OK, so we’ve all learned how cool curbside service can be especially with contactless delivery.
We’ve put new apps on our phone. And it’s hard to even keep track of all the services willing to bring food right to our door.
Welcome to the crazy restaurant world of COVID-19, the virus that forced restaurants and other businesses to be nimble, creative and innovative to survive. And survive they will if we support them until the crisis subsides. And though so many cities discourage or ban drive-thrus, they are a great feature in a time like this and we have plenty of those.
I do realize that with the closures not everyone has a paycheck right now and unemployment and federal stimulus checks might be used to cover the rent or mortgage. (Don’t even get me started on the oil business, which is under siege by California politicians, Russia and Saudi Arabia, a troika bent on destroying a key, once-profitable industry in Kern County.) But if you have a job and checks coming in, consider supporting some of these entrepreneurs who have their life savings in their business. Nation’s Restaurant News ran a story saying that 80 percent of restaurants may not survive this pandemic. It’s horrific to think about Bakersfield without the vibrant dining scene that has been developing in recent years.
If you can help, please help. We can get through this and see better days once it’s past.
• Order in advance. I’ve been to places where you can order on the spot, but the delay can be too extreme. Many restaurants have computer tablets or laptops at the ready and the online ordering is just too cool.
• Check the hours before you go. Most places have severely reduced them to work more efficiently with skeleton crews.
• Be patient. Most of the places I’ve been visiting are learning as they go, and have become more efficient with experience.
• If possible use a phone app or social media to order. There are deals sometimes only offered online or through the app. It also helps you keep track of specials. Yard House, for example, routinely offers 15 percent off app orders or $10 off a $30 order when using Grubhub delivery, and ordering from your phone is easy. Cowboy Chicken cut the price on a half-chicken order with two sides for $8.
• The Californian's Dish column has been invaluable in helping us navigate the changing offers, hours and deals, and social media is another place to keep your eye on great offers. There is also a Facebook group that was formed specifically to share Bakersfield restaurant deals during the pandemic.
• If you have family favorites, and you want to eat their food this summer or fall, be sure you toss some business their way if you have a paycheck. This, too, shall pass, and it will be nice to celebrate it in style when it does.
• The best values are typically family meals going for about $50 that feed four to five people. If you don’t have that many in your house, learn to love leftovers.
• For the germophobe, the paranoid or those with pre-existing conditions, search out contactless delivery. So many places are emphasizing that and chains such as Applebee’s and BJ’s have long had a system for takeout where you park your car in a certain spot after ordering and they’ll bring it out and put it in the backseat. During this crisis, a lot of the delivery services, Pizza Hut, Chipotle and more are using the same method, leaving it at your door and calling you when it arrives.
• What has impressed me is that the quality of the food has been consistently familiar to what we sampled when we were living the dine-in life. And the specials are great values, such as Sizzler running an eight-ounce sirloin with a baked potato for only $10.
• Some places initially closed but have reopened in recent days (Rosa’s, Hungry Hunter), so if they’re one of your favorites give them a call or drive by and look at the notice on the door.
SOME PLACES WE’VE VISITED LATELY THAT IMPRESSED US
Coconut Joe’s (4158 California Ave., 327-1378): Open 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Online ordering available through website. Curbside pickup available, and delivery through DoorDash. Coconut Joe’s was one of the first places we went to after this developed, and ordering through the website or Facebook page via a program called Cake was a breeze, allowing for maximum customization and the full menu is available. Whether it’s the chicken soup, the fish and shrimp or the chicken, beef and tri-tip meals, the kitchen is still on its game. It was encouraging to see at least 20 different people practicing social distancing in the parking lot as a few employees tracked down orders, and we were glad we ordered ahead as it was efficient.
La Mina (4001 Auburn St., 872-9314; or 8020 District Blvd., 831-2777): Open every day 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The format here is a bit different, with a shaded table out front with a menu board and the food you order brought out to you. Curbside pickup available. I first heard about all the great stuff La Mina was offering from a reader who lives in walking distance from the northeast location. She asked that her name not be used, so let’s call her Carole Baskin. “Every day from like 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the owner, a chef, and an assistant stand outside under a tent serving select items at discount prices,” she wrote. “You can even buy their specially seasoned shredded chicken and your own tortillas so that you can make your item at home. I've only lived in Bakersfield for three years, but every Saturday I have treated myself to a shredded chicken enchilada. So, I appreciate what is an extended version of Dining Out. I hope that you can stop by and say something nice about them. It'd be nice to come to this one because we on the East Side need to hear more good news about our neighborhood.”
The one in the southwest has a similar setup, offering meals or cold bulk items like the shredded chicken ($13), carne asada ($7), grilled chicken ($6) or chile verde ($18), and I have to say those are great to take home and use with your own tortillas as needed for tacos, burritos or enchiladas. The flexibility of their system is fantastic, and the ease of pickup is a plus. And in these trying times isn’t it true that all of us can find value in a good shredded chicken enchilada? The hot food menu includes combos, appetizers, burritos and $30 family packs.
Frugatti’s (600 Coffee Road, 836-2000): Open 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4-8 p.m. every day. Online ordering available through website. Curbside pickup. Delivery through Door Dash and Restaurant Runner. Full menu available. My eye doctor went on a Friday in mid-April and she said the line was down the block and a manager told her they had as many tickets that night as on Valentine’s Day, which is an encouraging sign. The amazing deal that I love that was available last week was called the comfort Ffood special ($49): two 10-inch pepperoni pizzas, penne with marinara or meat sauce, full salad, their fresh baked bread and butter. Note the limited hours, and I would definitely order online or by calling, as when we visited the line was a dozen people, and they let three at a time inside the restaurant, where about a dozen employees were visible scrambling to get the orders together.
Moo Creamery (4885 Truxtun Ave., 861-1130): Open 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday, 10:30-7 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. Online ordering available through website. Curbside pickup. Free delivery 11 a.m.-6 p.m. with $50 minimum. The full menu is available, and they have a quart-size jug of eight different cocktails for $40. The real gems are the family meals ($44-$48): meatloaf made with grass-fed beef, chicken strips, macaroni and cheese, house-made ranch dressing, romaine lettuce and cookies and brownies. As great as that is, another family meal features their amazing pulled pork with house-made barbecue sauce, that bacon fried rice that we’ve loved since they brought it out, stunning Asian spinach salad, Hawaiian rolls and more cookies and brownies. There are four others, but try getting past those. And if your family needs a mood elevator, they’ve got an ice cream “social” party package available for $38.
If you get one of those cocktails, the painkiller will make you forget almost anything: fresh squeezed orange and lime juice, cold-pressed pineapple juice, rum, coconut cream.
Even with all those deals above, we recently had a fantastic lunch from them ordered via ChowNow, which says it doesn’t take a cut from the restaurant and is as easy to use as Cake at Coconut Joe’s. My companion loved the turkey tostada salad ($14) with green cabbage, roasted turkey breast, chipotle sweet potatoes, black beans, avocado, cilantro, crema, roasted corn, Cotija cheese, red wine vinaigrette on two crispy corn tortillas, served with red and green salsa, the coolest part being the roasted corn; and the spicy meatloaf sandwich ($10.75), with grass-fed beef, jalapeno slices, fried onions and two sauces: spicy Thousand Island and habanero ketchup. Ordering something from the ice cream bar is a must so we selected the tortoise shake ($7.25) featuring vanilla bean ice cream, butterscotch sauce, chocolate-covered toffee and toasted Billings almonds. Everything you expect to get from Moo (quality ingredients thoughtfully combined) is what you get.
BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse (10750 Stockdale Highway, 241-5155): Open from 11 a.m.-midnight Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-1 a.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-midnight Sunday. Online ordering, pickup, delivery available. This chain has been rolling out so many specials lately, including half-price pizza, $40 family feasts (pizza, salad, rolls and pasta with their amazing meatballs), free pizookies or $3.99 kid meals with the purchase of $9.95, $6 chilled take home entrees for the next day and more. But get the app on your phone, many of their best offers are available only with the app. We’ve been picking up the tavern-cut thin crust pizza (their deep dish is not as impressive as what Cubbie’s serves) and their healthy menu choices like the chipotle-cherry grilled salmon. There are $10 64-ounce growler fills, too, and bottles of wine starting at $10 as well as 32-ounce takeout margaritas for $30.
Dot x Ott (930 18th St., 324-7112): Open 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday. Pickup or delivery available (free if within 10 mile radius of restaurant and $75 minimum order). What I love about this place besides the relentless pursuit of quality is the flexibility of their family meals: $25 for a small feeds two, $39.95 for four to five people, with bottles of wine at $8. The entrée choices are all excellent: house-made lasagna with meat sauce, seafood risotto, coq au vin, roasted wild-caught halibut, sesame-crusted salmon with garlic butter rice, chicken Alfredo made with grilled chicken or beef enchilada casserole, with salad or soup of the day and six of those amazing garlic dinner rolls. They have really kept their standards through this shutdown.
La Costa Mariscos, (10100 Stockdale Highway, 239-9939): Open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. every day. Curbside service and delivery through UberEats. La Costa was one of the pioneers of adapting to the shutdown, focusing on its newer location (its Chester Avenue restaurant is closed), and has four great family packs priced from $40.95-$50.95 (chile verde, chile colorado, cheese enchiladas, chicken fajitas, with rice, beans, etc.) and even margaritas in jars (purchased only with food per ABC regulations). Full menu is available if you want to go that route.
Chef Lino’s Grill (6603 Panama Lane, 885-8006): Open 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4-6 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4-7 p.m. Friday, 4-7 p.m. Saturday. No online ordering but curbside pickup and I recommend you call in the order. Stroke of bad timing to open in a year when this madness hits, but Chef Lino (who donated a lot of food to hospital workers recently) is still offering great personal favorites such as the pan-seared salmon with lemon-butter-cream sauce and grilled asparagus and jalapeno mashed potatoes, and that amazing pork barbacoa with house-made bacon chipotle barbecue sauce. I swear you could put that barbecue sauce on cardboard and it would be edible. And they lured me into dessert by mentioning “We have one cinnamon roll left.” I don’t know what it actually cost, but it was worth it, so warm and cinnamon. Family meals and food trays run from $30 to $60. Note the very compressed hours.
Tahoe Joe's (The Marketplace, 9000 Ming Ave., 664-7750): Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. Online ordering, curbside pickup available. When we visited to get the pork chop dinner ($24.99, enough for two to share), we ordered on the spot, but for lunch or dinner online ordering is great and it looks like the full menu is available. It was just so odd to see the patio, bar and dining room empty. These are strange times.
Salty's BBQ & Catering (6801 White Lane, 847-9955; 9425 Rosedale Highway, 587-8437): Open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Online ordering, curbside pickup. White Lane has a drive-thru that just opened in February and is as efficient as any fast food operation. Delivery through Restaurant Runner, Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash or Postmates. Just drive past some morning and you see the guy working the grill and smell that barbecue cooking, grateful that you haven’t lost your sense of taste and smell to the virus.
Romano’s Macaroni Grill (8850 Rosedale Highway, 588-2277): Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Online ordering through website or app. Curbside pickup. Delivery through Grubhub. Free delivery when ordered online. This chain restaurant has really amped up their specials during this period, offering a “Feast for Five” for $25 that you can get delivered free: salad, fresh baked rosemary peasant bread and entrée such as macaroni and cheese or chicken. Select bottles of wine for $15, and there’s a weekend Feast for Five at $50 that pairs chicken Parmesan with pasta (spaghetti or fettuccine Alfredo) with a Caesar salad and two loaves of bread.
PorkChop & Bubba’s BBQ (1230 H St., 520-4227). Open 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Online ordering through website. Curbside pickup. Delivery available. Smoky meats, hush puppies, mac and cheese, fried green beans, all good without sauce. Family meals and daily specials vary, so call them up and see what’s good today.
If you’ve found better deals out there, send me an email and we’ll put them in a follow-up story, which hopefully won’t be necessary ...