WALKING INTO BETTY at the top of Queen Anne, I immediately recalled my first visit to Crow —Betty’s sister restaurant at the bottom of the hill. Rarely does a restaurant explode into one’s awareness as perfect; Crow for me came close. The place, warm as a summer sunset with red walls and a sultry lack of light, bubbled and frothed like a good dinner party. A big brazen mural stretched across one wall. The food was simple and affordable, which my memory preserved in snapshots of crackling roast chicken, a sheet of lasagna draped in bright tomato sauce. The bar was too small, the dining room impenetrable, the place deafening. I could have gone every night.
So here I was at Betty, a study in cool blues and grays, with carefully placed squares of art on the walls and one cold shaft of white light spotlighting each unupholstered booth and table. Betty’s bar in back is bigger than Crow’s, sharing space with a private room that drips with a big amber chandelier. One could imagine such a chandelier at Crow, but at the atmospherically chilly Betty it feels misplaced. Owners Craig Serbousek and Jesse Thomas were going for something “a little more modern” at their new house, but they landed somewhere just north of generic. If Crow is the naughty sister with cleavage and a skirt split up to there, Betty is the goody-goody with the Peter Pan collar and the box pleats.
If Crow is the naughty sister with cleavage and skirt split up to there, Betty is the goody-goody with the Peter Pan collar and the box pleats.
Looking beyond aesthetics, one spies a glimmer of shared DNA. Open kitchens lined with bar seats in both restaurants bring the vigor of the back of the houses to the front, while laying bare the culinary purpose at the heart of each enterprise. Both houses strive to serve simple bistro fare in just a handful of permutations nightly. Crow’s is extravagantly delicious. But how does modest little Betty compare?
When I visited on opening night last May (as a prospective fan, not critic) the place was slammed with a whole lot of folks who’d been waiting as breathlessly as I had. The crowd was pure 98119—power singles, nonbreeding Dolce & Gabbana couples, the gilded advertising, law, and tech-sector professionals that give the crown of Queen Anne its patina. It was the same platinum crew as frequented Crow, only packaged a little less uptown: If Crow was their night out, Betty was their home away from home.
And steak frites, no doubt, is their usual. It’s Betty’s trophy plate, in the way of Crow’s roast chicken: a tender, loosely bound Brandt Farms rib eye glorified by the grill and oozing juices that only improve a mess of crisped fries. My daughter, who found it so tender she could cut it with her fork, kept sneaking that fork over to my plate for another stolen bite. “Eat your own food!” I finally barked, meat lust temporarily overwhelming anything remotely maternal.