Betsy’s on the Corner is a soda fountain, a diner, and a town café, source of square meals with a southern accent and of a grand, all-American ice-cream splurge.
The big menu offers salads, soups, sandwiches and rugged burgers with all sorts of toppings (turkey or veggie patties also available), including a “Corner Burger” that is a South Carolina paradigm topped with fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese. All-beef Nathan’s brand hot dogs come nestled in New England-style split-top buns that are griddle-toasted to a crisp. I like one called The Murphy Dog, which is a Dixie dog variation, with chili and slaw plus dill pickle chips. Onion rings available on the side are superb: fragile-crusted and fresh, needing a good sprinkle of salt to attain perfection.
Betsy’s serves a Blue Plate Special every day, a meat-and-two affair that includes a couple of side dishes (try the rich, motley-textured mac ‘n’ cheese), a corn muffin, and a drink, all for $9. On Sunday only, Betsy’s also is open for breakfast.
Ice cream service is a kick, ranging from cones and cups to sundaes to a top-of-the-line “Heavens to Betsy” that is eight scoops of ice cream, hot fudge, butterscotch, caramel and marshmallow toppings, pineapple, strawberries, bananas, Heath Bar crunch, Oreo crumbles, peanuts, whipped cream, and cherries. I like the Nutty Buddy sundae, which is vanilla ice cream, hot fudge and peanut butter sauce, crumbled Reese’s Pieces, whipped cream and a cherry. There is nothing extraordinary about the ice cream or the fudge, but these concoctions are well-constructed and will satisfy all but the fussy ice cream epicure.
The one reason not to have ice cream is cake. Betsy’s cakes, made fresh in the morning by a gent name Meechee, are some of the best anywhere: tall, generously frosted beauties that range from mile-high, 5-layer chocolate to dazzling pecan pie pound cake. All welcome the a la mode treatment.
What a lively place to dine – cacophonous and crazy-busy, with what looks like 100 waitresses bustling about and calling to the kitchen and among themselves above the din of chattering diners. It appears to be chaos, but the staff are so in synch and coordinated that one time as I told my waitress what I wanted to drink, another waitress, behind her, eavesdropped and presented the drink to me before I finished ordering my meal! A mere glance of worry or impatience from a diner elicits an “are you alright?” from one of the passing staff within three to five seconds.
Betsy’s clientele includes visitors, locals, and, at lunch especially, people who work in Aiken’s downtown district.