I joined Betty Bercowski for lunch at her downtown cafe, Rainer’s, last week to sample some bits from her menu and taste a few of her homemade desserts.
The cafe named after one of her very tall sons and is located adjacent to her funky art gallery. I’ve been a fan for as long as it’s been open. Betty is my outsider art mentor and the reason there was ever a TRAM Fair. She’s beautiful, smart and has great taste in art.
Her cafe has been open a while. Daniel and I have had dessert there, but I had never eaten from their lunch menu.
We sipped on iced sweet Roobio tea ( … no plain sweet tea at this place. It’s fruity and amazing!) while we caught up on news of our families and mutual friends. We ordered the Cuban and Chicken Pesto Sandwiches to share.
The atmosphere in that place is so very cool. The walls are lined with work by Cham, Paul Flack, Ernest Lee and so many of my favorite folk artists. The wooden tables are all different, heavy, custom made works of art. And can you believe there are no cell phones allowed? Betty is a firm believer that’s it’s time to get back to some honest face time!
Our sandwiches arrived on colorful plates. The Cuban was a delicious combination of pulled pork (Betty cooks it in her crock pot with a bottle of root beer and then mixes in a little Ray’s BBQ Sauce). She tops that with honey ham, sliced sweet pickles, Swiss cheese and spicy mustard and sandwiches it all between toasted sour dough. Heaven.
The chopped pesto chicken sandwich with sun dried tomatoes was topped with provolone, also on sour dough.
With each bite I became increasingly disappointed that the sandwiches were disappearing. I’m not just saying this because she’s my friend: BEST LUNCH EVER. Sides included broccoli salad and German potato salad. Both very good.
I also sampled a spoonful of her Not-So-Hot chili, a recipe she made for her kids when they were little: onion, bell pepper, celery and assorted beans. The name is no indication of the taste. On a cold rainy day, it’s the ticket to warm the belly and will make taste buds smile.
See those pictures? Betty made these desserts by hand in her kitchen. She’s a big fan of the old school Church Social (as am I) and has a section of her menu dedicated to Sunday pan desserts and jello concoctions.
Today she had Puff: a crust made of flour, egg and butter, topped with chocolate pudding and whipped topping. Yum. The next dessert was Peanut Butter Pretzel Cheesecake. Salty. Sweet. Beautiful. The banana cake was moist and the cream cheese filling and icing were creamy and smooth. Oh, so good!
Rainer’s is one of the unsung hits of the downtown food scene and a must for lunch.
(sorry for the weird spacing on the pics! Maybe I’ll learn HTML one day.)