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Bakesale Betty- Fried chicken sandwich, am I missing something?

I was debating whether or not to post this, since this place is such an institution/cult hit, but i was disappointed with my fried chicken sandwich. I had been wanting to try this place for a long time, and had to go to the neighborhood to buy a car seat. I didn't want to stand in line or walk far for parking, but as luck would have it there was a spot right out front and no line. this was around 11:15. I ordered the sandwich with the slaw on the side in case it was too vinegary for my taste. Also got one of the frozen lemonades. Luckily they were out of brownies or I would have really blown my diet!

The chicken sandwich was cold and even after heaping slaw on it, it still felt dry. It as not bad per se but nothing amazing and I would definitely not go out of my way for it. In fact I'm not even sure I'd get it again. It just felt like it was missing something. I was going to just bring half home for hubby but after i had ordered mine per his request I went back in and got a second. We both wished later we had just shared one. On the positive note they gave us both a huge side of slaw, unfortuantly by the time I went to eat the leftovers the slaw had indeed become too vinegary.

Now the lemonade on the other hand, oh boy I will dream of that lemonade. might have been the best lemonade of my life and I love lemonade. I will go back for sure for that lemonade.

So are we crazy? What is the appeal? Is it one of those things that has just been hyped up to the point that it bound to be a let down?

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  1. It used to be a perfect sandwich. And then it got so much publicity that they make it in a lot more volume than they used to, and the sandwich has really suffered.

    1. I liked the FCS at BB but I found it dry side a long time ago. I wouldn't be surprised if it has suffered, that place is packed all the time. Anyway once they started offering the fried chicken salad, I've been getting that and that's been good but I only get it every couple of mouths. Maybe once the new location opens and the original store slows down, things will even out.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ML8000

        Where will the 2nd location be?

        1. re: kc72

          The new location is supposed to be in across the street from Luka's Taproom, I believe in the same building/development as Ozumo at Broadway and Grand.

          1. re: ML8000

            I think it's actually going to be on the other side of Broadway from Luka's/Ozumo. There's a building that's being renovated (next to Louisiana Fried Chicken). I peaked at the notice on the window, and the contact name said someone's name with a slash and the "Bakesale Betty" next to it.

            Good news for me - I work just a few blocks away. Though it looks like they still have quite some work to do.

      2. It is definitely a victim of it's success. . .it used to be phenomenal. . made to order with warm chicken and fresher slaw. I miss those days. I think it also might suffer from not having it's slaw on it so the slaw juices soak into the bread.

        That being said, I have to admit to adding mayo and freshly ground black pepper to it. . .

        1 Reply
        1. re: pastryqueen

          But, I tried it several years ago, so the fact that I was underwhelmed was not related to its popularity. I simply didn't get the concept -- fried chicken on bread? That's way too much bread-i-ness for me. Plus, I sort of thought one of the points of fried chicken was that you could pick it up and eat it without bread!

        2. Had the sandwich about a year ago & enjoyed it but not enough to go out of the way. OTOH, the strawberry shortcake was incredible!

          1. I don't think you missed anything. It might just not appeal to you. It is a very simple sandwich with no wow factor. The appeal comes from the quality of the ingredients and the more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts combination.

            But I do think your experience was altered by the special order and the absence of the brownie (or cookie, or shortbread, or other baked goodness). The slaw is the only source of moisture in the sandwich, and a key crunchy/tangy constrast to the bread and chicken. The sandwich is a bit short of salt for me, and my guess is the slaw is probably the only source of salt in the recipe.

            3 Replies
            1. re: BernalKC

              The slaw with slivers of jalapenos really makes the sandwich. If you don't like the slaw, you probably won't like the sandwich because that sets things off so to speak I like the slaw but have to agree that the sandwich was a bit too bready and that's why I started ordering the salad. I've noticed with the salad sometimes the slaw is better then other times, tossed and put together better. I think FCS is a victim of its own success.

              1. re: ML8000

                I agree, I never understood the hype. The sandwich is good, but not great. I appreciate the high quality ingredients, but have always thought it lacked flavor and is too dry.

                1. re: calalilly

                  Yes, me as well. I always expected more flavor and kick.

            2. When it first opened I lived right down the street, it was amazing. Then I went back two months ago and it was "ok". Though better than most fried chicken dinners I have had recently and for a fraction of the cost. But yes it has become ho-hum. Though the counter girl gave me 3 free scones for no reason? She asked if I wanted to try some. Maybe she got me mixed up for someone else, however it was a nice gesture.

              They used make a stellar brisket sandwich that seems to have disappeared, but I am not in Oakland enough to make trips to see if it still exists.

              2 Replies
              1. re: bouffe

                There is a brisket sandwich right now, which I loved (but has had mixed reviews). It doesn't appear to be the same sandwich they did in the past:


                1. re: abstractpoet

                  Just went again yesterday to check it out. They do have brisket but you have to ask for it, since they do not list it. Much better than the chicken, loved the potato chips in the sandwich, horseradish was a bit over powering but pretty good. It is different since they first opened.

              2. I have never understood the fried chicken sandwich's appeal either. I had it a year ago and was really disappointed. I agree -- the chicken is very dry. Frankly, it reminded me of how I used to make sandwiches out of chicken tenders and a French roll in the dining halls when there was nothing better to eat that night.

                1. Add me to the list of people who don't think it's the best sandwhich other. I've had it several times over the last few years and always been underwhelmed, so it isn't a declining quality issue for me. Don't get me wrong, it's certainly not bad, just nothing I would go out of my way for. Now, the ginger cookies, on the other hand. . .

                  1. I agree, it ain't all that. Every time I drive by the place and see twenty-five people waiting who knows how long for one of those, I wonder why they don't just head across the street for any number of stellar hot and cold sandwiches at Genova. Even the pre-made guys in the clamshells for $3.25 are first-rate.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: heidipie

                      Or that artichoke torta. Oh man, amazing. Every time I go to Genova, I get some, and every time, it is not enough.

                      1. re: heidipie

                        That's $3.25 for a half sandwich, not a whole one.

                      2. We went last week around 2pm and had a really good chicken and brisket sandwich. it had been over a year since the last time which was extremely disappointing (it was a zoo and everything was pre-made). Maybe this time it was better because there wasn't a line and it was assembled to order.

                        1. My last visit was a couple of months ago and it was great. The chicken was warm and the sandwich was enough for two of us to share. They comped us some strawberries and cream and all was good in the world.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Senor Popusa

                            I had one last month and the chicken was piping hot!

                          2. I'm not crazy about the sandwich either. I know people who have made the trek from the South Bay for it and I don't know why.

                            One thing I think would improve it would be to use a thinner piece of chicken. Everything else in the sandwich is good - the bread, the slaw, and the coating of the chicken - but it's just dominated by too much bland, dry chicken meat.

                            1. Sorry for the late response, my daughter has been sick. I appreciate all the feedback, at least I know I'm not crazy! And just to clarify I did put the slaw on the sandwich after I tasted it, and it didn't help much. I must say though I feel a little cheated I didn't get a hot one like some other people did, that alone would have made such a difference.

                              The person who said it was like a dorm room sandwich summed it up pretty well. Also the poster who mentioned thinner pieces. This is also one case where simple is not better. The slaw was just not flavorful or moist enough, it needed some kind of spread on it. Trader Joe's makes this really garlicky low fat ranch dip that I kept thinking would have been great on it. Oh well at least I tried it and I did discover that lemonade!

                              1. I never thought I'd be in the minority praising BB's chicken sandwich, but it's a first rate sandwich. Dry? Anyone frying split chicken breast needs to trade off crispy vs moist. BB goes with crispy and I like it that way. I've never had a fried anything sandwich with a crust that is still crisp even after you've brought it home. You could make a moister but less crunchy fried breast by simply not splitting it, but they obviously decided not to. There's going to be some variation, but I've never had one so dry it was tough or otherwise unpleasant to eat. And even if they are nice enough to serve the slaw on the side, it wasn't designed to be a side dish.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Zeldog

                                  I agree with Zeldog; I love that decadent sandwich which has always been hot or very warm. I also agree with others that a cold version would be a LOT less appealing. Now I'll know to ask which (hot or cold) it's going to be the next (infrequent) time I'm there, and say goodbye if it's cold.

                                  1. re: Mick Ruthven

                                    Zeldog, you love that sandwich! And again, I did put the slaw on and it did not help any. I'm starting to think the coldness played a major factor. It was really cold, liked pulled from the refrigerator cold.

                                  2. re: Zeldog

                                    I much prefer the one other sandwich I've had that's topped with that same kind of slaw - the Pittsburgh-style "all-in-one" sandwich at Giordano's in North Beach.

                                  3. So I was curious as to why some have had a warm sandwich and others had a cold one. I sent an e-mail to the store inquiring if there was some schedule on when they serve hot vs cold and was told it was never served warm but instead was a cold picnic style sandwich. So I guess those who got a warm one got lucky?

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: elliora

                                      I've always enjoyed a "room temperature" sandwich (definitely not "refrigerator cold"). Usualy I get it to eat a couple hrs later so I ask for the slaw on the side and the chicken is still crispy when I eat it.

                                      Once in a while, I luck out and the chicken's recently out of the fryer so it's warm (not hot) and freshly assembled.

                                      1. re: elliora

                                        That's sad to hear. I've only had it hot or warm and don't think I'd like it much cold. Since I don't live near there it's not much of a loss, but I don't think I'll go out of my way to go back.

                                        1. re: Mick Ruthven

                                          Funny that this thread popped up again. I went back and tried another fried chicken sandwich and I liked it better this time.

                                          It probably helped that the chicken pieces were thinned and that they didn't skimp on the slaw. I put it in the fridge for a few hours, then put the chicken in the oven for a few minutes.

                                          1. re: Agent 510

                                            Had my first Fried Chicken sandwich yesterday for lunch...... it was brought in to a meeting from BBB - so it was made maybe 25-30 minutes before I ate it. Don't know how it was when they first made this but I did enjoy it. Lots of coleslaw on mine - liked the jalapeno kick and there was a generous amount of chicken. The sandwich didn't come across as dry but if I had a bottle of the slaw dressing nearby I probably would have given it a shake or two over the sandwich. I could only finish half of the sandwich - saved the second half for later. Anyways, here's a picture so people can see what all the fuss is about.

                                            1. re: gordon wing

                                              BTW, if you're looking for a really really good chicken thing at BSB, get the pot pie. I never liked chicken pot pie before, but I'd kill for that one. (Be aware, you have to take it home and bake it, so it is a different purchase occasion)

                                              1. re: jmarek

                                                I live a few blocks away and its amazing to see the huge lines forming everyday to buy that sandwich!

                                                It can be very good and it can be just kinda ok and pricey.

                                                Personally, I would rather have a Cam Huong chicken Banh Mi for $2.25

                                      2. I have to agree with the OP. I just had this sandwich 2 weeks ago and won't be rushing back for seconds ever. Cold and soggy fried chicken, slightly dry meat, slaw saved it from the bin. Maybe it was good once, but they seem to have little quality control at this place. The brisket sandwich was much better.

                                        1. I don't know if they refined their system, or if I got there at the right time or what, but I had a fried chicken sandwich on Wednesday, and it was excellent -- the chicken was crispy, spicy, and moist (and hot), the slaw was as good as ever, and the whole thing was delicious. Maybe they've hired more staff and can make the sandwich throughout the day, but it was definitely freshly made, and this was at the end of the lunchtime rush.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: JasmineG

                                            The last one I had (a few weeks ago) was the only time I've been disappointed. Overall, they are good to great. If the next one isn't, I may rethink things.

                                          2. I tried the FCS a couple times about a year and a half ago. Both visits were disappointing with really dry chicken and oily flavorless slaw (no jalepeno kick that folks mention). The folks there are really nice and I got some free cookies both times which were very good. That couldn't make up for the sando's shortcomings. I definitely head to Genova if I'm in the area.

                                            I may try the brisket, but I don't think I want to risk another FCS.

                                            1. i am also underwhelmed. i live nearby and always see the huge line..don't get it. i think the bread is awful and when i last had it, the slaw wasn't vinegary enough but just all oily and not even olive oil...i was very psyched when they opened up and i thought the sandwich 'sounded' great...but i see no reason to go out of one's way for it. at all.

                                              i once had a chicken sandwich party and we all made different ones (mexican/asian...etc) and scored them next to betty's and hers lost every taste test....

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: rebonga

                                                I've never understood the raves either, but I gave it another shot this week and thought it was better than before, mostly b/c the chicken was warm (and not dried out, as has been the case in the past), although the breading fell off easily. As I left, noticed a van parked outside, from which they were unloading hotel pans of fried chicken breast - looks like a lot of the cooking is off-site now.

                                                1. re: daveena

                                                  Probably coming from the second branch, which I think has a much bigger kitchen.

                                              2. I drove by there recently, there was parking and a very short line (4-5 people) so decided to give it a 2nd try. (first time, husband brought it home and I did not eat it until several hours later, so did not seem a fair eval.) It was between 11 and 11:30 on a week day, and I could see the staff making the sanwiches as I waited. The thing that makes the sandwich is the slaw, other wise, the chicken is a little dry and could use a bit more salt. I like that it has a big piece of chicken, esp at $9 a pop. I think that it must be timing, whether you get there at the right time, when it is being freshly made.

                                                Their chicken pot pie is great; but I have not gotten it for a while, the line is way too long. I would not wait in a line like that for anyone.

                                                9 Replies
                                                1. re: Dawgmommy

                                                  Most times I have been there there are 2 pieces of chicken on my sandwich and the price, even with tax, is less than $9.

                                                  1. re: wolfe

                                                    You're right, there was a very small 2nd peice. I went within the past 1-2 weeks and it was $9 even, including tax. Maybe they recently raised the price...

                                                    1. re: Dawgmommy

                                                      I guess so on the price. My experience is they try to have equal amounts of chicken/ sandwich. Some of the breasts are so big that I wouldn't want to run into a chicken that size in a dark alley, others you need 2.

                                                      1. re: wolfe

                                                        I think it's easier to eat if you order it "not in a sandwich." They give you enough cole slaw to feed a family of 4. (You get the bread, too and eat it like a plate of food.) Even better with some hot sauce.

                                                          1. re: wolfe

                                                            I got it that way the first time last week. The slaw the last few times has much less "bite" than previously. I don't know if the chiles are coincidentally less hot, or if it is a conscientious thing.

                                                          2. re: walker

                                                            The fried chicken salad is what I get a at BB. Much better then the sandwich IMO.

                                                            I ordered it at the new place on Broadway 2 months ago and it came in a container half the size of the original place...and only 1 piece of chicken.

                                                            Does BB#1 still serve a large "clam shell" and 2 pieces of chix?

                                                              1. re: lmnopm

                                                                Thanks...I guess I'll have to go to BB#1.

                                                  2. FWIW, Gregoire's has a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich on its menu this month that blows BB's out of the water. Made to order, served piping hot with the bread nicely toasted and a nice cole slaw that has a little bit of heat. But the main thing is that the chicken is just really well-fried - really crisp breading, moist meat.

                                                    (And I'm no Gregoire's apologist, finding the place generally over-priced, but the one thing they know how to do is make a good sandwich.)

                                                    1. I am more disappointed by the fact that BB's is pretty much all about the chicken sandwich nowadays. Week days offerings of baked goods are now only cookies and strawberry shortcakes. What happened? I used to go religiously for the delicious ginger scones, banana bread and lamingtons on weekdays to avoid the weekend crowds. I moved, came back to the Bay two years later, and Bakesale Betty's stopped selling lamingtons, the display case has only a few sheet pans of fillers, and that chicken sandwich is the only thing really selling. The hours are shortened too. Oh well.

                                                      Bakesale Betty
                                                      5098 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                                      8 Replies
                                                      1. re: Eat.Choui


                                                        No more lemon bars, no more scones, rarely any banana bread. It's a shame.

                                                        Reading another recent thread about local eateries expanding to become chain restaurants makes me think: They might as well go that step now. Can't help but feel like the place has lost a little bit of its soul...

                                                        That said, I'm mildly curious about their new fried tofu sandwich ... but not curious enough to want to wait on that line for it.

                                                        1. re: abstractpoet

                                                          Does BB sell pies any longer? Their pies were excellent...a bit pricey but considering their weight, still fairly priced. Their crust and the way they handled the fruit was great, not over sugared.

                                                          Any way the hours are what gets me...and the lines. The hours are geared towards lunch, so I get that but the lines are just crazy.

                                                          Oh well, my guess is they're sticking to what creates profit and they do employ quite a few people...even if it looks chaotic and inefficient. I hope they continue and do well...just can't handle the lines.

                                                          1. re: ML8000

                                                            I haven't seen any pies. My guess would be that they'll do them during the holidays and that's it.

                                                            1. re: ML8000

                                                              it may look "chaotic & inefficient" to you, but I'm always amazed how fast the line moves & how efficient & friendly (both! at the same time!) the service is.

                                                              & I've been eating that sandwich since the beginning & I still love it!

                                                              1. re: indigirl

                                                                I think it's a perfectly fine sandwich, but there are other places doing similar (and, actually, far superior) versions now - e.g. Cafe 15 and Gregoire - albeit not all year round.

                                                                The thing about BB is that before, even if you didn't love the fried chicken sandwich, the bountiful selection of excellent baked goods was a real selling point. Now, not so much. And, aside from the length of the lines, the new hours make the place inaccessible to pretty much anyone who doesn't work in the immediate vicinity of one of the two locations.

                                                                I am still a fan of the chicken pot pie, when it's available anyway.

                                                                4001 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

                                                                Cafe 15
                                                                597 15th St, Oakland, CA 94612

                                                                Bakesale Betty
                                                                2228 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

                                                                1. re: abstractpoet

                                                                  I will definitely try the Cafe 15 version as soon as I get a chance, thanks for the tip!
                                                                  & definitely BB's chicken pot pie is where it's at!

                                                                  Cafe 15
                                                                  597 15th St, Oakland, CA 94612

                                                                2. re: indigirl

                                                                  The staff is extremely nice. That said, you should talk to some of the workers about chaos.

                                                          2. My wife and I went about a month ago with friends who live in Oakland and love the place. I thought the chicken sandwich was excellent. The chicken was not dry. I'm not a big cole slaw fan (I could go without cabbage for the rest of my life and not miss it). BB's cole slaw was excellent. We tried to duplicate it at home using their recipe. What we couldn't duplicate was how BB manages to get the flavor of jalapeno in the slaw, but not the heat. Yes, we did remove all the innards from the peppers.

                                                            The best thing we had there? The ginger cookie. Easily the best I've ever had.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: Larry Stein

                                                              i was really excited to try this sandwich after hearing so much about it but i was disappointed. the piece of chicken is so dry. the slaw was good, with heat, but kind of bland. the sandwich was bland. i think i was expecting more

                                                              1. re: Larry Stein

                                                                There are varieties of jalapeƱo that have had the heat bred out of them, presumably they use those.

                                                                1. re: Larry Stein

                                                                  Larry you could always try this Chow Tip before making your slaw.

                                                                2. BSB is on my favorites list and I really love the Chicken with that yummy crunchy spicy slaw. Can't say I'm that fond of all the bread in sandwiches in general. Unless the bread is phenomenal it just seems like empty carb filler. I always order the Fried Chicken Salad and a Ginger Cookie.

                                                                  I find BSB very consistent and they go out of their way to insure the customer is happy with their experience. I can tell you a BSB story that will knock your socks off and proves their dedication to service and their customer. If it isn't right speak up so they can improve and make it right.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: voscott

                                                                    I agree; I've always been extremely pleased with their chicken and slaw. Great value.