Tuesday, September 13, 2011
If you live in the Bay Area, this regional icon is probably nothing new to you at all. I was introduced to Bakesale Betty about a few years ago through the Socola sisters while taking photos of their delicious chocolate truffles being made. They shared with me what sounded like a secret, or more like a fairy tale: there was this wonderful bakery owned by Betty who wears a wild blue wig and makes amazing fried chicken sandwiches. My imagination had gone haywire. Why a blue wig? Is she related to Wendy’s, perhaps even being her evil twin sister? And why did people rave about a fried item when clearly their establishment had Bake in the title? I was curious. I needed answers. One Sunday morning, I dragged a friend of mine and drove to Oakland just to see if this place was real.
It was a tiny place on a corner of a block without any signs what so ever. So it doesn't actually exist, I thought, disappointed. Then as I drew nearer, a long line of people proved that I hadn’t been duped. That’s usually a better sign than actual signs. Actually, now that I think about it, there might have been a sign, but it was written on a piece of paper with a black sharpie and taped to the window. That’s how the menu was listed and posted, too.
Once we made it to the door, we saw Betty going in and out the kitchen. She didn’t seem as crazy as I imagined, but she sure was wearing the blue wig. Something else was nearly as shocking—the serving sizes. It wasn’t simply a generous portion. It was an obscene huge. Their cookies were as big as my face. A slice of pie or cake seemed bigger than my stomach. It’s said that sometimes your eyes are bigger than your stomach, but this time, the food was bigger than my eyes. Needless to say, their famous chicken sandwich made two meals for me.
There were no chairs or tables inside the bakery. Instead, there were colorful ironing boards and bar stools right outside the bakery. I thought it really showed how just simple good food can bring in people. No pretentiousness. No gimmicks. I say that because I don’t think anyone can just pull off a blue wig as a legitimate business strategy.
The good news is that for those of you who live hundreds and thousands of miles away from the Bay Area, you can still get a taste of this famous sandwich, too. No flight tickets necessary. (Of course, if you happen to be here, please do visit the bakery and taste the real stuff.) All you need is the recipe, which I found on the interwebs and tested. If you want to get a real feel for it, borrow your mom’s ironing board and have a picnic style lunch in front of your house. Enjoy!