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Dining Out with Pete Tittl

Lucille's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que is opening a restaurant at the main entrance of Valley Plaza, across from Starbucks.

The small chain, based in Signal Hill, has 19 locations in California, Nevada and Arizona.

The story goes that the restaurant was founded by Lucille Buchanan and her husband in Long Beach after World War II. The pair developed a menu that offered peach cobbler, buttermilk biscuits and hickory-smoked meats. At least that's the way the website tells it, though Wikipedia said the chain was founded in 1999 by Craig Hofman.

We got a chance to talk to Craig's son, Brad, and he said the story on the website was a fictional inspiration for the values of the company, and Wikipedia actually had it right (you don't hear that often).

He said the company is trying to open two restaurants before the Bakersfield location, including one in Long Beach, and doesn't anticipate opening in Valley Plaza until late this year or early next.

"We're really excited to be going in there," he said. "We've heard a lot of good things about Bakersfield and success other restaurants have had."

The menu features baby back or St. Louis-cut pork ribs, Southern fried okra, roasted artichokes, pulled pork, pulled chicken, smoked beef brisket, beef ribs, smoked tri-tip and spicy hot links. Side dishes consist of creamy cheese grits, honey roasted peanut slaw and sweet mashed potatoes. Other specialties include fried chicken made with a buttermilk dip, a sirloin steak marinated for 24 hours, gumbo, jambalaya and an assortment of sandwiches.

Work on a walled-off section of the exterior could hold out the hope for a small patio area. When we get word of a specific opening date, we'll pass it on.

New and different

Flame Broiler in Bakersfield is offering a chicken bowl for $4.99, with vegetables 50 cents extra, for a limited time ... Both the newest Tony's Pizza (Ming and Ashe) and Cataldo's Pizza (at the old Seabreeze location near Chuy's on Wilson Road) have opened ... Jamba Juice will be rolling out a new "fresh juice" format at 500 locations nationwide Monday, six months earlier than planned. They ran a pilot of the new program 18 months ago and sales went up 3 to 4 percent at those locations. The fruits and vegetables to be squeezed are prominently displayed behind the counter. It's a journey back to the chain's roots: It was founded in 1990 as Juice Club but gradually became more known for smoothies made with frozen fruit, sweeteners and frozen yogurt, the sort of ingredients that are falling out of favor in today's more health conscious marketplace ... Trader Joe's has some amazing chocolate hazelnut sandwich cookies ($3.99) and roasted pumpkin seed oil among its new arrivals ... Pizza Hut has rolled out three new Blake Shelton specialty pizzas for the summer: Blake's Smokehouse BBQ, honey BBQ chicken and Hawaiian BBQ, made with cheddar crust and sweet barbecue sauce ... Tahoe Joe's has a $16.99 special that features a bacon-wrapped top sirloin, three jumbo Railroad Camp shrimp, green beans, baked potato and soup or salad ... Sizzler has replaced its old St. Louis-style barbecue ribs with baby back ribs and pulled pork cooked in a "smoker" style by using a rub of smoked salt and mesquite seasoning, then cooking them at low temperature for hours over a pan of liquid smoke and water ... Valentien Restaurant & Wine Bar has announced its popular Bastille Day celebration will run from July 14-19 this year. The Truxtun Avenue restaurant will also be celebrating Summer Solstice in June with Autonomy Farms providing locally produced vegetables, poultry, eggs and beef. More details on that will be released soon ... McDonald's will be adding a low-fat strawberry yogurt option to its Happy Meals beginning July 4 ... California Pizza Kitchen has added three drinks: fresh agave lime margarita, a platinum margarita and a hand-shaken agave mojito ... Yes, Panda Express has added bacon to its orange chicken, and is also offering a shiitake mushroom-kale chicken breast entree ... Panera Bread Co . is changing the hours of its bakers at its restaurant. They typically came in at night and left before the first customers arrived, but the chain now wants to have a "day baker" to mingle with customers, offer fresh samples from the oven and "generally work to reinforce the bakery atmosphere of each restaurant," according to a company release ...

Rethinking salt

For so long so many people suffering from high blood pressure have been advised to cut their salt consumption as one way to bring that problem down without prescription drugs.

Now some studies have suggested the problem isn't salt itself but the kind we're using: processed table salt as opposed to sea salt. The Institute of Medicine warns that the body needs at least 1,500 milligrams a day just to replace the sodium lost through sweat glands and urination, and that sodium deficiency (hyponatremia) can cause serious complications, including loss of energy, kidney damage, confusion, brain swelling and more.

Reporter Gary Taubes, who has been critical of government recommendations on salt restrictions for some time, said sea salt contains vital minerals such as silicon, vanadium and phosphorous while man-made salt contains chemicals that are damaging to the body. Taubes also maintains that sugar and grains have the same impact on blood pressure that the government attributes to salt.

Others remain skeptical, as a glance at the comments field on the article will convince you. In any case, Himalayan sea salt is available all over Bakersfield now, at grocery stores, Trader Joe's, Costco, etc.

Yes, it costs more than Morton's. See if it works for you.