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Jun 10, 2011 02:09 PM

Berkeley, CA: Bette’s Oceanview Diner

First, there is no view of the sea here. Bette’s is located in a neighborhood that was once known as Oceanview.

Second, in the decades that I’ve been eating at Bette’s, this is the first time I’ve had lunch there. My usual order is the breakfast souffle omelet, one of my favorite dishes in the entire Bay Area.

The meatloaf is marvelous.

After a year of living in Guatemala, I was looking for American comfort food. For me, nobody did it better than Bette’s.

Here's what I had rated from A+ to F -

A -...... Meatloaf platter

B - ..... Salad

B - ..... Strawberry rhubarb pie

B - ..... Coffee

Service: B +

Ambiance: B +

Price: $$

Restaurant record with info such as address

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    MEATLOAF PLATTER: A - … Way above average

    My guess is this is the original, unchanged recipe that didn’t cave to the puritanical, healthy eating mentality. The medium grind meatloaf has enough fat for full flavor. It is mama bear texture … not too loose, not too solid … just right. The gravy is great, on the edge of a slick, but not greasy. If eating gravy … eat gravy ... don't skim all the fat out of it.

    The mashed potatoes are the smooth, lumpless type, the perfect sensual soul mate for the rich gravy. What's with all the hype about lumpy mashed potatoes? Lumps happen at home. When I eat out I want the type I'm incapable of making.

    The broccoli was cooked, al dente, but not too. The plate was decorated with some super-fresh looking Italian parsley … at least I think that was what it was. The broccoli was as healthy as I was going to get on this visit.

    SALAD: B - ... Very good

    A salad was included with the meatloaf platter and was a nice standard spring mix, with thin slices or red onion, crisp cucumbers and a tasty halved cherry tomato.

    The blue cheese dressing was good, but could have been a little chunkier. It was served on the side without being asked, a plus.

    STRAWBERRY RHUBARB PIE: B - ... Very good

    The pie was heavy on the rhubarb but the filling was tasty and not gluey. The soft, laticed crust sprinkled with sugar was good but there could have been more filling.

    COFFEE: B - ... Very good

    The Max’s Blend is by McLaughlin Coffee and has the acidic quality of that roaster. While it isn’t my favorite style, it fits a diner very well. Even better, refills are generous which is the mark of a good diner.

    SERVICE: B + … Very, very good

    In all the years I’ve eaten at Bette’s, I can’t remember a bad service experience. On this recent visit I was surprised how good it was.

    Orders were taken promptly, coffee and water were refilled and the service was cheerful without being overly so. The servers wear black shirts with “good food, friendly service” on the back … so true.

    AMBIANCE: B + … Very, very good

    Bette’s is the classic diner, spiffed up, but not overly gentrified. There are red stools along a counter with a view of the griddle which is usually loaded with home fries or hash browns. Booths and tables hug the walls. Vases of fresh flowers are on the tables. A juke box is next to the door and there are a few sidewalk tables.

    Go prime time (usually 9 am – noon) and there will be a wait … sometimes very long.

    However, I’ve always enjoyed the upbeat and fun atmosphere, no matter how crowded. Bette’s to Go, a take-out shop and bakery, is next door so it is possible to buy a coffee while waiting.


    This is one of my favorite breakfast spots. I’m happy I found out it can be a nice lunch stop as well. On my list to try: Roast beef sandwich, turkey club, ham sandwich and Rueben.

    They also have daily specials. My focus was meatloaf, so I’m not sure what they were..

    Bette’s bakeshop usually offers seasonal and holiday-themed baked goods. It is still spring, so there is strawberry rhubarb pie. There are desserts and decorated cookies for the Jewish holidays, Easter, Christmas, Halloween, etc.

    I like Betty’s today every bit as much as when I first stepped in the door decades ago.

    Bette's Oceanview Diner
    1807 4th St, Berkeley, CA 94710

    1. The original comment has been removed
      1. Thanks for the report, and welcome back.

        In all the years I've lived in the East Bay (18+) I've been to Bette's dozens possibly >100x but never other than breakfast. I've always wondered about the meatloaf...

        1. If the coffee is a B-, that's a huge change from the past. I haven't had breakfast there in a year or so, but their coffee was always horrible.

          4 Replies
          1. re: JasmineG

            I may be no judge. I've been living a year mainly on Nescafe. That being said, I liked the coffee there well enough in the past and never turned down a refill. I don't know how long they have been using McLaughlin though. It is so good to be able to ask what brand of coffee is being used and not only have people comprehend the concept, but know the answer.

            All that being said, I did waver between C+ (slightly above average) and the B-. I am not a big fan of McLauglin in general. The refills might have upped the score.

            1. re: rworange

              They have been using McLaughlin at least since 1998. I first had Max's there around then and it became my standard coffee for ~11 years. I know we have different tastes. For what it's worth, when I made it myself it was never as bitter and acidic as there or the Royal Coffee cafe- I used an idiosyncratically coarse grind for my drip brewer, and my colleagues who drank coffee all enjoyed it well.

              1. re: twocents

                McLaughlin is like Philz for me. Initially I liked both quite a lot. Then I got tired of the acidity. That was another reason it moved to the B- category. It is a good cup of coffee, but as you mentioned not the taste I favor. It seemed unfair to ding it for personal taste ... and I did scarf down three cups ... yeah ... solid B-.

                1. re: twocents

                  Ah, okay. Their coffee just always has a really old taste to me, probably brewing issues rather than the coffee.

            2. At one point 20 years or so ago they were serving dinner. I remember having an oyster stew cooked by a European-American cook: Peter Dietrich?. This would have been when 4th St. B&G was across the street.

              I suspect for many long-time customers, there is now a sense of disappointment when they go to Bette's. It seems all my favorites have disappeared from the menu: Farmer's scramble, daily cornmeal pancakes with smoked porkchops.

              Although I now live scarcely 5 blocks away, I go there only occasionally. Too many people on 4th.