I can’t say I spend much time in Bakersfield, CA. It’s a convenient stopover when traveling from socal to norcal and back, but it’s too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter; I’m a Goldilocks kind of guy. So I don’t know much about the culinary scene there, but I can’t pass through without getting my fix of Basque cooking.
This cuisine has little to do with the refined cooking of San Sebastian in Northern Spain or even the French Basque regions. This is as All-American as you can get—meaning lots of cheap, comfort food. The descendants of the sheepherders who immigrated to the American West in the late 19th century adapted American ingredients to their food traditions. The result is family-style rustic cooking at its best. Just be sure to bring an appetite.This time I visited Woolgrowers, one of several Basque restaurants in Bakersfield and in my judgment the best. (I have yet to visit Noriega’s) The so-called set-up—vegetable soup with beans and salsa, salad, pickled tongue, spaghetti with tomato sauce and French fries (cooked in lard) are a meal in itself.
The oxtail stew capped off the meal and made great leftovers for the day after.
Here is a more extensive review of Bakersfield Basque Restaurants written during an earlier visit.
But if you’re in Bakersfield, this is one of those unique food experiences you can find in only scattered places in the U.S. (Reno Nevada is another Basque community.)