While we're having to forgo many local traditions this year, it's wonderful to see one that's still happening. The Guild House in downtown Bakersfield is reopening for the season on Tuesday with adjusted hours and new options.
Following current state guidelines, the volunteer-run restaurant will offer outdoor dining. Guild House president Mary VanderWerff said they can seat about 30 comfortably with seating on the porch and tables and umbrellas on the lawn.
"The challenge of course now is the weather," she said. "We had a nice breeze (for a soft opening). We wanted to test out our logistics. The guests seemed very happy."
For now, the Guild House will serve lunch 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays.
VanderWerff said the reduced hours are based on volunteer numbers, since not all members who have aided in the past are ready to return.
There are about 150 volunteers total, with each assigned a set day rotation or working special events on weekends such as baby showers and other private events.
Because the restaurant is run by volunteers, VanderWerff said it didn't have to lay anyone off but did suffer a loss from the shutdown.
Each year the Guild House is committed to donating $40,000 to the Henrietta Weill Child Guidance Clinic, a private nonprofit mental health agency that serves local families.
"If we do better, we give them more," VanderWerff said.
Despite having to cancel scheduled private events and a spring Affair Extraordinaire dinner, the restaurant was bolstered by a great Give Big Kern campaign.
The annual crowdfunding effort for local nonprofit organizations hosted by Kern Community Foundation generated record numbers this year even as it had to focus most efforts online.
"We typically don't gather more than $5,000," she said. "This year we got $21,000. We were stunned."
Those funds helped with a matching grant from the West Foundation, which matched $10,000 to the Guild House's funds to purchase a $20,000 stove.
That stove will soon be in full action, turning out a variety of lunch menus, which include a variety of proteins from pork Tehachapi and barbecue baby back ribs to macadamia chicken and tilapia Veronique.
VanderWerff said the updated menu, which has been a work in progress for the last few years, ventures beyond the varied preparations of chicken to include more seafood, pork and beef. That's thanks for chef Pat Coyle, who has priced out menus to balance the cost of entrees and side dishes.
In addition to outdoor dining, the restaurant is offering takeout for guests who are not ready to dine in.
Takeout lunches, which include a choice of entree salad or hot entree with side dishes and dessert, are $20 including tax. Guests can also order soup for two ($10, including tax), which comes with a pint of the day's soup and four house-made rolls with butter. Canned sodas and bottled water are available for $2 each, including tax.
For dine-in guests, lunch ($17.50 plus tax and gratuity) also includes soup, rolls and coffee or tea. Soda, wine, and beer are available at an additional cost.
Along with reopening for lunch service, the Guild House is also open again for private events, which also help raise funds. Call events coordinator Bobby Scrivner at 399-0344 for details.
Hours may change going forward, VanderWerff said, as more volunteers return to service.
"We're just waiting to see what happens next," she said. "We have to be flexible because that’s all we can do."
Starting Tuesday, lunch will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday at the Guild House, 1905 18th St.
Although not required, reservations for dine-in guests are recommended. Call 325-5478 for reservations or to order a takeout lunch. View the menus for September and October at guildhousebakersfield.org.