The evolution of the food truck business is typically to build a brick and mortar once the name and reputation have been established. And usually the truck stays on the street, and the restaurant supplements the business, at least that’s the practice in L.A.
That’s certainly the road followed by Pita Paradise, which we wrote about last year when we were chasing down the most-impressive mobile eateries. The halal-certified truck has been found on H Street a few blocks north of the Padre, but in July they opened a small restaurant just east of Highway 99 on White Lane. We found the owner there who greeted us with an enthusiastic “Welcome to Paradise!” when we entered. Not something you hear often on a triple-digit August day in Bakersfield.
The food here is just as good as what we’ve sampled on the truck, and though there are few employees it is a smoothly running operation. We sampled the beef gyro ($6.49) as on that day there was no chicken shawarma available, and I ordered a platter of the kafta lamb ($8.99) and a side of tabbouleh ($2.99). This place knows how to make meat taste good, even though there are vegetarian options such as the tabbouleh, a classic couscous-parsley salad that in my experience usually has a more pronounced tomato presence. Here you get mint, olive oil and a clean fresh taste that was perfect on the warm pita bread triangles served with my lamb sausage platter.
I loved the platter because it was presented in a foil dish with a cover, so the leftovers were pre-packed if you will. The portions are large enough to think like that. Jammed into the container was a salad with tomato and cucumber slices, a lot of yellow rice and the ground lamb tubes laid across the top. Just the right amount of garlic is a trademark of this kitchen, and it applied on this selection. Tahini (the standard sauce made from sesame seeds) was drizzled across the top and there was exactly one falafel ball nestled in the rice.
My companion’s gyro was one of the best I’ve ever had, and she made sure none of it went home, with purple onions, lettuce and tomato garnishing thinly sliced, succulent beef shawarma all in the friendly confines of a warm, soft pita bread pocket. Deft use of garlic again, and the quality of the juicy, red tomatoes put it over the top.
The place is small but my companion noticed all the posters with pictures of menu items on the wall. It’s as hospitable as a tiny place can come. My biggest criticism is that there was a sauce bar with three sauces but no labels, as if we should all know what they are by now. In Bakersfield, we need a bit of education.
We also recently visited the Honeybaked Ham store on Ming Avenue, which we’ve written about in the past as being one of those most underrated lunch values. Reader Cindie Cortez emailed us that “the sandwiches are better than the old menu. The Tavern Club sandwich on the Hawaiian roll is delicious. The Roast Beef Round Up on sourdough is good as well. They have a veggie sandwich that is quite good too. Sides are limited, but their cheesy potatoes are as good as always. They also have a Cobb Salad that is delicious.”
We visited and tried that beef sandwich ($5.99), the ham and turkey bella ($5.99), a medium portion of the cheesy potatoes ($4.80) and a signature Cobb salad ($6.99). Remember what I said above about Pita Paradise and how they know how to handle meat? At Honeybaked, the difference is always the high quality of the meats used, and my companion noted that this was one of the best Cobb salads she’s ever had just because of the turkey, bacon, ham and diced eggs as well as the overwhelming freshness of the lettuce. The sandwiches typically are two- to three-inches thick, too, and the ham has graced our table at many a holiday, so we knew what we were getting there. The hot sandwiches are grilled slightly after assembly, not to the extent of your average grilled cheese but enough to give them a bit of a crust.
The round up is a real star on sourdough (you can choose from six different breads) with two cheeses (provolone and Parmesan), bacon and minimally processed meat. The bella is made with smoked turkey, lots of their signature ham and balsamic vinegar, which in this case was the perfect finishing touch.
We will be back for the veggie sandwich our reader raved about that is made with red pepper hummus, cucumbers, tomatoes, black olives and onions.
Atmosphere is not much of a draw, as there are a few tables in the retail space and I assume that most of the business is take-out. On those excellently rich cheesy potatoes, for example, they are not presented hot. Instead you get them in a plastic container with instructions on how to reheat them. What makes them so memorable is the use of sharp cheddar and generous chopped chives. Take some home.
The business has a new rewards program with weekly specials such as discounted lunch combos and buy one, get one free sandwich specials. You can sign up on the spot as well as for another program that sends you text messages with specials.