Whether you’re walking, driving or taking a Bird around downtown Bakersfield, it’s almost impossible to miss the Padre Hotel. With its name in lights in the heart of downtown, it contains a charisma that is hard to resist.
Upon my move to Bakersfield last year, I quickly found out that the Padre Hotel is one of the best spots for downtown nightlife and is known for its swanky interior and spooky history. The Padre opened its doors in 1928 but this spring they opened up a new seasonal menu complete with local ingredients and a fresh new take on Bakersfield local cuisine that I just had to try. So off I went!
The doorman entrance sets a classy tone and the foyer transports you to a place where art deco and a Western movie collide. Of the Padre’s many dining locations, I chose to dine at its second-floor outdoor lounge, Prairie Fire. The menu is cleverly themed and boasted Bakersfield pride.
The menus are peppered with familiar names from around our city and county like Broadfork Acres, Bolthouse Farms, Baker’s Outpost and Zeal Pressed Juicery. It was satisfying to see that the management team was taking advantage of partnering with local farmers and businesses that are in our own backyard.
Upon receiving my order, I was sincerely impressed with the attention to detail on the plates. Each dish was not only colorful and beautifully plated, but you could tell each of the garnishes were dusted, placed and poured with TLC.
The ahi nachos were the best example of this – bright-pink ahi tuna, cilantro, freshly fried wontons, hot red Fresno chilis, sweet mango, creamy avocado slices, drizzled with Sriracha cream and dusted in sesame seeds. Let’s just say I enjoyed them so much I had a plate to share with friends and a got another order to go.
The pork cracklings were a curveball I didn’t see coming. I would not have ordered them on my own, but a friend did for the table to share and after trying them, I was so glad he did. Taking a Latino street food and elevating it to a Tennessee-spiced chicharron was genius.
These same playful and bright tunes continued in the Bakersfield hot chicken wings and beet panzanella. The chicken wings were crispy spice bombs paired with bright pickled veggies that left a prairie fire in my mouth but still reaching for more.
The beet panzanella salad has an array of colors and textures. Almost too beautiful to eat. My only complaint about this salad is the thing that also makes it so beautiful – too many flavors. The components of grapefruit, dill, fennel, arugula, pecans, goat cheese, bee pollen, croutons and honey vinaigrette were too much to let the star of salad shine.
The earthy flavor of the beet is lost and overcome by all the other powerful components. It is a powerhouse salad with a mouthful of ingredients, yet is a bit overzealous. However, this salad is so unique you will not find another like it in all of Bakersfield.
The Padre’s cocktails are another factor that ties the whole menu together.
The talented baristas use house barrel-aged liquors, seasonal fruits and even vegetables in these delightful libations. The beet’s knees cocktail is not only Instagram worthy but one that screams Bakersfield as it boasts local ingredients and is paired and mixed with Zeal Pressed Juice. It’s a great cocktail and good for you, too. #Winning!
Overall, the new menu at the Padre is just the thing I’ve been looking for, and quite frankly, what the rest of Bakersfield menus need. Playful, bright, composed and, most importantly, delicious. The hotel’s lux ambiance has a menu to match that’ll make any occasion a step above the rest.
Whether you’re on your lunch break or a lunch date, the Padre’s springtime swag will keep you coming back again and again. I know I will! ￼
Andrea “Dre” Saavedra is a food and beverage professional with 10 years of experience. Follow her on Instagram @diningwithdre_. The views expressed are her own.
1702 18th St.