The Sage Restaurant Concepts Team Brings Californian Cuisine—and an Epic Boat Bar—to D.C.

A Maryland crab roll with cucumber, seaweed, and citrus-coriander aioli at Hello Betty | Credit: From the Hip Photo

A sprawling 3,000-square-foot space in North Bethesda’s Canopy by Hilton now plays host to a laid-back Californian transplant: Hello Betty, a coastal charmer from the Denver-based Sage Restaurant Concepts

“Betty is this entrepreneurial figure. She’s a boardroom killer who also likes to skateboard and surf and snowboard,” says Ryan Zemel, general manager of Hello Betty, the group’s first outpost in the DMV area. According to him, the restaurant’s fictional namesake channels a charismatic person who embodies the Golden State’s iconic surfing and skateboarding cultures.

“We create a lot of craveable food that people want to come back and eat,” says Zemel, describing a seafood-centric menu that features everything from fire-roasted oysters and blue crabs to hearty bowls of clam chowder and rockfish tacos. “[Whether] I went snowboarding or came out of a three-hour board meeting, Hello Betty is the place I’d want to come to after,” he adds.

Fire-charred oysters at Hello Betty | Credit: From the Hip Photo

Combining Californian cuisine with mid-Atlantic flavors, the menu at Hello Betty is nothing short of inventive. A meal here offers plenty of bicoastal bounty, beginning with a plate of lemon-thyme-and-garlic-seasoned oysters charred over an open flame, plus a couple of tins of mussels and octopus.

“We serve them with crackers and a hot sauce,” says Zemel of the tins, popular Spanish tapas that have only recently gained popularity in the United States. “It’s not too hot but serves as an important component to the dish, as far as flavor goes.”

Zemel also recommends a shareable rockfish tacos plate—it’s the state fish of Maryland—with red rice and beans, pico de gallo, and corn tortillas. “It’s meaty, while still being very tender—it’s not fishy whatsoever,” he says. “Rockfish also don’t have a thick skin, so they can crisp up quickly.”

Another must: Hello Betty’s basket of Maryland’s famed blue crabs, heavily influenced by the area’s seafood boils. “Using the mallets and the crackers—it’s a fun thing to experience,” says Zemel, describing crab picking, a popular annual mid-Atlantic ritual. The fire-roasted crustaceans are tossed in Old Bay vinegar and served with corn on the cob and red potatoes.

Hello Betty’s specialty margaritas | Credit: From the Hip Photo

Hello Betty’s boat drinks, a nod to carefree cruise culture, are not to be missed.

Zemel recommends the specialty margaritas, which combine mezcal and blanco or reposado tequila with ingredients such as charred peppers, cucumber, apple, and basil.

For peak summer vibes, order a glass of Betty’s Crush. “It’s special because we use vanilla syrup and make our carbonated soda in-house,” says Zemel of the restaurant’s signature drink, a take on the Orange Crush, an East Coast cult-favorite cocktail with roots in Ocean City, Maryland. 

The curated wine and beer list comes from Hawaii, Washington, Spain, and Ireland, with local brews from Baltimore and Washington, D.C. making appearances as well.

A 40-foot boat, which doubles as a bar, is anchored in the middle of the restaurant’s patio. | Credit: From the Hip Photo

Hello Betty’s interiors also evoke California’s beaches and boards. Step inside the airy indoor dining area and a vibrant mural of an ombré sunset with palm trees sets the mood for dinner.

“We have a lot of skateboards on the wall, as well as old cameras and cassette players,” says Zemel of the easygoing decor, which also includes colorful Mexican serape blankets with white fringes, rattan dining chairs, and turquoise-colored booths. “It’s old school meets new school and a whole lot of fun.”

The main draw, though, especially as the weather warms in the district, is Hello Betty’s outdoor patio. Anchored in the middle is a 40-foot boat, which doubles as a bar that seats 20.

“As summertime approaches, we’re going to host live music and movie nights throughout the week,” says Zemel. In addition to those entertainment options, people can expect paint-and-sip evenings—with slip-on sneakers serving as canvases—and cornhole tournaments as they drink refreshing glasses of frosé, among other cooling cocktails.

Hello Betty is now open Wednesday and Thursday from 5 pm to 10 pm and Friday through Sunday from 5 pm to 11 pm. Brunch is served every Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 3 pm, while happy hour runs Wednesday through Sunday, from 3 pm to 6 pm.

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