What to Order at Bakesale Betty's
After reading about it here, I went to Bakesale Bettty's this morning. I found it a little disorienting. Is there a menu or board listing what they have? Yes, there were some paper signs arbitrarily placed on the walls or windows listing individual items, but nothing coherent. Are those the specials or is that really how you find out what they have? Since I could see them there in front of me, I had a pear ginger scone and a walnut chocolate chip cookie. The scone was great. The cookie was dry. But I suspect my order didn't to the place justice, so I turn here for guidance.
I know others on this board wholeheartedly disagree with me, but I agree with you about the handwritten paper signs. The lack of focus or structure of the place coupled with the open-ness made it seem haphazardly thrown together. Everything I've tried there has been good (though no freebies as others report), but I think its the idea of having to walk in and figure out what they have that keeps me from going back. Its just too much work. I'm a paying customer after all, I don't want to have to work for my baked goods as well.
I don't understand your confusion....their menu doesn't really change (much). They have chicken sandwich or egg salad sandwich (or you can get the chicken or egg salad on a salad). Then they have the chicken pot pie.
The baked goods are always the same, and you can see them labeled and lined up when you walk in. The only changeable thing is that sometimes they make seasonal pies, and in season they have the strawberry shortcakes, and you can see them in the glass case. If you're confused, just ask the counterperson if they have anything special. They don't really have enough items to be confusing. Just my opinion.....
As far as guidance goes, get the ginger cookie- it rocks. Also the strawberry shortcake is fantastic.
How does a new person know what their menu items are (even if they don't change)? For instance, I didn't even know that they had chicken/egg salad sandwiches and salads!
Baked goods were not labeled when I was there, I had to ask, "what is this, what is that?" The confusing part is having to look at all the white sheets of paper with scribble on them taped up all over the place to figure out what the other items are (the ones not in the display case, like strawberry shortcake, lemon bars, etc.)
The counter service was terrible the past 3 times I've been there, so its a little annoying to have to rely on them to tell you what everything is.
So far, the only thing I've had at Bakesale Betty's that I really liked is the lemon square. I thought the lamington was good, if a little sweeter than I generally like my baked goods. I've been very disappointed in the pies (blueberry and peach - crust isn't buttery, filling's too sweet), scones (too dry and cakey), and the strawberry shortcake (the "shortcake" is one of those scones). Fried chicken sandwich was good but not amazing. I'm still trying to figure it out, because a lot of people with tastes very similar to mine seem to love it, but I've been disappointed on multiple visits.
I'm with you, daveena. I've been several times, and I've never had anything that wow'd me. Maybe it impresses people who don't bake themselves, but I can do better at home on most of their items, and I'm far from an expert baker. And while some people might find the funky service charming, I'm not one of them.
I wasn't even blown away by the famous fried chicken sandwich. I just don't think adding bread improves fried chicken. After a few bites I ended up thowing the rest away and eating the chicken, which again, didn't wow me.
Oh wait. The strawberry shortcake I liked a lot. I'd go in for that if I was in the neighborhood during strawberry season. I'm willing to try the chicken pot pie, too, since that's one dish I would never make at home.
for me I love their apple pie, peach pie, strawberry shortcake, ginger cookies, pear & ginger scones, almond scones, chicken pot pies.
the chicken sandwich is good, but wasn't blow my mind great, but I'd certainly get it more often for lunch if I worked in the area.
I wasn't a huge fan of the lamingtons, the combinations of flavors just didn't work for me, nor the chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies (drier style than I prefer).
The service has always been great for me every time I've gone, but I admit, I usually go during the less crowded times, really early lunch or later afternoon. And I think I've always gotten something complimentary after striking up conversation with whoever is behind the counter.
Here's what I do when I go to any bakery:
1) walk in
2) looked into the display case, wonder what is what, look for something I like
3) know I will automatically try as a few items as bench marks
4) point and ask "what's that?"
5) get the answer and ask "is it good?" (start a conversation, smile)
6) order a few things...leave
The staff at BB is nice easy going, in a Berkeley/Oaktown hipster sort of way. Asking them questions is no problem. They give samples sometime, are usually always pleasant.
I don't mind the lack of signage. I like the randomness. I like to look at, point, buy and eat baked good. That's part of fun. I'm not on a culinary project. Sometimes there's something I've never had...so I try it. There's stuff I don't like at BB, regardless I find most everything well prepared and overall well balanced...rarely is anything overly sweet or rich. That's a lot harder to do with baked good then people think.
re: Ruth Lafler
Yes, homemade. That's a fine description. I'd add old fashion and consistent as well. Sure there are some home bakers that can do as well (my sisters and mom come very close) but to get that balance you have do it all the time...and who has the time?
Frankly the "give me an orgasm" baked good and desserts that are so rich or complex you need a cup of hot black coffee just to clear your palette between bites bores me. Richer and more complex doesn't necessarily make something better.
Like a lot of things, simple is often better. Producing siimple however isn't as easy as it looks.
I guess what I'm saying is that a cookie that's roughly as good as one I could make myself isn't going to "wow" me. A fancy, rich, complex piece of pastry that there's no way I could make myself will. That doesn't mean I won't enjoy the cookie, it just means I won't be terribly impressed by it. And "not terribly impressed" is pretty much how I feel about Bakesale Betty's. Not bad -- good, in fact -- just not (to me) worth the "Oh my God I have to go there what a fabulous place" fuss people make over it.
For me, richer and more complex usually *does* mean better (which doesn't mean that I expect every one else to feel the same). I like buttery, caramelly flavors and minimal sugar (I'm a little surprised you characterize BB's baked goods as "not too sweet", as I've found many of their baked goods way too sweet). To compare to another local bakery, I infinitely prefer the scones at Arizmendi - buttery, with a more satisfying texture, just barely sweet. They're not fancy pastries either - what could be plainer than an oatmeal scone? But I find the taste and texture much more satisfying than the BB scones I've tried.
This is so wierd. I was just at Bakesale Betty's and I had the Fried Chicken salad, and strawberry shortcake. Betty also passed out a pecan shortbread when we in line.
The chicken salad was only ok. I like the sandwich more. There was way too much parsley in the salad, it was overwhelming, and the chicken was very tasty as well, so when I had it together, it was just way too much taste... I think the with the sandwich, the cabbage and the pasrley is not powerful.
Now, the pecan shortbread was just heavenly. It was so good. Now, I wish I had gotten more of that!! A lot of pecan and GOOD!
As to the menu, I just know what to get when I read the comments, otherwise I would be hopelessly lost.
Lamingtons, strawberry shortcake. Not a fan of the chicken sandwich anymore - it's glory days are over. Also agree with Ruth that it's good, but not "wow!" I prefer the baked goods at Crixa, Sketch, and Frog Hollow (Berk Farmers' Market) and the fried chicken sandwich at Gregoire (on the April menu).
Around 11:15 on Easter Sunday, we stopped by BB's for a light meal before heading up to Chabot exploratarium. Agree it was not a wow meal but good. I too found the "paper signs" a bit confusing. I only saw the chicken sandwich/salad, the egg salad/sandwich, and chicken pot pie to go signs & had to ask if there were anything more. Loved the ginger scone & strawberry shortcake, liked the chicken sandwich & thought the cookies were okay (bought snickerdoodle & sampled pecan shortbread I think). Frankly, Draeger's bakes some pretty good cookies. Got lucky with the shortcake since the only thing I knew to try was the chicken sandwich. Next time, T Rex!
This was my first time in the area & enjoyed recognizing all the places I had read about here & all in one block too!
Worst time to go is at lunchtime when it's packed full of people getting fried chicken sandwiches. Things get a little single-minded in there and you're not going to be able
to poke around much.
Best time is as or just after they close. Stand at the door with your Big Sad Eyes on
and say "I just wanted a cookie" and they'll let you in and sell you a cookie and stuff
the bag with an arbitrary amount of everything else. I ended up with a shopping
bag full last time I tried this.
The problem is it's a pretty interactive place, difficult to be a passive consumer there.
As a generally shy person, I probably miss a lot. Been going there often for
two years now and I had no idea there was an egg salad sandwich, for example.
I think the key is to go when they're not so busy. Usually, when I see people who tell them that it's their first time there, they give out samples of this and that so you can try (altho Betty and Michael are the owners, and therefore more generous). I love their strawberry shortcake, like their lemon-raisin scone, but not a big fan of the fried chicken sandwich either, when I've tried it, it was always too dry. The service is always friendly, although I am probably some what a passive customer, don't really chat them up or anything, but I still get samples all the time, like banana bread, an extra strawberry shortcake, cookies, brownie, coffee, lemon icee, etc. I feel that the quirkiness and sort of disoriented-ness is one of their attractions for some.