It crossed my mind while doing stories for The Californian's 2018 Dining Guide that, just like fellow north Bakersfield restaurant Milt’s, I’ve been to Knotty Pine many times over the years and always plug it in those stories but have seldom devoted a full column to the place.
It doesn’t need the business, I guess. Like Yogi Berra used to say, no one goes there anymore, it’s too crowded. But there are good reasons that some '08ers treat it like Mom’s home cooking, especially with a friendly staff that will treat you like a prodigal son and prices that show the place is paying the rent and salaries primarily via volume of business. Not to mention the pastrami sandwiches and chicken-fried steak that is amazing on so many levels. If you’re missing Oklahoma or Texas cooking, head to Cope’s Knotty Pine and your itch will be scratched. Breakfast served all day, great burgers, what more does one need?
Sometimes places like this have a sparse menu, but not The Knot. It goes on for pages and it’s pretty idiosyncratic. For example, a note at the top of the eggs and omelets page says it will not serve egg white omelets. If that’s what you need, they’ll use Eggbeaters to make your omelet, but they won’t bother with those modern but tasteless concessions to healthy eating. To which I say it’s about time someone take a stand. I am grateful that health issues have not pushed me into that box so far, but things like whole eggs and butter make life worth living. And Eggbeaters, whatever they’re made out of, tastes better than egg white omelets. Stay strong, Knotty Pine!
The menu has pages of categories, including “from the fryer,” and a really cool list “For the smaller appetites” that warns “no age limits and ABSOLUTELY no substitutions.” And the calorie count is pretty low on some of these: one pancake and one egg ($4.75). Could be a child’s menu, but it’s great to offer it to anyone if their appetite isn’t up to the other food.
On to an actual recent breakfast. I let my companion get the chicken-fried steak with eggs ($11) while I chose the pastrami and pepper jack omelet ($10). It was a complete act of kindness to offer the chicken-fried steak to my companion because it’s the most amazing creation, served on a platter of gravy (eggs and potatoes on the side), a foot-long I swear and the batter perfectly crispy and tightly adhering to the beef as you cut into it, dark brown in some spots, more tan in others, just everything you’d expect from this Southern classic. Now at The Knot I prefer the home-fried potatoes to the hash browns, unlike at Milt’s. The home fries are honest, crunchy little chunks of fresh potatoes, much more charming with onions and green peppers mixed in, soft inside and crunchy outside. The hash browns are merely OK, and not as fresh.
I had never previously sampled the particular omelet I ordered and it was fascinating in its construction. The meat was packed inside, and the two cheese slices were laid like a blanket on top, slightly melted. There was a bit of cheese inside, but not too much. It was not as legendary as my companion’s breakfast choice, but still great with the biscuits and gravy, which are worth recommending for a few reasons. One, the amount of meat in the gravy is perfect — enough to taste it, but not too much to make it greasy. The biscuits were brushed with an egg wash for a slightly crunchy top, but had both substance and a tear-away texture without crumbliness. If you try these and agree with me, get a “stacker,” which is like an omelet presented on a biscuit with gravy and cheese. It’s a knife-and-fork experience.
On other visits we’ve been so impressed by the breakfast burritos ($10), which are large enough to look like they’re designed for someone who’s going to burn hundreds of calories with physical labor that day. If you have an office job, share this sucker or take half of it home. It’s made with eggs, hash browns and cheese inside with a choice of five meats (bacon, ham, sausage, chile verde or chorizo), with your choice of salsa or gravy inside.
Another old favorite besides the pastrami sandwich ($10, good with Swiss or pepper jack cheese on that French roll) is the chili size burger ($9.75) or the avocado or mushroom cheeseburger (each $9.75). This is one of the few places that still serves a good old-fashioned deep-fried Monte Cristo sandwich ($9.50) made with turkey, Swiss cheese and ham on that thick Texas toast.
The restaurant’s tables have ads imbedded underneath plastic for local businesses and real estate agents. The natural wood walls have all sorts of creations hanging: tools, old pictures, farm implements.
Service as we mentioned is a plus. Everyone who works there looks happy to be there. You can’t fake that.
Cope’s Knotty Pine can be recommended for a fine dining experience.
Pete Tittl’s Dining Out column appears here on Sundays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.