This was a good year for food, with plenty of new restaurants popping up in town. 

One of my favorites is Prime Time BBQ, Meats & Deli (1927 20th St.), not only for its Cali cheesesteak Thursday lunch special ($10 for sandwich, chips and a drink) but also its mac and cheese with hot links and hearty chili. Additional points for carrying Baker's Outpost bread. The day that Laura and Ian Journey's bakery finally opens in downtown Bakersfield will be one to remember.

Helping serve the vegan community as well as those looking to improve their diets with plant-based options is Better Bowls (1818 G St.), which opened in April alongside Rig City Roasting. Both shops took over the space vacated by the dearly missed De Coeur Bake Shop. This shop made a name for itself with specials like a taco salad with soyrizo and avocado, summer salad highlighting local produce (lettuce mix from Broadfork Acres and roasted red beets from Pickalittle Farm) and holiday helper featuring baked tofu with gravy and a wild rice stuffing full of local produce (Broadfork Acres carrots and Pickalittle rainbow chard). The baked goods don't hurt either.

This summer, Mamma Mia (1418 18th St.) brought in some more Italian to spice up downtown. Opened by former Luigi's cook Nelson Furman, the restaurant has enough dishes to appease fans of the Old Town Kern spot as well as options to explore. The bocconcini Mamma Graziela appetizer is tasty and the Isabella salad is delightful with fresh fennel, goat cheese and cilantro dressing and "aromatic greens" enhanced by fresh herbs including flat-leaf parsley and dill.

Everything I've tried at PorkChop & Bubba's BBQ (1230 H St.) was completely satisfying. The only disappointment you may encounter at this spot co-owned by award-winning 'que expert Branden Slichter is the "sorry, we're sold out sign."

That's just a sample of some of the good local dining I've enjoyed this year. And 2019 is shaping up to be interesting with some fresh chains rolling into town. 

Aqui Es Texcoco, which has other restaurants in Los Angeles, San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico, will open in northeast Bakersfield in the spot last home to Lumberjacks. Named for the Mexican region near Mexico City that is known for its pit-roasted lamb, the chain also offers grilled quail, marinated in dark beer and spices, chapulines (grasshoppers) for the brave and tacos, enchiladas and other usual Mexican fare for the less adventurous.

Also in northeast Bakersfield, Los Angeles-based fast-food chain Fatburger will offer its first Central Valley location on Oswell Street by the Wingstop.

Raising Cane's, a Louisiana-based chain specializing in chicken fingers, seems only days away from opening on Coffee Road. And Sequoia Sandwich Co. will open a fourth Bakersfield deli at Buena Vista Road and Bolthouse Drive. 

Any restaurants that you're looking forward to trying in town in 2019? Let us know at thedish@bakersfield.com.

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.

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