We've all been there: the early-morning trip to the dealership. With an appointment on the books or just praying that the repair gods are on your side, you bring in the vehicle and hope that the dealership saw fit to put out some coffee and perhaps a doughnut or two in its waiting room.
Those days of picked-over breakfast are done, at least at our auto mall off Wible Road. Those in walking distance from Bill Wright Toyota can head to the service center building and stop in at By The Way Cafe.
A restaurant at a dealership might seem strange and it did to operator Alejandro Ocampo, who was approached by the dealership when the new service center was being built. Impressed by what the local restaurateur has done with his other businesses — Camino Real Kitchen & Tequila and Bakersfield Pizza Co. — they approached him for a collaboration.
"It wasn't something that we actively looked for," Ocampo said. "It kind of fell into our laps."
In the center's plan, there was a separate space designated for the cafe, which was built to Ocampo's specifications.
"When they met with me and my brothers (Fernando and Miguel), they asked, 'Hey, what do you have in mind?'"
The cafe, which opened last Wednesday, has a streamlined, black-and-white look with subway tiles. There's a cold case that will soon hold grab-and-go items like sandwiches and salads.
For now, though, it's about building up the hot menu. Cooks from Camino Real have been out getting the cafe team up to speed and helping develop items like the BTW burrito, which is stuffed with crispy carnitas taquitos, chile verde, cheese, rice, beans and pepper jack queso sauce.
An in-house baker is also making doughnuts and other pastries for the morning crowd. Customers can enjoy hot coffee or drinks with beans roasted in-house as part of the new Bakersfield Coffee Co. (The new endeavor will also soon provide beans for Camino Real and Bakersfield Pizza Co.)
The menu also includes burritos, tortas, a tostada bowl and nachos, including a breakfast version.
Later, the team from Bakersfield Pizza will get the cooks up and running serving up slices that will be offered in a lunch deal with sides.
Also on tap on cheesesteak and meatball sandwiches, specialty coffee drinks and a "caffy hour" with deals on pastries and coffee in the afternoon.
And expect some Toyota-themed items like the Supra fries, named for the former sports car, that will be topped with garlic Sriracha and Buffalo chicken; and a Prius burger, which will feature the Impossible plant-based patty.
Even the cafe's name is dealer-specific, Ocampo said.
Bill Wright General Manager Kevin Jurgens told Ocampo that the dealership’s namesake was known for saying in commercials, “By the way, come visit us at Bill Wright Toyota.”
Now they're hoping you'll follow that advice and enjoy a meal or quick cup of coffee before you catch the courtesy shuttle to work.
By The Way Cafe is at 5700 Gasoline Alley Drive (inside the Bill Wright Toyota Service Center). It is open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Breakfast is served until 11 a.m. daily. Call 381-2222 or visit facebook.com/btwcafe.co for more information.