30 November, 2015
Bakesale BettyPosted in : Dining in Oakland, CA, Restaurants on by : The Gourmez
Ah, it feels good to write a restaurant review! I’ve been so focused on wine following the annual Wine Bloggers Conference that dining and dishing has been low on the blog priority pole. So I’m happy to be back with my thoughts on an Oakland foodie landmark: Bakesale Betty.
I expected to blog about this Temescal hotspot a year and a half ago, when Friend #1 introduced me to it. Being new to the area, I knew vaguely of a corner store that served only fried chicken sandwiches, only had a menu written on butcher paper, and was only open for a few hours, only five days a week. I admit it, all those onlys are catnip to a food blogger. So when Friend #1, a former local, came back to town for a visit, I requested she show me the way. Alas, when I went to take my first picture I realized I left my SD card out of the camera. So I was forced to savor my first sandwich without photographic evidence. Blurry Instagram photos don’t count.
I enjoyed it enough that day to take my sister to try it last summer. Again, photography was not in the cards. So when Friends #2 and #3 came out from North Carolina to visit last month, I jumped at the option for a third strike.
As everyone should, Friends #2 and #3 loved Bakesale Betty’s colorful ironing board tables on the sidewalk. My only complaint is that there are too few of them for Bakesale Betty’s lunchtime crowds, but as it’s intended to be a grab-and-go joint, I can only complain so much. And it’s hard to with a gigantic sandwich shoved in your mouth.
I’m not joking when I say gigantic; it feels quite hefty when you pick up the box! Also worth noting is that Bakesale Betty’s owner and chef is Australian, so her take on a fried chicken sandwich isn’t quite the same as you’d find in the South. The cute round of bread, from Acme, holds up to all the food piled on top but isn’t especially memorable. It’s the copious cayenne and black pepper in the thick, buttermilk, faultlessly fried batter that sets this sandwich apart. Oh, you’d like to see it?
For my sister, the heat in that coating was a bit too much, but she can’t handle bell peppers. For the rest of my friends, it’s been a tastebud-racing pleasure. Regardless of your spice preferences, the batter does an admirable job keeping the chicken breast moist—dry meat is the bane of many fried chicken sandwiches.
If you’re a regular of Betty’s, you may be wondering why I’ve dubbed the batter the most remarkable factor when the very unique jalapeno coleslaw forms a notable third of the sandwich. While I enjoy that slaw, especially the thin rings of jalapeno and red onion, it actually doesn’t add much flavor. And I’m surprised every time I bite in and remember it doesn’t have a creamy dressing but one of olive oil and champagne vinegar. That’s probably the healthier choice, but I can’t help but feel a creamier slaw would launch this sandwich into the stratosphere, mostly because it would address the sandwich’s only flaw: being too dry. I don’t mean the meat but the sum of its parts.
To address that, spice lovers can ask for a Texas Pete hot sauce packet at the register—that’s the red sauce you see on my chicken. It helps, though it’s not the perfect solution; the sandwich is already spicy enough. And I love it regardless of my wish for a little mayo in its life.
For dessert, Bakesale Betty has a rotating list of cookies, scones, and usually, strawberry shortcake. I have no memory of the copious amounts of cookies I got on that first visit with Friend #1, who knows one of the workers, but I thought I remembered the shortcake well enough to tell Friends #2 and #3 that it was good, but not a must-have like the sandwich. Well, now that I’ve dove into my Instagram archive to find a picture, I think I was wrong!
Despite being a food writer, I do not believe I’m prone to hyperbole. As you can see, I called the shortcake divine, and thus I mistrust the recollection I shared with my compatriots. Clearly, this requires further investigation. As I live a 10-minute walk away, that won’t be a problem. And the fact that I haven’t tried the buttermilk-fried tofu yet is practically a call to action.
5098 Telegraph Avenue
Reviewed 2 October 2015.