Friday, April 17, 2015

Famous Potato Pancakes at Bette's Oceanview Diner

Bette's Oceanview Diner on Urbanspoon Bette's Oceanview Diner is a bright, clean, retro-looking diner with retro fixtures. While waiting for your food, things to look for include "Bette's First Dollar", a Seeburg Wall-O-Matic, and free postcards.

It's a very popular place -- I was there 7:30 AM on a Friday morning and it was already almost at capacity. They are also dangerously close to smelling like a tourist trap with their cookbooks and souvenir mugs. Even so, prices are not bad. Special breakfasts come in at more than $10, but there's lots under $10. House blend coffee $2.75 in a rather thick mug (so there's less than you think) but it's apparently endless so the possibly long wait for your breakfast isn't completely boring. Bring a newspaper or something and sip on your coffee.

I had been recommended their Tuna Melt by friends who used to live in San Francisco, but my schedule on my 2015-April trip to San Francisco / Berkeley didn't let me linger till 11 AM to order it, so instead I went with their supposedly famous potato cakes.

Bette’s Potato Pancakes ($11.95) Our famous German-style pancakes, grated to order and served with house-made applesauce and sour cream
  • Two large and flat pan fried potato cakes, probably amounting to just one big potato. A medium breakfast for a premium price, considering it's shredded potato held together by a bit of egg.
  • Strangely weak applesauce and sour cream that didn't taste sour. Hmm.
  • Can't see why this is "famous" as it is not particularly tasty and the price hardly appealing.
Maybe it's breakfast rush optimization, but apparently when they ask you "is that everything for you" when you order, it also means they prepare the bill for you and hand it to you when you have finished eating. Totally discourages lingering--and I guess they don't really want you to because even bar seating needs good turnaround when they are slammed at breakfast.
I've had this experience at dinner as well, and not just in San Francisco / Berkeley. Whatever the reason, it still feels like rushing the customer (and it probably is) and that always bugs me, especially as the end result is the same if the customer does insist on lingering: Either the restaurant can't do anything, or has to have an uncomfortable chat with them about making room for the people waiting in line.
And precisely because the end result is the same, why not allow the customer to make the considerate move first (e.g., by promptly asking for the bill)? I often ask for my bill right away when the busser comes to clear my dishes, if I know I am definitely not ordering anything else. I even hand them my credit card so they can start processing it right away.

The two best ways to experience Bette's are probably:
  • Order an under-$10 breakfast and their coffee.
  • Order an over-$12 special breakfast to see what they can do.
Don't bother with anything that sounds boring, because it probably is -- unless it's cheap and you are looking to spend less than $15 for breakfast, which is way too easy to do in Berkeley.

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