Shrimp Po’ Girl — Betty’s Eat Inn, Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, CA

There are times when the sandwich you want to make isn’t perfectly conducive to being a sandwich. This was the case with the Shrimp Po’ Girl at Betty’s Eat Inn in Santa Cruz. Betty’s is a kitschy faux-throwback diner done right. They refer to their sauces as “Lubes” which are all made in-house, and offer several interesting-looking sandwiches. I opted for the Po’ Girl, and when it arrived, my first thought was, “That’s a lot of shrimp!” followed closely by my second thought, “How am I supposed to eat this?”

Herein lies the drawback with the solid concept of the sandwich: you have a chipotle sauce, lettuce, tomato, onion, and a very generous quantity of fried shrimp on herb dutch bread. The roll is not sliced all the way through and is served resting on its bread hinge, with its contents facing the sky. The sandwich is also served with a steak knife, ostensibly to cut into two easier-to-handle halves. Unfortunately, a multitude of fried shrimp is not so easily halved as, say, a serving of roast beef. I could tell that if I were to cut this sandwich, the whole thing would go to pieces. I at first approached the problem of picking it up, fearful that Betty’s intended for me to eat the Po’ Girl with the toppings vertical, like a hot dog. If that were the case, this item would be forced to fall under the “Not a Sandwich” tag on this blog. Luckily, one given a firm squeeze or two, the enterprise was truly only able to be eaten horizontally, thus getting Betty out of those murky waters of misclassification.

The sandwich had a very pleasing taste indeed, although the sauce could have used a tiny bit more kick and I could have done with a bit more onion than the few strands that were present on my visit. The sandwich was also served with lemon, so I tried a squeeze on a few bites, but preferred the overall effect sans citrus.

The downfall with this sandwich was the difficulty in eating. shrimp kept toppling out of the bottom, top, and side on nearly every bite due to the tricky logistics of unsecured round ingredients combined with “filling creep”. I understand the need for the bread hinge, as there is no telling where the shrimp would end up on a piece of bread that is open on all sides. I believe it is merely the case of the sandwich being too large; if a shorter roll were used, or perhaps slightly less shrimp (although I would never want to deprive myself of extra shrimp), it would be much more manageable.

A good sandwich that comes with a slightly frustrating sandwich-eating experience is not a wash…far from it. This is a sandwich I would gladly have again, but it is certainly an effort to keep it together. A few minor tweaks and the overall effect could be pleasing all around.