KERN BUSINESS JOURNAL
Aug. / Sep. 2014
Visitors find Bakersfield is a foodie town By David Lyman
hen food lovers come to Bakersfield, they always have a memorable time. Our fun food experiences have recently been featured in Saveur Magazine, Smithsonian, Travel+Leisure, and the New York Times. Visitors are diving in and experiencing first-hand what that excitement is all about. “In no time more than 100 people were seated in three long rows of tables boarding house style,” said Peter Cashman of Highland Park, Calif. who ate at Noriega’s, the iconic Basque hotel and restaurant, during a visit to Bakersfield one recent Saturday. “A highlight of the evening was the toasts,” he said. “Periodically folks would stand, tap their wine glasses and toast their guest of honor. This added to the already collegial and joyful atmosphere. And I can still taste the garlic fried chicken and excellent pickled tongue.” Noriega’s is just one of several Basque restaurants that lure visitors here. Bakersfield has more Basque restaurants than any other city in the nation, and that cuisine from southern France and northern Spain is the food that Bakersfield is famous for. Visitors who dine family style sit at long tables pass the food down to the next person and meet people they never knew before, but who seem for the evening to be like long-lost friends. In addition to Bakersfield’s legendary Basque eateries, there are lots of local places that serve up some unforgettable dining choices, from white table cloth to Kern County casual. It might be a new trendy place in downtown’s burgeoning Arts Alive District, an old reliable dining place along Mill Creek, or a hole in the wall in Old Town Kern. Another Bakersfield institution is Luigi’s. “From the first moment in Luigi’s I was hooked,” said Brian Hassett, who recently moved to Bakersfield as general manager of The Outlets at Tejon. “I was greeted at the door by four or five deputies exiting and knew that I had found someplace good!” Like Cashman, Hassett’s experiences in Bakersfield restaurants involve both the food and the atmosphere. “Luigi’s is a neighborhood place, our server was exceptionally personable, and I left wanting more of those stuffed shells from the daily specials,” he said. “I liked it so much I have returned two more times bringing friends and family.” Because Bakersfield has grown to be California’s ninth
BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN FILE PHOTO
Bakersfield City Councilman Terry Maxwell turns out a meal at TL Maxwell’s, a downtown fine-dining restaurant. Maxwell’s city council ward includes downtown Bakersfield.
largest city, it has all the usual names in chain restaurants. But it often is those local places that give visitors lasting memories. Cashman, originally from Tasmania, said he loves the breaded trout and eggs for breakfast, a rare offering in Los Angeles eateries, but not in Bakersfield. “Add to that some excellent renderings of chicken fried steak,” he said, “but gravy on the side, please, as I try to watch my waistline!” Hassett has been impressed with the selection of local dining options in the short time he has been here. “Coming from the Los Angeles area, I was not expecting Bakersfield to be a ‘foodie town,’ but I was certainly mistaken.” His other favorites so far? The Mark, Coconut Joe’s, Goose Loonies, Mama Roomba, The Padre and Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace “which was a big surprise to me because the food was exceptionally good,” Hassett said. The surprise of memorable food in Bakersfield was echoed by Cashman, who regularly visits here with a point of discovering new places to eat. “Folks down south marvel at what a great time I have dining out in and around Bakersfield,” he said. His other favorites include Village Grill, Tina Marie’s, Keene Café and the Knotty Pine.
Photo courtesy of Luigi’s
Chefs pose in the kitchen of Luigi’s, a popular Bakersfield restaurant and deli that recently celebrated its 100th anniversary.
“And,” he added, “if you can’t find something tasty and original to eat at the 24th Street Café, then you don’t deserve feeding.” David Lyman is manager of the Bakersfield Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Bakersfield Food Festivals Bakersfield is a city of food and drink. This includes hosting a variety of food festivals. Below is just a taste: BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN FILE PHOTO
A waitress delivers plates to a table at the Village Grill. The popular Bakersfield restaurant is located on F Street.
• Basque Festival • Nut Festival • Wine Fest
• Greek Food Festival • Mac and Cheese Festival • Festival of Beers • Menudo Cook-Off • Biggest Baddest BBQ Championship • Village Fest • Craft Beer Fest
• Chili Verde Cook Off • Crawfish Festival For details, or to add one we missed, contact the Bakersfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, 852-7282 or www.VisitBakersfield.com