What a year! After surviving the pandemic, business seemed to return to normal despite food prices skyrocketing. No printed menus are now in use.
We’ve expanded our restaurants, boldly opened brave new entrepreneurs, competed with our familiar places, and launched several well-known chains like Cracker Barrel and Dave & Buster’s.
And long a favorite in Los Angeles, biria became so popular that most casual restaurants had to offer versions, much like the age-old fajita craze.So-Cal Tamal and Taco Bros. are the biggest local promoters, opening stores all over town. Given the relationship Bakersfield has had over the years with pit-style beef, it’s no surprise that this one gets a foothold here.
Food delivery has become so popular that some restaurants offer four or more services. I find it appealing, but we love the social element of eating out, and we get to see people and things that are just as exciting as the food. It is a bridge far apart.
Will the food arrive as fresh as takeout? Recently, I was at a restaurant in Santa Barbara and spoke with an Uber Eats driver. He was complaining about how long it took to get food at times, how clients didn’t understand and how it affected his ratings and compensation It’s not an easy task.
What I find most encouraging, even after going through the past few years of masked torture, is the vibrancy that emerges from the kitchen of a local restaurant: the creativity that invites you off the couch when taste memories begin. is to keep watching , and you absolutely have to satisfy the craving. An important component of quality of life in any city is having decent food options, and I believe we have it today.
best new restaurant
This year we had a promising new crop of plants.
Bread & Honey: This southwestern bakery/breakfast/sandwich shop amazes with the quality. They seem to make everything in house like any fine restaurant. You gain weight just by walking through the door. Luckily, when you look at the multicultural cuisine in bakery cases, you don’t need boxes. Keep an eye out for next month’s column on serving great dinners.
Kipsy Cafe: They had to open at the long-established Cindy’s Coffee Shop in the Northeast, but the breakfast (chicken breast and waffles) and catfish can live up to the quality of their predecessors, especially the pork chops. It has also been tastefully renovated in a charming way.
Zama Latin American Cuisine: The old Mark already had a classy feel, but now it’s added sophisticated touches like macrame pendant lighting and a menu that covers all price points up to the $130 Tomahawk steak. Top notch all the way. Yes, I plan to write about the new Sunday branch in my 2023 column.
Cask Strength Bar & Kitchen: This is the other half of the old Mark restaurant, serving whiskey drinks, craft beers and great tapas bar food. Fun hangout downtown.
West Coast Sourdough: “A chain sandwich shop on your list of best new restaurants? You lose it, bro!” Today, to survive as a sandwich shop you have to be excellent, and the West Coast is doing just that.
18th Street Bar & Grill: Yes, we love giant pretzels with beer cheese, but we have more. This is a music bar/nightclub place that tries to entice you with its great food.
Ahi sushi: The new location in the Northwest – all great places don’t have to be downtown – has a pleasant crew eager to get customers, amazingly fresh fish, and hot, crispy tempura.
Pork Chop & Bubba’s BBQ: The good guy who owns this downtown location near Bakersfield High School opened a second location in Gosford this year. You never know what you’ll find but good meat. This summer and fall there was Burger His Special, a 10-ounce brisket beef, cheddar his cheese, lettuce, and tomato on a buttered and toasted brioche his bun. Called Basic B Burger. A great meat option, it may seem silly to order this, but you have to try it.
Oil club: We loved it when we were at the top of the tower and had a view, but there were some advantages to moving to Sundale Country Club’s old Tavern By the Green. The menu is modern and heavily veggie-infused, but the steaks, seafood and pasta are nothing short of second-rate. The butter cake and mushroom risotto are also excellent.
El Puesto Cocina y Cantina: The kitchen crew had operated for years in a modest setting east of Bakersfield, with only an outdoor dining area, but brought their considerable skills to the brick-and-mortar location, quickly becoming overwhelming. It became popular. Any sauce can compete with what you get with Red Pepper, the highest praise.
El Cuscatreco: This unassuming Salvadoran restaurant, which opened at the old Fishlips location downtown, makes some great pupusas. A date spot where you can go casually at a reasonable price.
slicer pizza: Everyone says they make New York style pizza, but Slicer’s has taken authentic pizza to a new level. Takeout only, no dining room, but worth a try if you like that style of pizza.
If you have to pick just one, you have to go to El Puesto. El Puesto is impressive in so many ways, adding true artistry to its vibrant Mexican restaurant niche. Yes, it’s small and crowded, but the sauces are consistently good.
the restaurant we lost
Can you believe Hooters on Rosedale Highway has closed? Yeah, yeah, yeah, national chains are closing restaurants year-round, focusing on food quality rather than skimpy waitress outfits. Bacon-wrapped chicken wings can only go so far, especially if others have them too.
Moving on to places I miss, Padre’s Belvedere Room is at the top of the list. Another COVID victim who may or may not return. Even with cool walls, it now looks like an empty, lifeless and sad place. At least the kitchen is still churning out quality food for the Brimstone Restaurant. Another downtown restaurant he closed last year is Manuel’s Mariscos in Truxtun, where he’s been serving great Mexican shrimp for 15 years at various locations. That’s forever in the restaurant business.
The Donut Hut was once a casualty downtown off the Crosstown Freeway. There, two brothers, Evie and Johnny Peña, baked and mass-produced great food. I hope that those two can show up somewhere else and pass the word on to me so that other people can know about it.
Chains rarely go down, but Fat Burger opened in the Northeast and didn’t help me gain weight. A niche market, Five Guys and Wood-Dale Meat Market offer a high level of quality appetizers.
Impressed with some old standbys this year.
Sandrini’s Public House downtown. Serving people for almost 20 years, he serves great lamb sandwiches, delicious salads and burgers, and elevated bar his food in the coolest brick wall basement atmosphere. BBQ Bacon His burger topped with Tillamook’s sharp cheddar cheese is a simple choice that shows someone who really cares about food is in charge here.
Vallarta Mexican Grill to the northeast. Open for over a decade, this small, family-owned restaurant is back on my radar after multiple readers praised El Puesto in reviews and reminded me of it. Didn’t visit but that’s my loss and won’t let it continue. Even if you’re not a regular who already knows it, like me, they’re doing great here.
Sancho’s tacos Small but focused on home-cooked quality, it’s another downtown gem from Bakersfield that has opened similarly funky restaurants in Southland, including San Clemente. Taco nights on Tuesdays are the best.
Two goats and a goose. Formerly Muertos, the name change hasn’t changed the quality of this place, which excels in a wide range of items from real Chicago hot dogs to fish and chips to lamb or duck carnitas tacos. Burgers and chili verde also make ordering a painful experience. This is my go-to restaurant when I go to the Fox Theater or Mechanics Bank.
What to expect in 2023
I’ll be writing about all sorts of new places next year in the hope that Fredo’s Pizza will open downtown (you can’t waste a cool neon sign like this). Sign just below the restaurant’s name.
We’ve heard rumors of all sorts of new places popping up at the westernmost end of the Stockdale Highway, including a swanky Toast restaurant and a golf-themed restaurant called The 19th Hole. I heard that Tues is opening a new restaurant in the shopping center southwest of Stockdale High School to replace the closed Wilson Road location. Will visit soon. i’ve heard good things.
Hopefully the Woolworths counter restaurant will reopen.
Falafel Corner Mediterranean Grill is located in the Valley Plaza Food Court. The new Rusty’s will open in a brand new building on the corner of Ming and Weibull with a drive-thru. Milt’s has new owners who have converted the building. A new Vietnamese restaurant is opening in White Lane near Stein, and Flame’s Pizza is opening near Trader Joe’s. And next fall, a new freestanding his Frugatti building will open northwest of its current location.
Perhaps the biggest news is that Ricky’s Fish Tacos is moving from Los Angeles to Kern County. This is such a momentous event that the Los Angeles Times wrote about the move. I followed Ricky’s Twitter, but please email me if you find him.@rickysfishtacos) in hopes of calling attention.
Another year of culinary adventures. See you at the table.