By Richard Campbell
With the permanent closing of Stephi’s on Broadway, and the remodeling of Shenanigans, Back Yard Betty’s enters the West Broadway neighborhood at the appropriate moment for tryout time. While the paint is just barely dry on this new cozy restaurant, the proprietors seem to be doing most things right. A fundamental in the restaurant business, outside of great food, is to create a welcoming atmosphere. The staff at Betty’s have the right stuff, from hostesses to waiters and bar tenders there’s a laid-back charm to the serving style that befits the restaurant theme. The clever retro-chic style has a Mad Men appeal, designed by Assembly Design Studio, harking back to a nostalgic time. I almost expected cokes to be served in green bottles for the kids. Not yet!
The opening menu is pretty small reflecting the cautious idea of starting with fewer items and giving them the kitchen test. It is regular pub food that is tasty and came out looking nice. I had the juicy ½ spit fired chicken ($22) which was a little bird, with heirloom grilled herbed potatoes and vegetables, delicately flavored and cooked to perfection. The person with me, who is somewhat of an expert on hamburgers, recounted the quality of the of the two-patty beef burger ($15) as well as the Wolf Meadow cheese upon it. It is a fairly simple meal for carnivores. The Nashville hot Fried Chicken sandwich looked good coming out of the kitchen- a little closer to spicy back yard barbeque than my spit fired chicken. Perhaps the most popular side is the Rosemary Sea Salt French fries. There were a few shrimp appetizers and halibut, also served with the same potatoes. I would be looking for more robust barbeque items and varied sides, but I’m sure that will come later. The pizza list is similarly short, though a few of them looked colorful coming out of the kitchen. We had the strawberry shortcake dessert that was pretty petite but hit the right notes of freshness and airy summer delight. They kept things simple, which is good, but the chef needs to go deeper on portions served in Southie.
With sixteen drafts on the menu, mostly more original microbrewery styles, we had the Notch Session Pils, a fairly close approximation of the Czech Pilsner made in Salem, MA. They had fourteen beers in cans and bottles, among them fan favorites like Ipswich Ale, Lonestar and Lagunitas Ales, with a few odd balls like a watermelon wheat from California. The wine list had a respectable small list of whites: Italian Prosecco, Kunde California Sauvignon blanc, and Sonoma-Cutrer, Russian River Chardonnay, Acrobat Pino Gris, and some bargain wines. The Red list included: Joseph Carr Paso Robles Cabernet, Argentinian Tilia Malbec, Cartlidge & Browne Pinot Noir, North Coast, a few more Californians and a couple of Roses. There were no prices on the wine menu for glasses or bottles. They had some cleverly named cocktails: “Call Me Maybe” jalapeno infused deep eddy vodka with watermelon, cucumber and lime, and “Stars Over Southie” with Bombay Sapphire Gin, Lemon, St. Germain, mint, and “bubbly.” I always like it when a restaurant includes Sangria, but having spent time in Spain, they usually don’t pass the authenticity test in Boston, (Estragon being an exception).
All in all, Betty’s makes a pretty good first impression, for offering standard food with a twist, providing above average attention to the patrons, and having the right vibe. While still not worn in enough to completely claim the carefully crafted brand, the owners were smart enough not to lay the corporate feel on too heavily. A special kudos to the most-friendly two Betty hostesses who chatted us up at the front door. Located at 170 West Broadway, close enough to the T to leave the car at home, Betty’s is only open for dinner from 5 pm to 11 pm, but the bar is open an hour early and closes at 1:00am. Let the summer barbeque begin!