Seldom has a new restaurant opened in Bakersfield that has so quickly won devoted customers, at least customers devoted enough to tell me all about it before I even have a chance to set foot in the door.
New Vintage Grill opened in a Rosedale space that was home to Red Stone Grill, an underrated favorite of ours that made some incredible pizzas and Italian dishes.
The loss is mitigated by the quality of the new breakfast/lunch/dinner spot, which also offers pizza, but much more. The menu is a collection of foods and dishes discovered in the world travels of owners Jed and Melissa Larson, young parents who, out of the gate, are offering something that is different enough in concept and execution that I think they can find a niche in the very competitive Bakersfield market.
The couple’s story is one long, romantic dance. Jed said they met in college at San Luis Obispo, ended up transferring to different schools and lost track of each other. By coincidence, they went on a graduation trip to Italy and reconnected, before going their separate ways again, she to San Diego, he to Bakersfield.
“For three or four years we didn’t talk, but then eventually we reconnected and the rest is history,” he said in a phone interview.
The couple, married six years now, put together a menu inspired by foods they loved in Italy and various beach towns they’ve traveled to along the way.
The best example of what they’re all about is at breakfast, and it’s something as simple as potatoes. Everyone has hash browns, some freshly shredded and fried in butter. Not the New Vintage Grill way. Here the potatoes are shredded like hash browns, but mixed with garlic, spinach, red quinoa and white aged cheddar cheese. It’s hard for my jaded taste buds to come across something so new and different that I had to think about it a lot, but this is the ticket. The entire mixture is not too crispy, but the cheese naturally is a bit brown from the cooking and it adds some appealing nuttiness. The garlic and spinach are not overbearing. The menu says you can substitute fried country potatoes for this, but why would you with something this unique and satisfying?
We were tempted by the “breakfast burst” sandwich, which looks like a gourmet treatment of similar fare sold at practically every fast-food restaurant, but we ordered the left coast omelet ($12.95) and the veggie frittata ($12.49); the menu is very friendly to vegetarians.
Both were excellent.
My omelet featured roasted turkey white meat (not processed), feta cheese, spinach and diced tomatoes. It looked too beautiful to eat, the yellow folded omelet the perfect color — eggs not overcooked. The frittata was a similarly graceful mix of ingredients, with those potatoes we mentioned folded in with red onion, mushrooms, sliced peppers, feta, tomato slices and avocado. Made with three eggs, it was magnificent.
I can also recommend the house-made muffins. It was chocolate-chip mocha on the day we visited; they were brought to the table warm (not from a microwave) and so rich and captivating.
We also visited at dinner, and the impressive work continued. I ordered Mimi’s French dip ($11.59) based largely on the alluring description on the menu: Caramelized onion baguette/shaved New York steak/melted jack/blue cheese horse radish spread/au jus. The sandwich was not too big, but with beef like this, who needs a thick steak? The meat, tender and flavorful, was juicy with or without the au jus, and the bun, which had to be made in-house, was amazing, with this Dutch crust-like top that had a buttery onion flavor.
My companion selected a cup of the wicked chicken Thai soup ($3.95) and one of the big salads, the Greek ($11.25), made with grilled chicken breast. Both were solid choices. The soup was close to being too salty, but I wouldn’t knock it for that — it was a creamy, spicy, diverse creation with shitake mushrooms, lemon grass, wild rice and peppers. Other soup choices include chili, creamy jalapeno and turkey sausage with kale.
The salad was a nice mix of greens served in a large stainless-steel bowl: spring mix, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, cucumber, tomato, blue cheese crumbles, and all of them quite fresh. The chicken was warm, and it came with the house dressing, but I’d sub in the roasted garlic balsamic.
The interior of the small space fits the food, with reclaimed wood in that trendy shiplap style behind the bar, industrial lighting, plank wood tables with a high-gloss finish. The patio is still open, sheltered from the sun, and I saw heaters out there for the colder months.
Save room for dessert: two house-made cakes and a warm, fresh cookie in a pan with sauce and ice cream. We sampled the Heath bar cookie with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce and our only complaint was too much sauce — it was way out of proportion. The cookie had a more homemade appeal than the famous Pizookie they serve at BJ’s.
Breakfast is available all day Sunday, but only until 11 a.m. on other days. There is a wine list and craft beers available on tap — limited, but it’s a small place and given the quality of the food, you won’t hear a peep out of me. The house chardonnay was only $4 for a generous pour. Hope that’s enough to pay the bills.
New Vintage Grill can be recommended for a fine dining experience.