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A Kooky Night at Betty's Wok and Noodle

We went to Betty's Wok and Noodle Diner on Huntington Street last night. When we got there, it was packed with people having dinner before going to the theatre.

We got a table and ordered the veggie dumplings, a stir-fry chicken chow foon dish with Cuban chipotle citrus sauce, and chicken with Shanghai wheat noodles in a broth with cabbage and kung pao sauce.

The food was good, but it was the rest of the place that was so intriguing. When the theatre-goers were there, the music was mostly Sinatra, Sammy Davis, and some early lounge and jazz music. The minute everyone left for their show, however, Outkast and Black Eyed Peas kicked in, cranking through the place, while the person who must have been the owner or general manager was bopping all over the place like he was in some wild dance club.

My S.O. is a big fan of both groups, so she was doing some headshaking herself while I tried hard to look hip as I continued to eat my noodles (I love Outkast, but I have such little rhythm that I can't even tap my foot without looking like a complete idiot). The GM/owner noticed her bopping to the music, paused for a second, and disappeared for a bit. He showed up a minute later with a couple of sangrias on the house(!), then talked music with us for a few minutes.

I'm not willing to say the food was the best I've had, though it was very good, but I love offbeat restaurants, and the combination of the wacky vibe and the gregarious folks there (our waiter was a truly nice guy who took time to talk to us, too) made for a memorable evening. I'll definitely be back at some point.

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  1. Funny, I was just walking by here the other night on my way to the BU Theater, and remarked how we hadn't been by in years, not since a couple of visits the year it opened. I remember it having cool retro decor, friendly staff, and good-but-not-great food. It's nice to hear it's still bopping along.

    1. I always enjoy myself there. Your post reminds me that I should go back very soon.

      1. Thanks for sharing this! In the past we regularly combined Betty's with family trips to the theater, and to the Symphony. I agree the food is good but not as special as it could be with a little tweaking. Nevertheless we've always had a great time, and will return. The delicious onion rings set the stage for this being a fun night out.

        1. I'm kind of suprised to read CHers describing the food at Betty's as good to very good. I went there once and found it to be pretty bad and overpriced (and I wasn't even paying). It sort of reminded of a slightly better version of how everyone here describes Fire and Ice. I don't recall what music was playing (this was during lunch time, so I'm sure it wasn't blaring... plus I was fairly involved in a conversation to notice). I can be certain that it wasn't Black Eyed Peas or I might've jabbed my chopsticks in my ears.

          4 Replies
          1. re: po_boy

            I think context is key to my input here. Judging by the crowds, I and others to go to Betty's before local performances at Symphony and Jordan Hall, and the Huntington Theater. I search regularly for other walk-to options, have tried several, and fervently wish there were more. I would not personally describe Betty's as a destination restaurant though I was very interested to find out what happens after the theater-goers leave! It does have more of a fun vibe at night than at lunch, and satisfies the family as a whole as part of a larger experience. Agree that more nuanced food could and should rise to the occasion!

            1. re: chowfamily

              Gotcha. If you can catch them while they're open (I think they close fairly early but I'm not sure as I only work in the area), you might want to give Boston Shawarma a try. They don't offer much for atmosphere but I think the food is one of the better options in the area.

            2. re: po_boy

              I wanted to do that too when the Black Eyed Peas came on, but I don't know how to use chopsticks. ;-b

              It's definitely better than Fire and Ice (IMO), plus you don't have that cold, corporate feel that you get at Fire and Ice. Again, not the best food out there, but I give them bonus points for being a fun, quirky place.

            3. We had a perfectly ghastly experience at Betty's about 18 months ago. We (and many other patrons) had tickets for a concert at Symphony Hall. We had a reservation but had to wait about 20 minutes for our table. We ordered quickly. Then sat and waited, and waited, and waited.... The tables on both sides were in the same position. An elderly couple next to us took out some fruit from a Whole Foods bag and started eating. By now it was 7:30pm and we had been there over an hour. The waitress arrived and told the fruit-eating couple that the kitchen had LOST their order and they had to start again.

              Our food finally arrived as we were gathering our things to leave. We had both ordered noodles. Mine was sloppy but mostly edible. DH's had vegetables which were not just raw, they were still ice cold. We just paid our bill and left. We still shudder in horror when Betty's comes up in conversation.

              1. The food, to my taste, is okay at best. If you select the right combination and relax and have fun with friends, the experience is fine. But it isn't great dining.

                1. Went once and will never return. IMO, if you're paying $13-$16 for noodles, they should be handmade fresh on the premise. Also, didn't really get the whole Asian Latino vibe. It just seemed like typical American Chinese to me at an outrageous price.

                  I wish something decent would come to the Symphony area. It has been a real food wasteland for a long, long time.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Chrispy75

                    I wasn't all that impressed either. For some reason, it seems to be the favorite "out to lunch" spot with the people I work with. Ugh. And they rave about how great it is.

                    They do have interesting items, and it's not horrible, I just don't have the same enthusiasm as the co-workers.

                    1. re: Chrispy75

                      Too bad. My husband and I have had many romantic evenings there.
                      A little about Asian-Latino:
                      The origins of Cuban-Chinese cuisine goes back to the late 1800s, when Chinese men arrived in Latin America thanks to the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1847.
                      Many settled in Cuba as well, and by 1940 the Chinese population was well over 30,000 in Havana alone. In Cuba, Chinese immigrants found a wealth of new ingredients to which they applied Asian cooking techniques, such as stir-fry, thus creating Cuban-Chinese cuisine.
                      The communist revolution led by Fidel Castro in 1959 forced many Cubans of Chinese descent to move to Miami and New York.

                    2. Well, maybe I'll try it again, for a pre-Huntington dinner. I've only been once, but it was so blah I had no plans to go back.