By Helen Mitternight
(Ed Note: All photos by Ferris Kaplan)
They say you should ask a busy person to get something done if you want it done on deadline. If that’s true, ask Kelly Chu and she’ll get it done.
Chu works nearly nonstop at her Charleston businesses.
She, along with her husband Tony, is creator of the Cirsea Ice Cream and Sorbetto. She was named Gelato Ambassador at the Gelato Festival America and, last January, and got sent to Italy on the strength of her gelato. She didn’t win the gold, but her flavors win new customers all the time here in Charleston.
She’s also the owner of Red Orchids China Bistro in West Ashley.
And, just last month, Chu opened Betty’s Diner in Mt Pleasant in the shopping center near Whole Foods.
It means that Kelly, already busy, is working at hyperspeed now. Typically, she rises early to get to Betty’s for its 8 am opening, then heads to Cirsea, and finally to Red Orchids, where she often stays until it closes at 9:30, and later if there’s something that needs to be resolved.
It means she doesn’t get to see what she calls her “needy cat,” Sushi, as often as she’d like.
“We don’t really live in our house,” Kelly says. “We sleep in it and do laundry in it.”
She and Tony opened Betty’s after closing their last venture in the space, Aya’s, whose Asian fusion menu was a bit complicated considering the labor shortage in Charleston. While Aya’s was fusion, Betty’s is all-American.
There is – and isn’t – a real Betty.
“We wanted a name that was a grandmother name, that sounded comforting and homey,” Chu says recently as I mop up the last of the syrup spilling down from my Normandy Farms brioche French toast sidling up to peppery fried chicken, the Betty take on the southern chicken and waffle combo.
“We asked a bunch of friends for names of their grandmothers and, believe it or not, they all had a grandmother named Betty!”
Chu says she and her husband love food and wanted a place that served comfort food – “and what’s more comforting than breakfast?”
Betty’s serves lunch as well, burgers and cheesesteak and other sandwiches, and even salads for those watching their waists, although why watch your waist when there is a mouthwatering assortment of milkshakes and malts featuring Cirsea ice cream?
Kelly and Tony plan to build the business slowly and, at least for now, hours are limited to breakfast and lunch as they hope to avoid the server shortage plaguing most of the city. They believe the quality of the food – local when possible, and no skimping on the ingredients – will help Betty’s put down roots in its new home.
915 Houston Northcutt Blvd, Mt Pleasant
Hours: 8 am – 3 pm Monday-Friday, 11 am – 4 pm Saturdays and Sundays