If you’re looking for a humble, new, interesting, locally owned restaurant to support, consider Heresy Rock and Roll Grill on H Street just east of the Bakersfield High campus.
It opened late last year right near one of our favorite places, Pork Chop & Bubba’s BBQ. Run by Mike and Shila Fowler, the restaurant is following in the mold of the Rock & Wings restaurants, but on a much smaller scale and with that kind of underdog personality that many find so endearing.
We first heard about the place on the Facebook page for "Bones of Brundage," a great documentary you can stream on Amazon Prime that is all about the Bakersfield rock music scene of the 1980s, ‘90s and beyond — the people, the clubs, the bands that The Californian used to cover during some interesting times. Directed by Nate Berg, it’s worth checking out.
Heresy has full bar service, dark walls, posters on the wall featuring people like Kurt Cobain, two flat screens that were tuned to monster truck videos, an outdoor patio and a staff that is trying to build a business one customer at a time. The menu board refers to all the mixed drinks as “the after party,” the appetizers and finger food “opening bands” and then offers pizzas, sandwiches, burgers, wings and tacos for those who want something more substantial.
The whole operation was launched by Mike and Shila Fowler.
We visited on a weekday night when the place was quiet and my companion had to try the tacos, one asada and one chicken ($2 each) while I went for what looked like one of the specialties on the menu, the Iron Outlaw cheeseburger ($12) washed down with a bottle of Modelo Negra ($4).
OK, this burger is seriously interesting and messy and almost best consumed with a fork. A standard 4-ounce beef patty is joined by bacon, onion rings, cheddar cheese, barbecue sauce and a cheese sauce that does not taste like it was pulled out of a can but had to be made in house with some wine notes.
They wanted to add chipotle mayo to this, but I said no as there are not enough napkins in the world to handle that mess. That extra sauce was unneeded and would have clashed with the barbecue sauce. This was difficult enough to control, and with all the flavors and textures already meeting on the brioche bun it was like a heavy metal concert in a basket for sure. The thin fries served with it were seasoned with rosemary, a nice touch.
My companion’s tacos were notable for the freshness of the onion-cilantro salsa on top, and it left both of us ready to try the other Mexican options in the future, particularly the Mento burrito ($10) named after the noted local band Mento Buru with black beans, white corn and your choice of meat.
We’ve also heard good things about the Haus of Bleu chicken sandwich ($12) made with a fried chicken breast, ham, Swiss cheese and a house-made cheese sauce for dipping. For a value alert we’ve seen them offer 10 tacos for $10 on some Tuesday nights. Happy hour is 3-5 p.m. with $4 margaritas.
What kind of hospitality can you expect? As we were finishing up our meals the chef brought us out a dessert he was playing with in the kitchen, stuffed beignets that seemed to have Nutella in them. These were not the thick square version you get in New Orleans but thin like sticks and served not just with powdered sugar but a dab of whipped cream. I looked for them on the menu, but our waitress said it’s just something they’re toying with and it may be added in the future.
This article was updated March 30 to list the Fowlers as sole owners of the restaurant.