Fried Chicken, Oakland Style (by an Aussie)

2.44pm, Thursday April 8th, Telegraph Road, Oakland, East Bay across the water from San Francisco, CA, USA
This is the Temescal-Telegraph area of Oakland, neat old weatherboard two-story homes, stone homes that used to be boarding houses, old-fashioned brick storefronts down the main Telegraph Road frontage, and old Art Deco shops and original neon dotted here and there.

Bakesale Betty's - lined up out the door

I came over this side of town early to grab some lunch, as I’ll be doing my last job just down the road this evening in Albany. But I’ve wanted to get over here at least once this trip. It’s an old agricultural area, the first telegraph wire from Oakland to Sacramento went through here – so the name of this main road – and then it became an Italian neighbourhood in the 1960s. And right where the action is – on the corner of Telegraph and 51st Street – is a double-story eatery called Bakesale Betty’s. It is a bit of an East Bay thing to do, and I’d heard about the fried chicken and coleslaw sandwiches since I got to town. I was told “get there early – there’s always a line and they always sell out”.

So this was my opportunity.

Greasy, messy, and delicious!

Sure enough, there was Bakesale Betty’s, and there was the line – about 30 people out the door and down the street. The footpath (sidewalk!) has these ironing boards set up with stools as the streetside cafe dining for Bakesale Betty’s, and the menu is written up on paper sheets that fill the front windows. There are only two savoury items – the chicken sandwich and the egg salad sandwich. Chicken pot pies are from 4 – 6pm. Today’s sweet is the strawberry shortcake, and that’s all they wrote! Once you get in the door though, it’s a hive of activity! I reckon there were 15 to 20 people in the bakehouse pulling fried chicken pieces out the oven, chopping fried chicken, chopping coleslaw, slicing open torpedo bread rolls, stacking coleslaw and fried chicken to capacity into the rolls, squashing the rolls down & wrapping them in paper and sliding them into paper bags, and sending them out the door! It’s a well oiled machine!

Perfect partner for a chilled botrytis viognier

And the strawberry shortcake said “Surrender now!” Underneath about a quarter pound of strawberries there is the shortcake! There’s also a glass shelf of just about every biscuit known to man. I did the sandwich and shortcake combo and perched on a stool at my ironing board under the trees, and got stuck into the freshest sandwich I’ve had since I got here. But beware. Get extra paper towels as you will have greasy wet fingers. This is one must-do foodie thing that delivers. I reckon two normal people could split a sandwich and sweet and have a good lunch each. I’ll finish the other half of my fried chicken coleslaw tower before I go to work tonight – at those things everyone else eats and I talk, so this will work well.

By the way, Bakesale Betty’s was put together by an Australian lass, Alison Barakat, who came to live in San Francisco in 2000. She makes all sorts of sweet things that she had as a kid, from lemon bars, ginger cookies, sticky date pudding to lamingtons. Bit of a shame there weren’t any of those on today – I would have got homesick! But if you’re visiting SFO or live in the Bay Area and haven’t done it yet – save up your $13.50 and get one of these fried chicken sambos and whatever the sweet of the day is – you won’t go wrong.

I’m off to the last job for this California adventure. We’re doing a tasting with tapas-style food with the Andronico’s folks – and an in store tasting prior to that – over in the neat little East Bay neighbourhood of Albany. So I’ll catch up Southern Cal plus tonight’s job this evening when I get back home to Pleasanton.

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