Editor's note: Huckleberry's was reviewed before the latest state order halting dine-in service in Kern County. It is currently offering takeout and third-party delivery.
Huckleberry’s has opened its first Bakersfield restaurant, a breakfast-and-lunch-only place specializing in Southern food, kind of a cross between 24th Street Cafe, Broken Yolk and Angry Barnyard BBQ.
My biggest concern is the building they moved into on Mount Vernon Avenue just north of Highway 178, given that in recent years it’s been one of those revolving-door spots, being home to Coco’s, Lumberjacks and Aqui es Texcoco, that last one being an exceptionally bold Mexican restaurant serving amazing lamb. Maybe this particular bayou-based menu will take hold, considering how many readers tell me they want a Cracker Barrel here. But the service system does need some tweaking based on our visits.
Of course, since we visited in November there was a tent in the parking lot (not used when we stopped in) and they had to leave half the tables open to comply with state guidelines. On a Saturday morning, we were told the wait would be 90 minutes. My companion noted, after we were seated in 30, that probably other customers lost patience and left, getting us in the door more quickly.
There’s a fun atmosphere with a fake alligator in a cage above the hostess station, all sorts of Southern-themed signs, Mason jars for water and beignets as a snack. Beignets are not commonly found in our city, and since we first sampled them with chicory coffee at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans and watched them make them through the window, we’ve been hooked. But my companion was intrigued by the stacked chicken and waffles special ($11.99), so I figured we’ll get those sweets next time. I selected one of the breakfast favorites, Tom’s scramble ($11.49), with a chicken-fried steak.
The most notable feature of my entrée was the biscuit, baked on the premises, not thick with shortening, light, soft to the touch and a great bed for the reasonably sized chicken-fried steak resting on top, crowned by scrambled eggs and gravy. I had to say reasonably sized because almost every locally owned breakfast spot where I’ve ordered chicken-fried steak seems to make it platter size.
On the side, I chose another one of the restaurant’s specialties that they call country reds, made with chunks of new potatoes but just a bit creamy as if a bit of cheese was added somewhere in the process. If you visit for breakfast, you must get these.
My companion’s pancakes were great, with two kitchen-breaded skinless fried chicken breasts in between and an assortment of condiments gracing it that included maple syrup, maple-pecan butter, bacon crumbles, green onions and a Sriracha aioli. A large knife sticking out of the top to hold it all together. Perfect for those who like their chicken and waffles paired up.
On another visit, I sampled a sandwich that was a must-order if you love Philly cheesesteak sandwiches: the Dixieland steak melt ($12.49). It takes that American standard and adds some nice touches, using very tender, thinly sliced sirloin mixed with deep-fried/battered bits of onion, cheddar cheese, barbecue sauce and tomato slices on thick slices of grilled sourdough bread. The portion of cheese made it particularly gooey, but not a stain waiting to happen.
The service was pretty haphazard, though to his credit, the manager was hopping around trying to handle trouble spots. But there was a long wait to get our order taken, a longer wait for the food, some delays in utensils, the wrong check was brought to the table, things like that. I don’t think they were understaffed, but organizational issues were evident that will require some tweaking. Altogether, time spent there with the wait to be seated was almost two hours and that’s OK on the weekend, but most weekdays can’t handle that time commitment.