Flashback: Bakesale Betty’s in Oakland

Bakesale Betty's Chicken Sandwich

Bakesale Betty’s Chicken Sandwich, Oakland California. Kendra Williams-Valentine.

This month’s Bon Apetit arrived, and behold, emblazoned on the front cover: A crispy chicken sandwich with fresh slaw- I instantly knew that somehow, someway, the Bakesale Betty gospel had reached the east coast, and now the nation for sure.

The perfect chicken sandwich

The Bon Apetit magazine cover that set my memories in motion: Bakesale Betty’s!

It was August 2011 when I visited this lunch-spot supreme. I was in Oakland, working with La Wanda from CocoaDiva for the month of August. She, aware of my culinary sensibilities (read obsession) wanted to take me to the new hot lunch-spot for a “Fried-” I instantly interrupted with a “yes!” eyes wide with anticipation. I regained my composure, apologized, and let her finish with a laugh: “fried chicken sandwich…but really really good, and fresh”. I have to admit, when she said “fresh” I was thinking “fresh out the fryer” so I was not expecting the glory that awaited (Although freshly fried was also true, she was referring to the fresh slaw in the sandwich). So what does two hard working women do on a hot summer afternoon in the middle of prepping for a food event? Ride over to the other side of Oakland to wait in line for a sandwich, that’s what (I’m in Cali baby, what do you want?).

Bakesale Betty Sign, Oakland

Bakesale Betty Sign. Kendra Williams-Valentine

We had to get there in good time, as they consistently run out of the goods in a short lunch window of a couple hours. We arrived at a simple storefront, no furnishings inside and a hand written menu on the door. Just a good service line and boxes of dry goods lining the walls.

Outside, 5 or 6 colored iron boards propped up as tables with stools, serviced a few patrons as dining tables:

Hipsters trying to get out of the sun so either their vinyl accessories don’t melt or so they keep an edgy pasty complexion: I could not determine which.
Sneaker-heads looking crisp with cornrows and rare Nike Dunks, accountant guy that forwent an undershirt beneath his white see-through button down, and that old man with the eclectic sense of fashion who seems to always know where the mid day hot spots are: everyone was getting their bird on.

To be honest, it was love at first sight- let alone bite. Not close to any chicken sandwich I’ve had, but at the same time so very familiar. You can see and taste each ingredient, but still you get the feeling there is something special in the mix, something unbeknown to you, something spiritual. True, I am a southern fried food fanatic when I want to be, but this was beyond bias… looking around at the throngs of people I was reassured of this. Bakesale Betty’s is
decadent yet fresh.. something I’ve only grown accustomed to look to Vietnamese cuisine for.

That crispy slaw… how the hell does it all keep such integrity? The flaky breading, crunchy the whole way through (although we should remember we were not diddling through this meal, it was all business) and not one strand of slaw wilted by the warmth of the chicken… a marvel of execution.

In my head I did a jig… not as in ‘little dance’: full on Savion Glover/Crip walk hybrid… I can still remember it clearly nearly (2) years later. Oakland has a winner.

Bakesale Betty Slaw, Oakland