For those missing chef Lino Gonzales’ pork belly tacos, we have good news. Now you won’t have to drive up to Alta Sierra for their taco fix. Gonzales and wife Frances Cueto are busy putting the finishing touches on a new location on Panama Lane, set to open in November.
Fresh off the one-year anniversary of Lino's Greenhorn Grill, the pair are excited to have something else cooking for the residents of Bakersfield: Chef Lino's Grill.
"It was an opportunity we couldn't pass up," Cueto said. "The timing was actually perfect."
The location in the Silver Creek shopping center on Panama Lane opened up this summer when Big D's Smokehouse (which had previously been a Dickey's Barbecue Pit) closed. Luckily building's owners are longtime fans of Gonzales, back from when he worked at Cafe Med before opening Lino's Mexican Cuisine in Pumpkin Center with his family. They reached out to the chef when the spot opened up.
Cueto said she hopes this meets the demand for Gonzales' cooking in Bakersfield since they closed Centro 18 Latin Steakhouse earlier this year. After serious plumbing issues in January led to a temporary closure, the couple opted not to continue their lease in the 18th Street building that needs repairs.
Chef Lino's Grill will be a bit of a new venture for the couple, Cueto said.
"It does seat about 70. (But) it's definitely not a venue like Centro was. Unfortunately we don't have a stage here."
Margarita fans take note: The new restaurant will also only serve beer and wine.
"The focus is on the food. But Chef Lino is still getting that menu together for me. I told him, 'I need that menu!'"
Cueto knows there will definitely be some of the old favorites — like the pork belly tacos — either on the printed menu or on the secret menu. She said if you miss something, ask to see if they have the ingredients to make it.
(Centro 18 Catering's menu will remain the same for those who can't part from their must-orders.)
The menu, which Gonzales said will be "all fusion," will be influenced by other neighboring eateries in the shopping center to ensure that competition based on cuisine is not an issue. So don't expect all Mexican fare or a bevy of burgers.
But do bet on Brazilian barbecue, which will be the highlight of brunch on Sundays. Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be served Tuesday through Saturday.
Cueto knows they will be busy with the new restaurant as well as the grill in Alta Sierra, which is open Fridays through Sundays.
"We're so excited for this adventure. It's been a crazy year," she said of running the mountain grill and preparing the new restaurant in town.
"We are just so humbled by all the support from Bakersfield. This is such a growing community. But regardless of how big it gets, it still has a small-town feel."
A soft opening is tentatively set for late October with the restaurant fully running by mid-November. Chef Lino's Grill is located at 6603 Panama Lane, Suite 103.