including myself, would drive a great distance for a meal at Happy Gillis because all the ingredients they use are from local farms. Eating at Happy Gillis has the same effect as in the movie Mystic Pizza: The food is magic in your mouth. Their biscuits and gravy? Perfection.
To keep its customers fed, Happy Gillis started advertising meal kits online for two-to-four people. They changed the menu weekly and make deliveries from Noon to 4 p.m. each Friday. Thus far, Abby-Jo hasn’t limited the delivery area and has driven as far as Grain Valley, Mo. and Olathe, KS. Meal kits cost between $10 and $55 depending on the number of people served.
Customers are encouraged to return their containers so they can be sterilized and reused.
“I once received a tip for $250, which I quickly called to provide a credit to the customers thinking she’d was trying to leave us $25.” said Abby-Jo. “The customer said she tipped $250 to ensure Happy Gillis stayed open so she could get her favorite breakfast sandwich forever.”
If you would like to taste Happy Gillis Cafe magic, visit the café located at 549 Gillis, Kansas City, MO 64106 on Saturdays or Sundays. You can also order a meal kit online by going to happygillis.com.
Tip big and stay happy.
Featured on National TV
Happy Gillis caught the attention of Food Network and Diner, Drive-Ins and Dives. Here’s what Food Network had to say:
“Not your typical run-of-the-mill soup and sandwich shop, Happy Gillis Cafe is owned by a husband and wife duo known for flank steak sandwiches marinated in cola and wine.”
Food Network’s Guy Fieri added, “It’s so outside the box. You can taste how much they love food here.”
Special Dishes: Flank Steak Sandwich Marinated in Red Wine and Cola, Posole Verde