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The Weekly Eater

By Nadine Kam

Thursday, June 29, 2000


Dynamic duo
does it again
with ‘Betty’s’

LOTS of people make burgers, but it was Teddy's Bigger Burgers that got people's attention when it opened, not only because the burgers were bigger -- anyone who slaps a pound of beef on a grill now would top that claim to fame -- but because they are better than most. The shop remains committed to using 100 percent ground chuck, no fillers and the best ingredients available.



BAJA BETTY'S

Food STARSTARSTAR1/2
AtmosphereSTARSTARSTAR1/2
ServiceSTARSTAR
ValueSTARSTARSTAR

Bullet Address: Aloha Tower Marketplace
Bullet Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m.
Bullet Prices: Lunch for two about $25 without drinks; dinner $42 to $52. Self parking $2; valet $3.50 with validation
Bullet Call: 545-1200



I've always admired Teddy's focus on excellence vs. the rampant philosophy of bountiful mediocrity that has given us warmed over frozen foods at restaurants and simpering blonde popsters on radio.

It's hard enough to do one thing right, but with Teddy's success behind them, restaurateurs Rich Stula and Teddy Tsakiris have moved on to new turf -- the bar and grill -- often the Mother Lode of mediocrity because patrons are into booze, not food. I was curious to see whether the wonder duo could transfer their philosophy to a bigger arena.

Well, Baja Betty's Southwestern Bar & Grill certainly does its best to top its peers with 24 different kinds of tequila and a lengthy menu of tropical drinks and margaritas, including a $12.95 communal version, served in a glass big enough to house goldfish.

The restaurant hits the right marks in decor, awash with vibrant color like deep purple, turquoise, green and mesa red. The menu is equally vibrant. You'll want to try everything.

WE already know these guys do burgers right. Their expertise carries over to that other great grill food, ribs. The Mango (a bar and grill attentive to seasons!) and Caribbean Rum BBQ Ribs, available as an appetizer ($7.95), main dish ($14.95) or as part of a Tequila Prawn combo ($23.95), are meltingly tender and blend sweetness with chiles that hit the tongue like fireworks.

A week since opening, the menu has been pared to a more manageable size. Gone is a generous Steak and Salmon Combo, and a Ceviche of Scallops and Shrimp beautifully served in a martini glass. These will reappear from time to time. Look for further tweaking as they continue to experiment .

Going above and beyond typical bar food, you'll also find Achiote-Basted Sonoma Lamb Chops ($19.95), crispy Baja Fish & Chips ($13.95) and Texas T-Bone ($19.95) served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and topped with crispy ribbons of onion. These dishes fare better than Tex-Mex items such as Lotta Enchiladas ($12.95) and Crispy Chimichangas ($14.95), containing dry huli huli-style chicken and kalua pork, respectively, but accompanying white Tuscan beans is an improvement over refried mush served at other eateries.

Definitely leave room for the fondue pot ($10.95) for two filled with semi-sweet and rich Mexican chocolate for dipping fresh strawberries and kiwi fruit. Also on the plate, a couple of wedges of cheesecake for dipping in mango sauce. It was skimpy on fruit, which ran out before the chocolate did.

A dining companion ended up taking the chocolate home. "You can't waste good chocolate," she explained.

Nothing here went to waste.



See a listing of past restaurants reviewed in the
Do It Electric!

section online. Click the logo to go!




Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:

-- excellent;
-- very good, exceeds expectations;
-- average;
-- below average.

To recommend a restaurant, write: The Weekly Eater, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802. Or send e-mail to features@starbulletin.com



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