Queen City: The Sequel

Our little jaunt to Buffalo a couple weeks ago included not only a fun pageant, shopping, and dinner at the Creekview in Willamsville, but the chance to catch up with Kristina, one of our former Miss Thousand Islands. She now lives in Buffalo and has embraced all that the Queen City represents: The Bills, chicken wings, Loganberry soda (OK, I don’t know if she likes this, but I do), and local eateries. At dinner, she encouraged us to come into Buffalo proper the next morning and do brunch with her and her fiancĂ©, Pat.

Betty’s Restaurant isn’t quite an institution yet. It just opened in 2004. But I’m thinking it’s well on its
way. With a homey, funky, artful interior and what is probably a totally charming summertime patio for outdoor dining, Betty’s comes off like the inherited Victorian mansion of your ex-hippie friend who now pulls down six figures but once refused to wear proper undergarments. It’s beautiful but also quirky, with warm wood accents and modern art lining the walls that was created by former servers. The service itself is casual and friendly, which matches the fun, decadent and fresh cuisine to a T.

The menu is modern American with a heavy bent towards comfort food. The dinner offering includes pot pie, potato pancakes, and pepper jelly – all those lovely P-words you want to eat. As for Sunday brunch, between the lavish specials menu and standard bill of fare, we were salivating before we even placed our orders.

On recommendation from the waitress, I chose the Mickey’s Casserole from the brunch menu. It was fabulous, though not as fabulous as some of the other dishes at our table. The crunchy pastry square enveloped scrambled eggs, mild breakfast sausage, and mild cheddar cheese. I would have liked it more if either the bread had been more flavorful, the sausage spicier or the cheese sharper. As it was, the casserole made a somewhat boring vehicle for the really yummy, sweet and savory caramelized onions which were up on top. The potatoes alongside were flat-top fried with lots of herbs, but also needed a punch for me. I used ketchup, but a little dish of sausage gravy would have made these sing. They were chunky and pleasingly crispy, but a tiny bit under-seasoned for me. Mixing them with the onions, though? Killah. Breakfast casserole is usually one of my favorite things in the world, but I make mine at home with both bacon and sausage, and use sharp cheddar and Italian bread in the mix – as it turns out, I should stick with my version.

Hey Mickey, you’re so fine

Kristina’s sausage and potato quiche, off the specials menu, was everything I wish my selection had been: savory, fatty, unctuous and salty. The sausage sang, the cheese was zingy, and tender potatoes gave the wedge of eggy delight some heft. Mine looked prettier, but hers tasted better. I think she won.

Oh wait, hers was prettier, too. That’s not fair.

Mom and Allie ordered a totally epic blueberry French toast casserole abomination of deliciousness off the specials menu. If there is anything even remotely resembling this dish on special when you visit Betty’s, GET IT. I’m not usually a sweets-in-the-morning person, but I could grow to love a dish like this: a thick slab of eggy bread mixed with fresh blueberries (maybe frozen – after baking, who can tell?) with sweetened cream cheese and a healthy drizzle of bright red strawberry syrup. This dish is a valentine to your stomach. It was sweet, but not sickly sweet, thanks to the tang of the cream cheese, and the density mimicked bread pudding without the mouth feel being too heavy. A very successful dish.
Won’t you be mine?

Dad and Pat were holding court at the far end of the table, so tasting their items would have been a pain. Dad got the steak and eggs, which he said was good, although one of his egg yolks was either cooked through or broken, so I know he was a little bummed about the lack of golden, yolky goodness to dip his steak into. Pat got sausage gravy and biscuits, which I was jealous about. I didn’t taste it; I wish I had. But I don’t know Pat that well, and I didn’t know how he’d feel about me eating the majority of his breakfast if I found it to my liking. Oh! I almost forgot to mention the sneaky side of bacon I ordered “for my Mom” halfway through breakfast! It was very subtle in smoke and cure. Different from most hash houses, and quite lovely.

Steak. Eggs. Man food.

Though my breakfast wasn’t my favorite of the plates on our table, I did find all of the food, plus the service and the warm atmosphere, to be above average, and breakfast here was a great experience. I wish I was a local, because I would be a regular. And isn’t that the best endorsement you can give a restaurant? We scored Betty’s a 9.5 on the BHS scale, a highly scientific and democratic evaluation method. That translates into: eat here.

If you’re in Buffalo for a Bills game next season, or a Sabres game this season, or whatever, put Betty’s on your list. Go for lunch, try the pot pie, and then come back and tell us about it! This place has the goods, and will fill your tummy with the stuff you really want. Except I’m craving French onion soup right now, which I don’t think is on Betty’s menu, and also, I’m not in Buffalo at the moment, so forget that whole train of thought. Don’t be like me!

Next week: perogies and kasha and Russian soda in the heart of downtown Binghamton. It’s a taste of Europe, my comrades! My personality is big, my hunger is bigger!

PS: Remember all the hubbub I stirred up in the 2011 Big Hungry Awards and in other posts about the delicious box of wonder and spicy delight my friend Big Hungry Laura sent me for my birthday last year, namely, green chile sauce from Santa Fe Ole? Well, the owner of that company, James Wrench, who happens to be from Cazenovia, found out that I've been dropping his company's name cospicuously all over the interwebs. Dude, what can I say? This is some monster sauce! So, he wrote to me last night, because he wanted to thank me and my readers for giving him so much love. Uh, he should be thanking Laura, but I'll take the gratitude! Anyway, he's providing Big Hungries with a coupon code for 15% off  any purchases from his site between now and April 16, which is tax day for all you math-minded food lovers. If you've been wanting to try my recipe for pork chile verde or any other application for red or green chile, now's the time! Just go to Santa Fe Ole's Website and use the code bighungry2012 to redeem this fun offer! Thanks, James! Remind me to tell you sometime about all the shenanigans my church friends and I used to get up to in Cazenovia, which is where our diocese's retreat center was located.

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