Bakersfield’s breakfast options will be as big as a bayou this month when Huckleberry’s opens in northeast Bakersfield.
The California chain is set to open its first local restaurant on Oct. 12 in the Mount Vernon Avenue spot formerly home to Aqui es Texcoco (and Lumberjack's and Coco's before that).
"It's always exciting to go into a new market and introduce ourselves," said Greg Graber, CEO of Heritage Restaurant Brands, which also franchises Cool Hand Luke's Steakhouse and Perko’s Café Grill. "We want to come in and be a part of the community."
With 13 other locations in California, including Pismo Beach and three in the greater Fresno area, Huckleberry's has been interested in expanding here for a while.
Graber said, "Bakersfield, we've had our eye on it for some time. It’s a great restaurant market. It’s somewhat underserved from a breakfast perspective."
He said finding an experienced local franchisee, Larry Zachary, and getting an excellent operations team on board along with securing a good location helped move the expansion forward.
The chain is known for "Southern cooking with a California twist." Graber said being in the restaurant is like "escaping into the Mississippi bayou."
"Breakfast is very experiential (here). It's crickets chirping, zydeco music playing, alligators and all sorts of decor makes you feel like you're in an entirely different place."
The menu fits the theme with Mardi Gras beignets that are served with fresh fruit, fried green tomatoes, Mississippi and New Orleans "skillet hotties," catfish for lunch, and chicken and waffles.
As one would expect, Graber is a big fan of Huckleberry's offerings.
"It's hard to choose but my favorite is the New Orleans skillet hottie. It comes on a hot skillet like fajitas. It’s got eggs, potatoes, andouille sausage and shrimp topped with Monterey Jack cheese."
"I have to admit I've picked up a few pounds since we've been expanding," he said, while also noting that the restaurant also offers healthier small plates and fresh fruit as a side dish option.
While many restaurants are struggling during this pandemic, Huckleberry's has cautiously grown with new locations also planned for Anaheim, Salida (near Modesto) and Santa Rosa.
"It’s a unique and challenging year for our industry," Graber said. "This summer we really made a commitment to stay true to our brand."
That has also included family-style takeout, delivery options and making outdoor patios as exciting as possible.
If restrictions are still in place on indoor dining when the local Huckleberry's opens, Graber said that it will offer patio dining, even if it's just a temporary space.
The CEO said this location could lead to others in Bakersfield.
"We're pretty hopeful that the response is going to be good. We want to be able to serve the whole area. ... but rather than get ahead of ourselves, we want to open this one and do it right."
Huckleberry's is slated to open Oct. 12 at 2673 Mount Vernon Ave. Operating hours will be 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. For more information, visit huckleberrys.org.
OTHER NEW RESTAURANTS
Huckleberry's isn't the only new spot opening in Bakersfield. We're a food-loving town so, even in a pandemic, we have more coming our way.
Nuestro Mexico Tacos and Bar, 9660 Hageman Road, Suite A, opened last month.
La Imperial Taqueria, which has locations in Shafter and Wasco, just opened a restaurant in Bakersfield at 4208 Rosedale Highway.
Bootleggers Craft Pub opened a second location at 1345 Allen Road.
Maggie's Sunrise Cafe is also on track to open a second location at 3631 Rosedale Highway (in the former location for Sushi Kato). It is now hiring for the new location and its flagship in northeast Bakersfield.
Speaking of new restaurants popping up in locations of dining predecessors, a banner is up touting a second Jin Sushi location at 12900 Brimhall Road, where The Pizza Press fast-casual pizza chain once operated.
The original Jin Sushi is also bustling downtown, with the addition of outdoor dining along a section of Eye Street that is closed to traffic to provide space for it and Chef's Choice Noodle Bar to operate.
A sign is also up for another Round Table Pizza in the Rosedale Village Shopping Center at Rosedale and Calloway.