On Aug. 7, northwest Bakersfield welcomes another restaurant to the neighborhood. Sonder will take over the space last home to The Prime Cut, nestled in the Brimhall Square shopping center along with Kan Pai, Sugar Twist Bakery, Victor's Mexican Grill and Caesar's Italian Delicatessen.
And "take over" is an understatement. The restaurant has transformed the space into an inviting atmosphere with couch seating, an outdoor patio with games and a private dining area, which during the day can serve as a coop-style networking space with WiFi.
The restaurant's name — and concept — is the brainchild of general manager Shannon Brown, who bases it on a literal run-in she had with a stranger about five years ago.
When a person bumped into her, knocking her phone from her hand, her first reaction was anger. But then she considered that he could have been distracted by his own problems. The word sonder, coined in 2012 as a part of a project used to create new words for emotions that currently lack descriptions, conveys that exact sentiment: That everyone may have a rich inner life that you may only glimpse or even never know.
"It means we're all the same," Brown said. "If you're kind and you're nice, you can come in here."
How does that translates to a restaurant? Hospitality comes first — even before the food and beverage programs. The ambiance is unpretentious but nice. Servers won't wear uniforms but rather dress in a style determined by a look book. The dinner menu, created by chef Tony Noriega, will start with six to seven entrees, including summer trout, aged steak, fried chicken and cioppino, and will be adjusted based on customer response. Lunch will have a pick-two (or -three) option for small bites. And brunch staples avocado toast and breakfast burritos will be joined by ebelskivers (Danish pancakes) and a PFM 75 cocktail, a spin on a French 75 with a strawberry puree named for Paul F. Meloche, who, along with brothers Ryan and Joseph, are Sonder's financial backbone. (Paul and Joseph also own the Bakersfield-based entertainment company Icon Concerts.)
"I like to call it elevated stoner food," Brown said of the brunch offerings. "Smothered but good."
If that sounds like Sonder skews a little younger, that's spot on. One wall is Instagram-ready with a chalk mural declaring "To Live is to Fly" and wings drawn at a height for selfies. The phrase, which came from a supportive friend of Brown's who passed away before the restaurant could open, reinforces the go-for-the-gusto drive behind the restaurant.
Kevin Jones, who, along with Brown, oversees operations, developed the bar program, which will also start simple with eight curated cocktails with different spirits, such as the South Paw (bourbon, lemon juice and honey-ginger syrup) and Almost Time (with Uncle Val's gin and cucumber juice). Beer offerings will include Bud and Coors Light ("People would revolt in the streets if you don't have them," Brown joked) as well as rotating taps. Tahlia Fischer, a local distributor for Wine Warehouse, is helping train the staff on the wines, which include some bargains as well as sleepers that will "blow people away."
Sonder, at 9500 Brimhall Road, Suite 100, opens Aug. 7. Hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday, 10 a.m. to midnight Saturday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
A grand opening is planned near Labor Day but the date is not finalized. Brown said the official website (sonderbakersfield.com) and Facebook page will go active at that time. For now, follow their progress on Instagram (instagram.com/sonderbakersfield).
National Cheesecake Day
Sunday is National Cheesecake Day. My top local faves are the mini Butterfinger cheesecake at Sweet Surrender and Tahoe Joe's famous Nevada cheesecake. As of press time, there were no exciting local deals on these or any other cheesy desserts but if you're on the road, head to The Cheesecake Factory.
The popular chain celebrates all weekend with half-price slices of cheesecake for dine-in guests. In addition to its 30 different flavors, another creation has been thrown into the mix, sure to cause more arguments at the table. Celebration Cheesecake features layers of original cheesecake, vanilla cake, strawberry, chocolate and vanilla mousse topped with cream cheese frosting and decorated with brightly colored confetti.
The new flavor will be available starting Sunday and for every slice sold through August, the restaurant will donate 25 cents to Feeding America, the nation's largest domestic hunger relief organization.
It's taco time on trip home
In what should be an award-winning innovation to the ride-hailing experience, Lyft is testing out
"Taco Mode," allowing riders in Orange County near the Newport Beach Taco Bell (1400 West Coast Highway) to add a stop on their journey. The test, taking place this weekend and next, allowed them to activate the mode between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m., rerouting the trip to include a Taco Bell stop before heading home (or the next party).
“It’s pretty obvious there’s a lot of food delivery out there and lots of apps and services that allow you to take food to people,” Melissa Waters, head of marketing for Lyft, told the New York Times. “This is really turning this concept on its head of just delivering food to delivering you to food and extending the night.”
The partnership is in the testing phase now but options should roll out into Southern California then nationally by next year.
Where the sausage is made
With a lot of hunters in Kern County, it's likely wild game is making it to a lot of dinner tables. And for those interested in shaking up the menu and developing some culinary skills, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Advanced Hunter Education Program has the class for you.
On Aug. 19, it will sponsor for the first time ever an Introduction to Wild Game Sausage Making clinic. The session will be taught by Steve Shaw, a veteran hunter education instructor and fourth-generation sausage maker.
This clinic will cover proper preparation, cooking and storage techniques, as well as family recipes. All supplies and equipment will be provided on-site.
The clinic is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon at Trident Gunsmithing Shop in Mira Mesa. (Trident Gunsmithing is located off Interstate 15, near Miramar Airfield.)
The cost is $25 per student, payable by cash or check the day of class. The clinic is free for children 17 years and younger, but they must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Online preregistration is required, at register-ed.com/events/view/106757. Space is limited, and participants are encouraged to register early.
New and different
Applebee's has a "topped and loaded" offer, serving your choice of a bone-in pork chop, chicken breast or top sirloin covered in choice of topper such as Cajun shrimp, bacon beer cheese or marinara mozzarella sticks. Entrees start at $10.99 and come with choice of two sides (garlicky green beans with bacon, steamed broccoli, garlic mashed potatoes or classic fries). ... Marie Callender’s is offering a build-your-own barbecue platte. For $15.99, diners can choose two meats (tri-tip, grilled shrimp skewer, St. Louis barbecue ribs, grilled chicken breast, crispy chicken tenders or spicy smoked sausage), two sides (Southern-style mac 'n' cheese, barbecue baked beans, almond coleslaw, fries, loaded mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, cup of soup or salad) and a slice of pie. The restaurant is also offering some new menu items including barbecue turkey sliders ($9.99), tri-tip sandwich ($13.99) and barbecue pulled pork and sausage sandwich ($11.99), all served with fries; and a tri-tip and wedge salad ($13.99).