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PETE TITTL: A fine New Vintage in central Bakersfield

So, what can you expect from the “newest” New Vintage Grill on Truxtun Avenue?

More space. The restaurant's eclectic design includes a cool poster referencing the greatest movie ever made about salespeople, “Glengarry Glen Ross.” Full bar service and happy hour specials are offered all day. It's the same great menu as you find at the northwest location, including those amazing breakfast "spuds" that still knock my socks off.

There's also a dozen “classic cocktails” priced at a good value between $8-$8.50, given what bars and restaurants charge nowadays when a mixologist is involved. Never mind the half-price beer and champagne refills.

We visited on a weekday night to the location that for decades was The Garden Spot, Bakersfield’s original salad bar/muffins/soup restaurant that finally had to close. The location was home to Goose Loonies Tavern & Grill most recently and before that to Craft Tap House & Grill with an expensive beer dispenser wall that preserved the contents of the kegs while allowing guests to sample a few ounces at a time with a special card. (Love those things, but the premium you have to pay for the privilege is a tough tax for most people.)

My companion ordered the Bejarano salad ($14.95) with jalapeño cilantro ranch and an avocado jalapeño crema also on the side with a glass of Copper Ridge chardonnay ($7) while I chose a small Godfather pizza ($15.25) with one of the specialty drinks, a mai tai ($8).

New Vintage has always been a place with great dinner salads, served in large silver bowls that guarantee you’ll get a full meal out of the experience. Though we struggled to pronounce this salad while ordering it, we did admire the way the lean-tasting ground beef was grilled with strands of white onions mixed in, lots of cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes, green pepper strips, black olives and a lot of ultra-fresh romaine lettuce. I can’t say for sure those dressings are house-made but they sure leave that impression.

The Godfather pizza is a simple creation we’ve loved in the past, with onions, mushrooms, olives, bell peppers, pepperoni and crumbled Italian sausage. I like it because there’s a good balance of veggies and meat, and the crust was crispy on the bottom, but it seemed to me like the cheese at the other location carried a lot more of the smokiness from the brick oven than this one. Something to aim for, I guess, since they’re competing in that area with the subtle smokiness carried by the cheese and toppings in Frugatti’s pies.

Sadly, that night we didn’t have the appetite for dessert, which is a real loss. They offer two fresh-baked cookies with ice cream (Heath bar crunch or lemon-blueberry, both amazing) or six-layer cakes (chocolate or carrot made with coconut and pecans).

Get leftovers to take home and indulge if you can. The cookies in particular are a personal favorite and seem more homemade than those pizookies others sell.

Other menu items we’ve enjoyed in the past at the other location: Pop’s pizza with garlic, jalapeños and double pepperoni ($13.95 for a small), the pastrami sandwich on a caramelized onion baguette ($14.29), the fish and chips made with Moose Drool beer batter ($13.95), Uncle Kirk’s chunky chili ($5.59), the amazing steak salad ($14.95), the avocado toast with the minced garlic ($11.29) and those “spuds”: hash browns with white cheddar, garlic, red quinoa and spinach. They are creamy and comforting in the morning, usually overshadowing anything on the plate with them.

Their “happy hour” concept is interesting. Draft beers and champagnes are $6, the first is full price, refills are half price. This deal is available at all times. The dozen “classic cocktails” including a dirty martini, mojitos, mules. an Old-Fashioned, a Manhattan and a key lime pie martini. My mai tai gives you an idea of how thoughtful they are in the ingredients: pineapple and orange juice, Myers's dark rum, RumHaven coconut rum and Captain Morgan’s spiced rum. Not too strong, but exceptionally alluring.

Service was pleasant though our waitress initially forgot my companion’s chardonnay and, possibly as a result, brought a glass with a very generous pour.

We’ve written in the past about owners Jed and Melissa Larson trying to create a restaurant based on all the foods they’ve sampled on their travels. Two young parents leaving their careers behind for the entrepreneurial adventure that is the restaurant business. We’ve seen them at the other location but didn’t here on this visit. Hope they can keep the quality high at both places.

Their eclectic touch on the décor is visible in some interesting ways. Just above all the beer taps is a blackboard-like rendition of the lyrics from Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic.” Above the coffee station is a modern art rendition of the brutal Alec Baldwin scene in “Glengarry Glen Ross” with the words “Coffee’s for Closers.” At least no steak knives were involved or the kind of verbal berating that wouldn’t fly in today’s powerful HR world. My companion commented as a Bob Seger tune was playing that she always appreciates the music they play in the background.

New Vintage Grill can be recommended for a fine dining experience.

Pete Tittl’s Dining Out column appears in The Californian on Sundays. Email him at pftittl@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter at @pftittl.