In 1910, Security Trust Bank opened on the corner of 18th Street and Chester Avenue, a showcase of neoclassical architecture, grandiose in scale and highlighted by its dramatic columns.
But in the mid-20th century, many older architectural types fell out of favor in Bakersfield and the structure was covered in stucco to give it a more modern look as it hosted numerous businesses in the years that followed.
And then, there was nothing.
The building sat unoccupied on the busy intersection in the heart of downtown Bakersfield, an eyesore of sorts, and was once on the city’s demolition list.
But Sam Abed began restoring the building to its former glory in 2014 after the original facade was discovered beneath the superficial shell.
That caught the eye of Foti Tsiboukas, who would sell his Northridge home in 2017, moved to Bakersfield and purchase the building to open up a restaurant with his wife, Maya. As the owners of Fabulous Burgers in north Bakersfield, the couple is no stranger to the restaurant business.
But their vision for the historical building and highly anticipated restaurant in the middle of a revitalized downtown area had the potential to change how locals view food.
Bakersfield finally got a taste of that vision when The 18hundred opened its doors in May.
The 18hundred’s approach is difficult to miss, stylistically etched into the building’s original brick walls to the left of the main entrance in paint and LED lights – “handcrafted food and drink.”
“Handcrafted food and drink means we are preparing items by hand,” Maya said. “We’re not buying prepackaged foods.”
The kitchen meticulously prepares items big and small from scratch, from the sauces and syrups to veggie patties and desserts in addition to sourcing local and organic ingredients from nearby farms.
“I wanted to emphasize the fresh, handcrafted aspect of it because the local and organic produce is sort of a no-brainer,” Maya said. “Anyone can do that but not everybody is doing everything by hand.”
As the Foti and Maya explored their new community, they let their findings dictate the identity of their restaurant – accommodating their offerings and operations based on the wants and needs of residents rather than a take-it-or-leave-it approach. The owners wanted the city to decide what the restaurant is going to be.
The restaurant takes a fast-casual approach for breakfast and lunch, when time is limited and people are on the go, with customers ordering at the counter and food delivered to their table shortly after. But for dinner, the eatery transforms into a traditional sit-down restaurant with full service to help diners unwind and relax in an environment that perfectly blends the building’s historical elements with more modern, personal touches.
“If we home in on the character and charm that’s already here, that would really improve the lifestyle and the offerings the city has to offer,” Maya said. “(Downtown Bakersfield) is the place to shop, to dine, to hang out. This is where you’re going to find the real heartbeat of the city.”
And in the middle of it all is The 18hundred. ￼