Restaurant Review: Betty’s Nosh

Story and photos by Mark Sterling-Ogle, Oct. 9, 2014.

Nosh, from the Yiddish word nashn, is derived from Middle High German naschen, which means to eat on the sly. Through the latter part of the 20th century it has taken to mean snacking, and there is nothing sly about the snacks that Betty’s Nosh, the "original mushroom bar," has put forward.

The bar area is set with dark and highly polished wooden tables that were an eye-pleasing match to the red color palate of the walls and ceilings. We decided to sit in the dining room side near the open kitchen and the mushroom bar, where one can watch the kitchen staff stuff the buttons to order.

My lunch companion and I, on a midweek visit, started with two of the signature stuffed mushrooms. On the lunch menu, two sizable buttons mounded with a stuffing and a Parmesan crostini will run you $8 or try three caps, or one large Portobello, for $12.

There are 18 different options, including the bacon cheeseburger, albacore tuna melt, chicken carbonara with capers and beef-n-blue, braised beef tips topped with Maytag blue cheese sauce. We both zeroed in on the crabmeat delight, seasoned imitation crab smothered in Alfredo sauce and topped with Parmesan cheese. The sauce and cheese formed a browned and bubbly crust on the top. Even though it was crab with a “k,” we agreed it was delightfully tasty.

Betty’s cheese and fruit plate.

We also wanted to do some sharing and truly nosh. While classic sandwich fare — the ultimate club ($12) and all-American cheese burger ($11) and French dip ($14) — is available, we decided on the gourmet grilled cheese ($11). Danish Havarti, Swiss, Smoked Gouda with herbed cream cheese were melted to a creamy perfection and the addition of avocado slices enhanced the creaminess without adding to the richness. Just enough rosemary and honey caramelized onions gave the balance needed here and Parmesan cheese griddled on the outside of the sourdough slices provided a delightful crunchy texture. Of course, adding crispy Boar’s Head applewood smoked bacon ($1) didn’t hurt either.

All the sandwich options are served with choice of french fries, red potato wedges or coleslaw, and you have the option to substitute cinnamon sugar sweet potatoes, the signature mushroom soup, the soup of the day, a side salad ($2) or a Caesar salad ($2.50).

We opted for the mushroom soup, of course, and found it delicately seasoned with a perfect consistency. Our server made up for a couple service missteps by bringing out the soup of the day, compliments of the house. That day, it was chicken and rice and it was a showstopper. With just enough thyme and spices for a flawless flavor, chunks of chicken breast and perfectly cooked rice, it was the best we had ever tasted.

Gourmet grilled cheese sandwich with mushroom soup.

To round out our noshing, we looked over the various flatbreads to be had. The usual suspects — Margherita ($8), sausage and tomato ($8) and mushroom and tomato ($8) — are all listed. The one that sounded most original, however, was The Gus Gus ($8). Thin slices of prosciutto, paired with mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, tied together with arugula and marinara and garnished with fresh parsley. The prosciutto was plentiful and pleasantly crisp, with just the right amount of sauce to keep the flatbread crunchy.

A few days later I returned late in the evening, but was a bit dismayed to learn the staff begins breaking down the kitchen at 9 p.m. As a result, there was only a limited menu of mushrooms, cannelloni and the flatbread selections available. My to-go order included Italian sausage cannelloni ($10) for myself and a Caesar salad ($11) for my partner (which was a disappointing portion size for the price). While they prepared my order I tried the beef-n-blue stuffed mushroom caps — delectable!

Gus Gus flatbread.

The cannelloni, which translates to large reed in Italian, is better known as manicotti here in the U.S. These large cylindrical tubes of pasta are traditionally filled with ricotta cheese and topped with marinara. At Betty’s, you can also have them filled with chicken, mushroom and a seafood combination, and topped with rich Alfredo sauce. Under advice from the friendly bartender, I did enjoy the Italian sausage, though it was a tad spicy.

When the kitchen is in full swing, there are two antipasti options, a meat and cheese plate and Betty’s cheese and fruit plate ($18). I found out that the owner, Phil Denaro, actively seeks out students from local culinary schools to complete their externships here, And these plates give them an opportunity to showcase the knife and presentation skills they have learned, as well as prepare the literal ton of mushrooms they go through each month. Hopefully, Phil will make a stop by your table when you visit, he is quite a character, and seems to be a fun guy (pun intended).

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