Chef Rachel Dow heats up lounge dining in the West Loop.
The Betty’s grilled squid salad with tossed frisée and bulgur, accented by lemony tahini.
Betty has been around the block. She’s flirtatious and smart. She laughs—loudly. And she has a thing for peacock feathers. As the spirit of The Betty, the new lounge/restaurant on Fulton Market from Footman Hospitality (Bangers & Lace, The Anthem), she will never ask for a commitment, which may, in fact, account for her quick following. Frequent waiting lists suggest patrons enjoy The Betty over a glass of sparkling Italian rosé or an Evil Twin pilsner. But anyone who sticks around for another round—and delves beyond the bar-bait flatbread on the menu—will begin to appreciate this destination’s deeper intrigue.
The nonfictional woman who animates The Betty is Rachel Dow, the former sous chef at Avec, now given free rein to cook in the timber-columned, 5,000-square-foot space, which once housed a club but now caters to the just-drinks set as well as more serious diners, with ambitions to convert the former. “I like to challenge people to order something they weren’t thinking of when they walked in the door,” says Dow, who shares a frankness with the fictional Betty.
Rachel Dow, a first-time head soda with fresh mint. chef, created The Betty’s menu of just a dozen or so small and larger plates; the retro-chic bar with tufted stools
For her first time leading a kitchen, Dow wrote the anti-sprawl menu with just a dozen or so small and larger plates. It rambles around, from light kampachi crudo to rich tikka masala chicken, but what ties the offerings together is a sense of balance: Gemlike pomegranate seeds stud the fried cauliflower salad, adding brightness to the best-selling, earthy dish. Grilled squid mingles with tossed frisée and nutty bulgur accented by lemony tahini.
“I jokingly call it ‘Modern Grandma’ just because the flavors are familiar,” says Dow. “I feel like most people have a pretty nostalgic view of their grandmother’s cooking. But I don’t want to call it comfort food. That indicates heaviness to me. I’m always looking for balance with acid, texture, and richness.”
Channeling Betty Crocker, her desserts hew homey, with a daily mini pie and seasonal cookies. Dow, who does not have a strong sweet tooth, is satisfied by “a little something.”
The retro-chic bar with tufted stools.
“We weren’t trying to pick just one cuisine but to let chef Rachel do her thing, and she likes bringing in flavors from all over the place,” says Chris Haisma, a partner in Footman Hospitality. “And the design is the same way.”
Indeed it is: Piles of vintage suitcases neighbor a player piano. A tufted couch runs along a wall-length bookcase filled with an old phonograph, radio, and stacks of vinyl (played over an excellent sound system that allows conversation). The ambience is so retro, if not period-specific, that you almost expect a smoke-filled room.
“Betty is a well-traveled woman,” says designer Studio K owner Karen Herold. In conceiving the place, they played with the character of Betty as an old-soul hostess. “It was the idea that people would go to see Betty, and she would pour you a glass of whiskey and hang out,” says Herold. “The Betty became our ideal woman.”
A lamb dish with falafel and artichoke.
For the record, there are men at work here, too. Peter Vestinos (Sepia) designed the beverage program to include a smartly curated list of craft beers and boutique wines as well as original cocktails, many with an effervescence that matches the celebratory feeling of spending an evening with Betty
“I don’t want to say it’s mature,” says Dow, “but it’s a grown-up place to have drinks and dinner without being too committed to a restaurant.” 839 W. Fulton Market, 312-733-2222