97 Elizabeth St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
I’ve been a Melbournian for over half my life, but before moving to Victoria, I actually lived for almost 5 years in Toowoomba – an idyllic country town nestled in the Darling Downs, just over 100km inland from Brisbane. To be fair though, Toowoomba actually is a decently sized place by Australian standards; with a population of over 100 thousand, it is actually the 16th largest city in Australia. Still, my memories of it are quaint and peaceful, barring that magpie that swooped in the same area near my house every spring without fail.
Given my recollections of Toowoomba, it was a bit jarring to hear that gourmet burger chain Betty’s Burgers and Concrete Co. now has a branch there. Back in my day, the local faux-Chinese restaurant was as fancy as things got. With that said though, Betty’s Burgers actually originated from Brisbane, which makes the expansion to Toowoomba much more understandable. After all, why should the big cities have all the good things?
Betty’s aims to be a gourmet fast food restaurant similar to the likes of In-N-Out, or Burger Project and Royal Stacks if we’re talking closer to home. However, the influence from Queensland is clear. With an abundance of timber, and the ceiling feature of hanging pot plants and fairy lights, it feels like a cross between a diner and a beer garden, with a very casual and relaxed vibe.
Our food came piled in a paper tray, looking fresh and appetising. The first thing I noticed – after the banners of butter lettuce – was how tiny each burger was. But hey, at least that meant I didn’t have to feel too guilty about getting dessert.
The Betty’s Classic ($10) was what every fast food chain wishes their burger could be. The soft white bun sandwiched a moist beef patty and fresh salad, and scattering of chopped onions to give the flavours a sharp lift. Each bite oozed with cheese and creamy special sauce, and tasted like a perfectly balanced indulgence that makes you want to lick your fingers clean, and then order a second.
I usually find chicken burgers to be rather underwhelming, but the Crispy Chicken ($11) was actually really enjoyable. The chicken fillet had been coated generously with peppery southern-styled seasoning, before being clearly fried and slapped between the buns with salad and mayo. I think the key here is that the chicken was neither domineering nor overshadowed; rather, it was a star player that still allowed the support act to shine.
Surprisingly, the Onion Rings ($6) were a bummer. They were neither good nor bad, but they were so distinctly average that they ended up being disappointing. Definitely get some dipping sauce to go with these.
With our burgers being so teeny, I didn’t feel so bad about indulging in the Spiced Pecan and Banana Cream Pudding Concrete ($8). And man am I glad I did.
Mixed in with the vanilla custard ice cream was a total mess of treats – spiced pecans, sticky date pudding chunks, fresh bananas – topped with a thick layer of banana cream and drizzled with salted caramel sauce. It was wonderfully sinful, and definitely worth the extra time at the gym.
Despite solid burgers and a great dessert, I actually didn’t love Betty’s Burgers. But for once, I can actually clearly point to the reason – portion sizes. There was so little of the burgers that I ended up feeling quite dissatisfied, despite the quality of the food. And sure, I could go and order another burger, but what kind of self-respecting, sober person does that? I wanted to love Betty’s, I really did, but until I succumb to the temptation of adding an extra patty and bacon, I think I’ll be getting my burger fix elsewhere.
Rating: 13/20 – the custard was amazing though.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.