Weekend Getaway: Bakersfield, California
Before I wax-poetic on the adventure which was Downtown Bakersfield… I really feel it’s important to say this. My wife and I were truly and pleasantly surprised by our surroundings during our stay. For this trip, we chose to spend our time exclusively in Downtown Bakersfield amid, what seems to be, an exciting food revolution. Once upon a time, B-town was almost exclusively known for their “meat-and-potato” fare and amazing Mexican Food… but things have definitely changed. Read more about it through our Restaurant choices below.
(Well, except for the ghost stories, but we didn’t experience any of those shenanigans.)
I definitely have to say, my first impression of the Padre was pretty fantastic. The Valet guy was quite nice and a doorman handled our entrance with a smile (BTW you pretty much NEED to valet your car. You can opt for street parking, but they valet in a secure parking structure across the street and it’s very much worth the $10/night fee). Here are few images of the lobby as we arrived (still decorated for Christmas):
We could go on-and-on about this room in more details, but we have 3 days to talk about.
For the rest of our 1st evening, we drew the curtains, jumped into our “cozy clothes” opened a bottle of wine we brought, kicked back and enjoyed this very comfortable room and chill ambiance.
First Full Day
Sidenote: They have a number of items on the menu we will definitely need to revisit later in the day (Mexican coffee w/ tequilla, Irish coffee w/ Jameson, B52, etc.).
One of the cool things you can see in Bakersfield’s downtown district is a vibrant new restaurant & the arts scene… but without forgetting the old-school traditions, like the Fox Theatre & Original Newspaper Building (pictured)
As fun and exciting as this new energy is, it’s important to say there is also a VERY fine line between the burgeoning new downtown, and the grimy (and still a little scary) side. Strolling slightly too far, we crossed paths with several transiets who strongly resemble those you see on the streets of LA or SF. During the day they mostly just huddled in abondoned doorways or kept moving. Later in the afternoon they became a litle more brazen and started asking for money, but nothing too intense. There is a greyhound station and a local bus hub nearby, which explains most of the foot-traffic.
Day 1 – Lunch
Our first real meal since “Destination Bakersfield” began was at a small cafe across the street from the Padre called Locale Farm to Table Eatery… and IT. WAS. FABULOUS!!!
We had the pleasure of chatting with Locale’s owner, Heather Laganelli, about her reason for launching this particular style of eatery.
If you’re in Downtown Bakersfield, make sure to add this unique and completely fresh eatery to your itinerary. Here’s a breakdown of what we ate:
The Padre’s very own Brimstone (sports bar) was going off the night before when we checked in, but after the drive we were more in a “wine & chill” mood. But now… we were ready to have a few spirits. We connected with some friends we hadn’t seen in a while… and Brimstone was the perfect place to catch up.
We started with a few branded drinks off their menu (the Bee’s Knees & a swanky Whiskey Martini), but ultimately asked their quasi-hipster bartender for our “go-to” libations.
I was a bit dissapointed when I ordered a “Hendricks & Soda” and they brought me a Hennesy & coke, but the guy seemed a little green so I enjoyed what the universe provided and the conversation continued.
Here’s the “everybody on your feet” energtic game opener:
While we did brave the (by Central Coast standards) short 0.5 mile, 12min walk from the Padre to Cafe Smitten, we were clearly the ONLY ONES! If you do visit, just know that nobody walks in Bakersfield. NOBODY!
We ordered a few drinks (chosing carefully as not to aggrivate the heinous hangovers we brought with us), and found a comfy table on their back patio (which resembled a hodgepodge of Arizona flare, with California charm, and a hint of something I can’t put my finger on as I sit here writing this). Thankfully we arrived when we did! By the time our food was ready the place was packed. The word is out… Cafe Smitten is (to borrow a phrase from my child-hood) Bomb-Diggity! Here are a few images from our morning:
Pairing their Maple Spice Latte, it was a blissful combination of sweet, savory & all around amazing!
I’m not going to lie, I snagged a bite and it was delish! Both were just the perfect amount of food for kicking off a busy day.
If you’re in a mood for the perfect hipster-style bar where the bartender kind-of ignores you a little, but still makes pretty damn good drinks… this is the place for you. I ordered a couple of Henddricks Martinis with blue-cheese olives, and they were perfection. All around it was pretty standard stuff (margaritas, beer, etc.) and all were happy. I get the feeling this is a 10:30p and later kind of bar to hang, so we had the place all to ourselves. And it was great!
You’re not in Bakersfield, you’re not even in California… you’re at Uricchio’s. There is quite simply nothing “new world” about being here. It feels like everything you imagine eating at a completely authentic Italian restaurant SHOULD feel like.
The laughter and non-discript conversation happening across the room pulls you into a type of euphria that’s both romantic and friendly at the same time. I couldn’t help but hold my wife’s hand and stare lovingly into her eyes. Then…. there’s the food. Oh man… THE FOOD!
Talking with Claire Uricchio before our meal was a real treat. Watching her talk about her Dad and the legacy he left her was beautiful. You can tell she’s passionate about what she does. Hell, you can taste it! Sidenote: It was very cool to see her pull one of the cooks and hostess aside later in the evening and have a meal with them. We asked our server (who has worked there for almost 20 years) about it and she informed us Claire loves to eat with different employees. Their topic is rarely ever work related, “just conversation, like you would have with your family”.
For our dinner, they brought us a wide varitey of truly remarkable choices ranging from stuffed mushrooms & calamari to sausages & ravioli. Thank god we were hungry… because we got the full Italian treatment! I’m posting some photos here, but am super bummed they are all a little out of focus. The wonderful ambiance isn’t a great setting for iPhone photos. 🙁
For dinner (yes, we also ordered dinner), I had what may have been the best Swordfish I’ve ever eaten. I’m not sure if it was the excited buzz and happy energy around me that made it taste so good… but let me say it this way. I was completely STUFFED, and still ate every bite. It was truly that good. With my meal I ordered the green beans and potatoes on the side for my wife beacause… did I mentioned how much food we already ate??? Finally… dear god, yes there way more. Dessert.
Creme Brulee Cheesecake and Tiramisu
The food comma was setting in, and functioning as a regular human being was fading fast. We found food bliss and jumped into the deep-end face first. Now we had to figure a way out.
We rolled away from the table and happily ambled down the sidewalk.
Our heads hit the pillow and that was all she wrote.
Bottom line, Bakersfield was a wonderful and totally unexpected treat. They have a great concert venue at the Rabobank Arena, and I can honestly see taking the 2.5hr drive over for a good show in the future.
If you do find yourself cruising over, stay at the Padre Hotel… then follow our road-map of happiness. Guaranteed good times in the Valley!