It’s been way too long since we devoted an entire column to one of Bakersfield’s most interesting restaurants, the Crest Bar & Grill. It’s got a lot of interesting facts going for it. For one, it’s located on the site of the old Crest Drive-in. I confess to taking my kids there to see one of the early Batman movies, and anyone who grew up in Bakersfield in the ‘70s knows when the Crest, the Terrace and the 99 (now home to a hotel just south of Oildale) were all showing movies. This drive-in opened in 1963, eventually added a second screen and finally closed in 1998. There’s a large picture of it in its glory days near the restaurant’s entrance.

The Crest is also located in the middle of a trailer park, which I assume provides a great dining option for RV travelers. On the first Saturday we visited the place was packed due to a car show that had the whole place full. The food from breakfast to lunch and dinner has style, and almost every year is among the candidates for the best casual restaurant in Bakersfield.

I’ve raved a lot in the past about their pastrami gone wild sandwich ($11.95), but on a recent lunch visit I ordered the daily special, which was a grilled pastrami on rye sandwich with smoked Gouda cheese, onions, pickles and mustard. The house-made pastrami here is on a par with what Milt’s (which also makes their own) offers, and is right up there with the amazing product at Knotty Pine in Oildale. I’ve been lucky enough in my life to have visited some of those famous New York City delis where they cut the pastrami to order and pile it on high. It’s almost like that here at the Crest, but the slices are thinner, the edges black as coal and the meat so juicy. It’s become impossible for me to come here and not order pastrami, even though there are so many other solid choices on the menu. If you love pastrami, check out what Crest offers.

On this visit I was accompanied by two young lawyers and a Ford Motor Company executive. Long story. The Ford man ordered the lettuce wraps with chicken and Thai peanut sauce ($10.95). He’ll get great mileage on his body if he continues to eat healthy like that, but he sacrificed nothing in the flavor department as the house-made peanut sauce (thick like a peanut butter) brings this up to par. The local young barrister had the wisdom to order the East Coast provost ($11.45), an exceptional French dip made with Angus tri-tip thinly sliced topped with bell peppers, mushrooms, onions and melted Swiss cheese. Beef at its best. Readers have written me letters about that sandwich. The young attorney from Indiana with a cushy corporate job writing leasing contracts on demand went for the Old Crest Drive-in club ($9.45), which has everything — bacon, ham, turkey, cheddar jack cheese and the usual vegetables on sourdough toast. Piled high like my pastrami sandwich. The favorite side of the gang on this visit were the stinky fries (gorgonzola cheese and not too much garlic), as the onions in the beer-battered rings were dull and not sweet. Looked good, tasted dull.

We topped off that dining experience with a cranberry cake served with chilled forks, the kind of small detail typical of the Crest.

At dinner, we are huge fans of the steaks probably because they can be enhanced six different ways for $1.50 to $2.50 extra including fresh roasted garlic, Marsala wine sauce, sauteed onions and a cabernet reduction demi-glace. My companion’s must order is the grilled salmon salad ($15.95), made with chopped Romaine lettuce, avocado, purple cabbage and a perfect honey mustard dressing. It’s the perfect design of this particular offering, the mix of the vegetables with a grilled salmon filet makes it irresistible to her.

I also have to talk about the happy hour here, which is offered every day from 2 to 6 p.m. Drink specials are weak — $1 off — but the food has a number of excellent choices, all decent values at $3.95 to $4.95. Our favorites are the deep-pit sliders, street tacos and chili verde nachos (all $4.95). The nachos plate is reasonable — a rectangle, not a giant square — and the chile verde is a simple but satisfying delight. The fried green beans ($3.95) are battered in house, crispy and grease-free.

Crest Bar & Grill can be recommended for a fine dining experience.

Pete Tittl’s Dining Out column appears here on Sundays. Email him at pftittl@yahoo.com.

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