It's easy to get deja vu driving down Eagle Road. Big box strip malls repeat endlessly, as if on a cartoon loop, and most of the adjacent chain restaurants are temples to mass-produced efficiency and portability.
But in the Fred Meyer strip mall just off Eagle Road at 1830 E. Fairview Ave. in Meridian, something different has sprouted up. Fresh Betty Spaghetti doesn't break the chain mold, per se, but it adds a twist. The locally owned take-out spaghetti concept makes its pasta, sauce and meatballs from scratch daily. Unlike nearby chains, Fresh Betty doesn't offer endless customizable options, just spaghetti (for one, two or family sized), with pasta sauce (with meat or not) and the option to add extra meatballs (traditional, beef, chicken or special).
Fresh Betty owners Sean Pearce and his uncle Drew Pearce, who formerly owned three Gandolfo's Deli franchises in the Treasure Valley, hope the concept will appeal to busy families looking for an alternative to pizza. They plan to expand Fresh Betty to include three or four more stores, with an eye to franchising the concept.
And those ambitions are apparent right when you walk in the door. The place has a sanitized WWII pin-up vibe, with black-and-white posters of buxom beauties wielding power tools plastering the walls and a glistening, cherry-red wrap-around counter piled high with take-out boxes. There were more employees than customers on hand when I stopped in for a late lunch and ordered the spaghetti for one ("unleaded," aka without meat) with two small beef meatballs ($1.49) and one of the special meatballs ($1.49), a spicy blend of beef and pork. I also tacked on a side salad ("wet," aka with dressing) and an order of cheesy bread ($1.49).
Dreading the thought of wolfing down hot pasta in my hot car, I snagged one of Fresh Betty's two tiny dine-in tables and tore into my meal's ample packaging as "Que Sera, Sera" boomed from the speakers. One square take-out box was crammed to the top with udon-thick spaghetti noodles swimming in a bland, yet inoffensive tomato sauce that clung to the pasta admirably. Though a bite of the beef meatball brought back unwelcome memories of Chef Boyardee, the spicy beef and pork blend was much more agreeable, full of flavor and just a hint of spice. I dumped a plastic container of powdery "freshly grated" parmesan onto the pasta, but found myself craving sizeable shavings of the real deal. The salad take-out box was also packed to the top, with shreds of iceberg wilting under a much-too-tangy house vinaigrette. The bread, a halved white sub used for the menu's only non-pasta option--the meatball sandwich ($4.49)--was toasted with cheese, but unremarkable.
While Fresh Betty's simple menu and housemade noodles are a refreshing change of pace when compared to the highly processed fare served at nearby chain restaurants, you can get a better plate of pasta locally. But if price and portability are your primary objectives, you could do much worse.