The Betty

West Loop

Eric Kleinberg

Time Out says

The Fulton Market cocktail bar is ambitious, but the drinks fall flat

It didn’t take more than a quick glance around the Betty, the six-week-old Fulton Market bar from Footman Hospitality (Bangers & Lace, The Anthem, Bucktown Pub) to see that it’s their most ambitious project yet. They brought in Peter Vestinos (Winchester, Sepia and others) to do the cocktails and Rachel Dow (Avec) to run the food program. The bar is located right next door to the Publican, and it seems to want to be the logical next step—finish your oysters and beer there, or at any other spot in the neighborhood, then settle into the Betty’s long red couch for the rest of the evening.

But the bar doesn’t quite reach the level it set for itself. The décor is from the same school of purposeless whimsy we’ve seen so frequently in bars and restaurants lately—there’s a player piano, a barber chair near the restrooms and a bookcase packed with eclectic stuff. (“There’s a stuffed duck, records, a sewing machine, vintage decanters, small animal skulls, a globe, an old radio and polished horns,” my friend, who sat facing the bookcase, rattled off to me.)

We ordered the featured gin and tonic, a combination that will change regularly, which was delivered to the table on a tray in five parts: a glass with ice, a mixing glass of gin, a bottle of tonic, a container of lime juice and a dropper with bitters. It’s a gorgeous presentation, but our server placed it on the table, told us to add two drops of bitters and some lime juice, then left. My date looked at me askance.

Club service, when a server brings a spirit and a mixer to the table and makes it for you, isn’t super common at cocktail bars anymore, but presenting patrons with $16 cocktails they have to make themselves shouldn’t exist at all, particularly at a bar that wants to focus on gin. For $16, I want a great gin and tonic that celebrates the spirit, not vague directions.

I’d be willing to discount the gin and tonic presentation as just a bad idea, but the rest of the cocktail list has more $13 misses. Part of the problem is that Vestinos isn’t behind the bar making the cocktails himself, which would likely fix some of the issues. La Grande Dame, with gin, cognac, mint, lemon, grapefruit and creole bitters, and sparkling soda, has too many flavors going on that don’t coalesce into something you want to drink. I had the cobbler, with amontillado sherry, apple brandy and pineapple syrup, on two separate visits—on the first, the glass was predominantly sherry; on the second, apple brandy. The best I tried was Life During Wartime, a genever drink with green-tea syrup, Aperol, bitter lemon soda and fennel bitters—it’s dry and herbal, and very pleasant. There's also a handful of good local and international beers and equal space devoted to wines by the glass and bottle.

The space hinders eating, since the lounge tables aren’t sized for dinner, and much of the food is entrée-size plates. But no matter—the food is better than the drinks, so eat something. Skip the oily cauliflower, with pomegranate, almonds and bean puree, in favor of the clams, which come with a flavorful tomato fennel broth and buttery shrimp, and the potato and mushroom pierogis, which are well-made, though the apple agrodolce served with them is on the sweet side.

There are talented people behind the Betty, and I’ve always liked Bangers & Lace, but there’s still a substantial amount of work to do before it realizes its ambitions.


By Amy Cavanaugh

Posted: Friday, March 6, 2015


Details

  • Venue name:
    The Betty
  • Contact:
  • Address:
    839 W Fulton Market
    Chicago
    60607
  • Opening hours:
    Daily 4pm–2am
  • Transport:
    El stop: Green, Pink to Morgan-Lake. Bus: 8, 56.