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Betty's Burgers - Santa Cruz

I finally tried Betty's Burgers yesterday. I liked it. Since it was my first time, I just ordered the basic burger and a small order of fries.

The burger came with the standard pickle, lettuce, tomato, and onion. They also slather on their "Secret Lube," which is basically just a 1,000 Island-like dressing. The meat was well done and not too juicy. But, it it had good flavor. They claim to use a special blend of seasonings in their meat. The bun was really good.

I loved the fries. Shoestrings in a tempura-like batter. These just might be my new favorite.

Betty's has several types of burgers, hot dogs, chili, sweet potato fries, and salads. They also sell Marianne's ice cream. You can get a shake, malt, cone, float, or whatever.

I live in Aptos and doubt I'd make a special trip just for Betty's. But, I'll be sure to stop in again when I'm in the neighborhood.

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  1. Thanks for the report, Matt. I do live in the neighborhood but haven't been yet. Looks like they've expanded their hours to evenings, at least on the weekends when I've gone on evening walks. I've heard mixed things and wanted to let them get settled before trying it. The weekend crowds make the line snake out the door, so I'll just wait until a weekday when things are more mellow.

    Do you know if they buy their buns from somewhere or if they make their own?

    1 Reply
    1. I stopped into Betty's again and ordered their hot dog. It was a nice 8 inch all-beef frank. But, hard-core hot dog fans beware: it's a skinless dog. There's no snap whatsoever. I wanted pickle relish on my dog and they pointed me to their supply of those little plastic relish packets. Bummer.

      I had issues with the bun. It was similar to their hamburger bun, but a bit too dry. Also, it was just too large. Their slender dog was overwhelmed by the big fluffy bun. And the worst: when I picked it up, I found that the underside of the bun was split open, allowing the dog to fall through. That's just bad hot dog construction. I'm glad I didn't order the chili dog. That would have been a real mess. I'll stick with Betty's burger for now on.

      I ordered the fries too. I'm sad to report that they were not as good this time. They were the same, but just more "well-done." The extra frying seems to have knocked out the taste and texture I had so enjoyed last time. I don't think I'll bother with their fries again.

      Also ordered a chocolate malt. Now, as a milkshake it was fine. But, I ordered a MALT. If they really did put malt powder in it, it wasn't enough for me to actually taste it. I was expecting more for my $3.75.

      Betty's has a good burger. But, my second time there made them feel like so many other restaurants in Santa Cruz: sort of clueless and half-hearted. And really lacking the attention to detail that makes one look forward to a return visit.

      1. Ok, we finally gave Betty Burgers a whirl this evening. Their menu board says they open till 10pm, but I'm not sure if this is consistent right now since they're still hiring and getting their legs. We went around 6pm and it was pretty crowded, but not overwhelming like I've seen on weekends when walking by.

        We had the Point Burger (bacon, mushrooms, blue cheese, green onion sauce for $6.95), Basic Betty w/ bacon and cheddar added on ($4.75 plus $1.25 bacon and $.75 cheddar), large order of fries ($2.49), and medium fountain drink ($1.39). I came w/ tempered expectations yet still left decidedly disappointed. The concept is good (I like focused menus and perfecting one specialty), but an excellent burger takes skill to construct and just can't be slapped together.

        My beef w/ the food? The Aldo's bun was way too big and overwhelmed the fillings; this is a huge peeve of mine when it comes to any burger or sandwich. It was also cold in temp. and tasted doughy to me. The beef patty was large but not very flavorful or juicy. No distinctive charred flavor. Didn't taste cooked to order. The bacon was bacon but got lost in the mass of bread. I prefer thick-cut. The cheese was not really melty. The assembly appeared sloppy to me as distribution of ingredients was uneven.

        The bacon cheeseburger was dry. I guess it needed more of their "secret lube," but that would have been like a band-aid to cover up a more fundamental problem. The point burger was better in flavor and not as dry but still not hitting on all cylinders. I can be pretty forgiving if the fries are great, but unfortunately, I didn't like their fries either. They were fried too hard (as Matt notes above) and a bit greasy. They are too pencil-thin and short for my taste (if they are thin, they should be long IMO), and I don't like the starch coating they use to give it the puffiness or what Matt refers to as "tempura-like batter" They lacked potatoey flavor and needed salt.

        When I'm paying nearly $20 for a gourmet burger meal, I expect more. I prefer the burger at Jack's, Zachary's or Red. Since I live in the neighborhood and walk by often to the harbor, I may try it again when the mood strikes, but I wouldn't make a special trip for it. I feel like it's on the cusp of getting settled and finetuning its food formula or falling into the Santa Cruz "whatever dude" mentality. Service was pretty smooth though.

        I'm probably being especially critical because of my recent trip to Taylor's Refresher in St. Helena; see below for photo comparisons.

        Basic Betty w/ bacon and cheddar:

        Point Burger:

        Large fries:

        Taylor's Refresher comparison:

        7 Replies
        1. re: Carb Lover

          Thanks for the detailed review. Wow! What a surprise.

          What do you think explains the big crowds there?

          1. re: harryd

            Well, it's new and has a highly visible location which lures in tourists on weekends. It also is a place for the whole family, although it's not really a cheap family meal if it's nearly $20 for the two of us for not that much food. I'd rather get a pizza from Pizza My Heart or Engfer down the street.

            Everyone around us seemed to be happy w/ their food and a number of people had phoned in take-out orders to pick up. Fives reviews on yelp give the food positive reviews and an average of 4 out of 5 stars, so as usual, we are the weird food aliens in this town. Check it out if you're curious and let us know what you think.

            Betty Burgers
            505 Seabright Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95062

            1. re: Carb Lover

              I agree with your take on Betty Burgers.

              I had a 1/2 lb Mexican style hamburger and fries. The burger was not juicy and didn't have much flavor. The guacamole didn't do much to help. The bun was not heated or toasted. In sum, the burger was nothing special.

              The fries were better than the burger, but still nothing special, at least in my view.

              I went at lunchtime on Tues and it wasn't particularly crowded. There were no lines out the door. I guess that happens on Sat & Sun.

              1. re: harryd

                Thanks for the report back. BB is a prime example of how a seemingly simple concept can be hard to execute properly. It's actually difficult to make a fantastic burger, IMO. All the proportions and elements need to be spot on.

                I wish they had more house-designed burger combos because I'm not a fan of the basic burger plus add ons. Too many permutations that increase the margin for error.

                1. re: Carb Lover

                  I think making a fantastic burger requires someone with a passion for doing that.

                  BB isn't in that category. It's more of a run a restaurant using a formula kind of place.

                2. re: harryd

                  Ironic, since Betty's motto is "Juicy Patties, Hot Buns." I was was content with the flavor of the one burger I've had there, but it was not juicy at all. The bun was not hot, but it was very fresh and light, so I guess I lucked out on that.

            2. re: Carb Lover

              Carb Lover, Nice photos .... that looks like a lot of bread relative to the patty size!

            3. Is it factory-farmed meat, or does anyone know (or care)?

              I have heard good things, but I just can't handle the thought of cows on dirty (with guess what?) concrete.

              1 Reply
              1. re: soquelcalifornia

                They tout using all natural, hormone-free meat. I don't know any details beyond that. Let us know if you get any more sourcing details...

              2. Betty's Burgers concept was created by the same crazies that did Bleu Spoon. So if the menu looks/sounds/tastes vaguely familiar...you know why. Another review:

                2 Replies
                1. re: Pablo

                  Thanks for that link, Pablo. I read Christina's review when she first posted it, but I haven't revisited it to see the responses. Glad to see that the owner (Laurie) responded that they have changed to a different bun supplier. If they continue to be open to feedback and make changes, then perhaps it's not doomed after all. I'll return for another taste down the road and report back...

                  1. re: Pablo

                    Thanks for posting a link to Christina Waters.

                  2. Just adding an updated review to the mix.

                    Went here with SO and a friend last night -- I ordered the salad with grilled chicken breast, SO ordered the Point Grinder burger, and friend ordered the Biddy Betty (kid-sized burger).

                    The prices here were a lot more reasonable than I would have thought reading previous reviews -- Biddy Betty was $3.95, Point Grinder was $6.95, and my Betty on Top salad was $6.49. We didn't order fries, but for the record the regular size fries are $1.65, and a medium drink is $1.69. If you ordered a 1/2lb burger, fries, and a drink, your order would be around $10, which is more than other fast food joints. We just ordered the burgers and salad though.

                    I tried a tiny bite of burger, and what I noticed is that the meat seems very greasy and high in fat content. Also possibly some sort of smoke flavoring goes into the burgers before they're cooked -- the char-broiled flavor tasted a little artificial. Tasty if you like a higher fat beef burger, but this sort of thing would give me a whopping stomach ache afterwards! The Biddy Betty was the size of a regular fast food burger, while the Point Grinder was pretty darn big. SO would have liked it to have a bit more blue cheese, and he found the patty very greasy -- visibly dripping fat.

                    The salad was alright. A generous amount, to be sure, and the sliced almonds and cranberries were a nice touch. But I found a couple slimy, crumpled leaves in the middle, blech. The chicken breast was cut up into tiny chunks all over the top of the salad, which was fine, just didn't expect it. Pretty salty seasoning on the chicken -- it tastes like other fast food chicken. The tomato slices weren't all that flavorful, and considering we're in the height of tomato season around here, it's too bad.

                    The service was super-friendly and efficient -- we were here on a Sunday night around 8:30, after all the tourists had cleared out for the weekend. I don't doubt that if I'd complained about the lettuce in my salad, they'd have been happy to get me a new one. Just wasn't in a complainy mood, and it wasn't that big a deal.

                    If you like a fatty, juicy burger, you'll like the burgers here! I think a lot of people consider a 20% fat burger to be ideal, so SO are probably in the minority on that one.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: operagirl

                      Thanks for your update on BB. I haven't eaten there in a long time. I went once again after the above report and pretty much left w/ the same verdict...mediocre burgers. The sweet potato fries were ok. Interesting to hear you describe the patties as juicy and fatty since that was not my experience before. Perhaps they've changed their recipe. It's sorta impressive that they haven't changed their prices since summer '07 given the steep rise in food costs this past year. The prices are reasonable if you like their food.

                      I prefer the burgers at Jack's, Red, and even Zachary's. I still need to try the Carpo's burger one day...

                    2. I stopped by the new Betty Burger location on 41st Avenue today. It's much nicer than the original location. Plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. I enjoyed my burger, but it was still on the dry side. I liked the onion rings too.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Matt of Aptos

                        I agree with Carb Lover and Matt of Aptos. Betty Burgers are dry. It's a shame to see success coming from mediocrity. It just goes to show that a good business plan can make any so-so restaurant work. However, I won't be tempted to try the new location until they call me for a consultation.

                        Betty Burgers
                        505 Seabright Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95062

                        1. re: Matt of Aptos

                          To update this thread, my mom and I had lunch at Betty Burger’s Eastside location on 41st Ave in October when we were staying in the area. We each got a Basic Betty Burger, $4.95, and shared a chocolate malt, $4.05, and an order of 50/50 fries, $3.95.

                          Basic Betty, 1/3 lb patty with secret "lube" – Being able to get a burger that’s less than a half-pounder was much appreciated. The bun did not overwhelm and as can be seen in the photo was grilled. What was outsize was the portion of iceberg lettuce, I guess Betty likes the tall look. But the garnishes were very fresh and snappy. We’d ordered the burgers cooked “medium”, and they hit that. While I wouldn’t describe them as “dry”, the patties were not juicy, lacking the free-flowing juices of freshly cooked meat. I suspect that they’ve been par-cooked in advance. When we go back, I might ask them if they can cook to order, and see what happens.

                          50/50 Fry Basket, crispy fries and sweet potato fries – Skinny cut, battered, and very crispy, we liked these with ketchup and also with some extra lube.

                          Nice job with the chocolate malt, very thick and not shy with the malt powder. My mom has been asking if we can go back again.

                          Betty Burger - Eastside
                          1000 41st Ave
                          Santa Cruz