Crazy for Counter Food in Berkeley
1807 Fourth St., Berkeley
Fourth Street Shopping District
Open Mon.–Fri., 6:30 .m.–2:30 p.m.; Sat.–Sun., 6:30 a.m.–4 p.m.
No reservations, major credit cards accepted
Bette’s Oceanview Diner is an institution in Berkeley, but I had yet to dine there for its popular brunch — mostly because of the waits.
But during Thanksgiving weekend, when my nephew was visiting from college and I was in a lounge-around kind of mood, we went for Sunday brunch and were told it would be a one-hour wait for a table of three. We sat and took in the retro diner motif and watched the toy train circle the tracks up near the ceiling.
People came and went like Bette’s is the only option for brunch in the area (it pretty much is with the closing of Eccolo across the street), and I observed how the host’s tone shifted from happily welcoming regulars to an “are you sure you want to wait?” tone with others. He was never apologetic about the wait because it’s something people expect when it comes to eating at Bette’s.
When we were finally seated, the service was prompt and courteous, but lacking the fun and familiarity you’d expect from a diner. I guess with everyone waiting, they don’t really take the time to get to know you.
For brunch, I ordered the Maryland Breakfast, which is Bette’s famous house-made corned beef hash with poached eggs. You can get it with your choice of toast, cornbread and scone and I went with the scone because I knew Bette’s has a great baker.
The corned beef had a nice crispy edge to it, but it was primarily potatoes and I didn’t get enough of the saltiness you’d expect from corned beef. The egg was a nice touch to get a creamy texture, and the scone (a cranberry-orange) was especially good because of the crispy edges and light fluffy interior.
My nephew’s girlfriend, Mary, ordered the pancake special. Bette’s calls its pancakes soufflé pancakes. The special was gingerbread and came with scrambled eggs and choice of sausages. Mary went with bangers. She also ordered a side of house fries.
The gingerbread pancakes had a definite gingerbread taste, which was nice for the season. But it seemed really dark when eating. I guess you can’t get around that being gingerbread and all.
Chris went for the hearty and also “famous” — according to the menu — meatloaf with mashed potatoes. I have to say, it really came out looking like perfect nostalgic slice of meatloaf. A nice big chunk smothered in light brown gravy, served with a heaping helping of mashed potatoes and some large broccoli heads.
I tried a bit of the meatloaf and it was definitely worth the title “famous” because of the nice texture and crusty edges (there’s something about crusty edges to diner food that makes you feel like you’re getting all the best parts of the greasy grill).
Bette’s Oceanview Diner (btw, there’s no ocean view from any of the seats) is a fun skip back to the past with some food, especially the baked goods and meatloaf, that serves as a strong supporting act. But I might pass on the wait and go during off times, or visit its “Bette’s To-Go” next door. I wonder if you can get the meatloaf to go?
Single guy rating: 3 stars (Comforting and retro)
Explanation of the single guy's rating system:
1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner
Other places for brunch:
Foreign Cinema: “Now Playing an Innovative Brunch Menu”
La Note: “A Touch of Provence in Berkeley”
Maverick: “Refined American Classics for Brunch and Beyond”
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Crazy for Counter Food in Berkeley