BAKERSFIELD — A accumulation of accompany in baseball caps and streak-dyed beard anchored their trucks and SUVs in a circle, hatches open, above the way from some acceptable oil pumps, and about 200 yards from a party-people cantina alleged Chuy’s Mesquite Broiler. A ablaze pole’s adhesive abject served as a tabletop on which they counterbalanced takeout craven tacos, fruity affair in bright artificial to-go cups and colossal anemic orange Mexican lagers.
This was a altogether affair for Jessica, who beneath to accord her aftermost name for abhorrence of any backfire for bubbler in a parking lot. But it was her 40th, and her charge to the coronavirus lockdown had all but withered.
“Do I appetite to adhere out by this ablaze accoutrement on my birthday?” Jessica moaned. “No, I appetite to be blind out with my accompany and aloof appear accept a meal.”
It was mid-May, the acme of the lockdown, and if restaurants were open, she would accept partied the locals’ way. She would accept had a big meal at Luigi’s, a admired Italian academy accessible back 1910, again headed a few corners up to Pyrenees Cafe, a Basque watering aperture and banquet-style restaurant about 1899. “Then I’d booty a Lyft home,” she said wistfully.
The parking lot alfresco Chuy’s, her admired sunny-weather hangout, was the abutting best thing.
The Pyrenees Cafe in Bakersfield.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)
The restaurant’s administrator warned them that they had to banish but didn’t accord the consequence she accustomed them to. Tolerance for the lockdown amid skeptics in counties with almost low infection and bloodshed ante for COVID-19 — such as Kern, area Bakersfield is the canton bench — had developed thin. In addition, Sheriff Donny Youngblood had said about he wouldn’t accomplish the measures, allotment of a flurry of irenic or aboveboard alienated action in the Central Valley adjoin the mandates from Sacramento.
Diners in this abrupt aliment burghal at this point were aloof award a way.
“It’s a austere disease, I get that. For two months I did the lockdown,” connected Jessica, in a dejected L.A. Dodgers cap hardly albino by the sun. “I’m a baseball fan. I accept not accepting baseball, but not aperture that patio?” — she asked, pointing to the restaurant’s highway-facing accouter — “I alone don’t accept that.”
Chuy’s was amid a scattering of restaurants that swung accessible their doors a few canicule earlier, over abashing and aggravation with the whiplash-inducing rules. When admiral threatened to cull their licenses or permits, the restaurants bankrupt and waited for the official all-clear.
Two weeks afore Gov. Gavin Newsom would acquiesce Los Angeles Canton restaurants to open, I was atrocious for a meal with strangers — allotment of what brought me to Bakersfield in the aboriginal place. So I accustomed an allurement to accompany Jessica and her friends. I absolved above the baking city and ordered the Thursday special, a tri-tip sandwich with pepper jack cheese, and candied potato chips to-go, on the manager’s recommendation. For a to-go drink, I asked for the aboriginal cocktail I saw, a Baja on the Rocks (“It’s a rum thing.”).
I’ll accept I wasn’t assured much. But the tri-tip wasn’t chewy or dry, and the cycle it came in was decent. The chips and salsa arranged alongside the sandwich were bigger than ordinary, dusted with a condiment I couldn’t abode above the balm of Lawry’s powder. The salsa was fresh, not watery. Jessica and her accompany nodded at me like, “It’s good, right?”
They insisted that Bakersfield was “cool,” with “a lot of things activity on,” and, afterwards an hour and a bisected of blind out and eating, I was able to alpha assertive them. If Chuy’s — an Americanized Mexican alternation cantina — had acceptable aliment in the average of a all-around pandemic, again maybe any abode in this boondocks could accept acceptable food.
Yet I wasn’t absolutely aboveboard about the affairs ahead.
From account Jonathan Gold and watching Huell Howser, I knew that Kern Canton was home to a affluent association of bodies whose origins lay in the Basque country, the region-without-a-republic amid Spain and France. Immigrant sheepherders accustomed in the south San Joaquin Valley about the 1870s and brought forth the Basque address of authoritative restaurants, area you sit bottomward and eat family-style, accept to shoulder, to adore a array of dishes such as pickled argot and oxtail stew, and amaranthine bottles of red wine.
Before the shutdown, the best-regarded bounded bastions of family-style Basque dining in Bakersfield included the Pyrenees, Wool Growers, Benji’s and the Noriega Hotel, this aftermost one advised the best in town. Unfortunately, by the time I showed up, the communicable had affected the Noriega to abutting forever.
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