Petaling Jaya Family Dinner Serving American Cuisine
Author’s presentation: As someone who has lived in the American Midwest for 4 years, I’ll be honest, I never really found the appeal of food there. It may be very high in meat, which is not quite in my lane, and I prefer more seasoning in my meals.
But I was surprised to learn that a few Malaysians fell in love with this cuisine, so much so that they opened a restaurant, Betty’s Midwest Kitchen, to serve it.
Located in the small PJ neighborhood of Aman Suria, this quaint restaurant got its start at a time when American cuisine was still primarily served by restaurant chains like Chili’s and TGIF, as well as fast food brands like KFC and McDonald’s.
The life of a small town has captured their hearts
âMidwestern cuisine is dear to our family. When we visited my sister [in Minneapolis, Minnesota], we fell in love with farmers’ markets, roadside restaurants and various establishments in the Midwest. It’s simple and filling, âKevin told the Vulcan Post.
Dictionary time: The Midwest is a region of the United States with a more agrarian (agricultural) and rural lifestyle. Some notable cities in the Midwest are Chicago, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Indianapolis, etc.
At the time, Kevin was still working in a restaurant in Malaysia with his wife, and the couple had ambitions to create their own. Eventually, they were encouraged by their parents who funded their business, and Kevin’s mother also joined in to help the business.
âI trained in cooking at Taylor’s College Hospitality and with my mother. [culinary skills are] completely self-taught. Recipes are a fight of wills between my mom and me and if we convince ourselves that we love it, then let’s go, âKevin recalls.
Finding your place in Malaysia
Betty’s Midwest Kitchen started in 2009 and today they remain a popular family dining spot for the local community.
âChoosing a location was difficult, but we were motivated by price and traffic. Aman Suria was a fairly young hangout with a famous mamak restaurant nearby and it was relatively untapped, âexplained Kevin.
Although they did not share the numbers, Kevin felt their cuisine was well received by Malaysians. Their meat dishes are mostly pork, which they say has helped welcome customers.
âOur most iconic dish would be our dog food,â Kevin explained, but before we panic, it’s basically oven-baked poutine (cheese, fries, and gravy) that’s served in a pie dish that looks a lot like a dish of dog food.
From the start of their restaurant until now, they have pretty much the same menu which includes a variety of burgers and ribs. And recently, they’ve also made their own bacon and breasts.
Expansion is not a priority
Despite all of her years in business, I was surprised to learn that Betty’s Midwest Kitchen has never gone beyond its single outlet, Aman Suria.
âWe have already turned down franchise offers. This restaurant has been more of a way of life for us than the income it brings. I don’t think it will be the same if it becomes a chain, âKevin told Vulcan Post.
In a way, they embody what is on the other spectrum of American capitalist culture by staying small, describing the charm of cozy Midwestern diners. In my experience, the latter has always been found close to neighborhoods and families as a must-see meeting place.
Thanks to that charm, Kevin thinks they aren’t quite in direct competition with big diners like Chili’s and TGIF, also because they don’t serve the same types of cuisine.
âIf anything, I would say the competition is made up of new local restaurants that cater to the neighborhood like we do. It’s not the product, it’s what we represent in our neighborhood, âhe concluded.
Bring guests back in time
Since their selling point is the comfortable dining experience, Kevin and his mom expect them to always be there in person for their customers. But they also get something in return.
They’ve had a lot of clients to help with R&D, most of whom are from the United States but not necessarily from the Midwest. âWhile their input is valuable, we also compare it to local opinion, but that rarely differs,â commented Kevin.
And these unofficial collaborations have paid off, it seems. Kevin shared that some of their proudest moments are when guests thank them for bringing them back from their stay in the Midwest.
Although it is a family business, Kevin has no plans to make it a legacy business as he feels like it is a thing of the past. That being said, he plans to keep it running for as long as he can.
Conclusion: As someone who has eaten Midwestern food for 4 years in a row, I can vouch for the authenticity of the food at Betty’s Midwest Kitchen. With how long it has been running, it would be a shame to see dinner come to an end when Kevin decides to retire. However, not all small businesses are created with the goal of increasing or seeking profit, and Betty’s Midwest Kitchen is one example.
- You can read more about Betty’s Midwest Kitchen here.
- You can read other restaurant related articles that we have written here.
Featured Image Credit: Kevin Woon, Founder of Betty’s Midwest Kitchen