Reader Basil Zervis recently tipped me off to two humble north Kern eateries that draw crowds of Shafter’s discerning diners already. Will Bakersfield residents make the drive? They won’t be sorry if they do.

Generals Headquarters, which occupies an old Foster Freeze on Lerdo Highway, is particularly popular with Shafter High School students. And like the typical high school student, we gorged ourselves at this mom-and-pop burger spot that has so much more than burgers: a nice variety of sandwiches, milkshakes, dinners, Mexican food — you name it.

We ordered a pit-beef sandwich ($9.29), a small banana milkshake ($1.04, in combo with the sandwich), a caramel milkshake and a bacon avocado burger ($8.40 as part of a combo with garlic-Parmesan crinkle cut fries) and onion rings ($3.75).

The milkshakes are first rate: 12 flavors, including pineapple, peanut butter, boysenberry and Butterfinger. Expect to find bits of whatever flavoring agent you ordered in the middle, as we found in our banana milkshake. The fries benefitted from the garlic-Parmesan sauce, though it didn’t have the natural dairy sweetness of butter, so I wasn’t certain what oil was used with this concoction.

The hamburgers are fried Freddy’s Steakburgers style — smashed and thin. The beef had a nice fresh taste, not the dull, frozen, rubbery taste you get from most non-chain burgers. A thin patty, to be sure, on a regrettably ordinary bun, but the avocado and bacon were the perfect finishing touch. Zervis knows his stuff.

The pit beef in the sandwich had a moist, smoky taste but was disgustingly served with mayo instead of a good salsa. Who does that? To compound the culinary crime, I asked the woman at the order window if mayo was used on the sandwich (I’ve learned) and asked her to leave it off. She said yes but it was still there in a glob in one part of the bun. I ate around it.

The onion rings are a thick beer- batter variety that sure tasted freshly battered.

Overall, the experience reaffirmed my faith that all fast food doesn’t have to come from a chain with standardized offerings. Just be warned it gets crazy crowded during the academic year right after school.

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