After several attempts to visit the always crowded, relatively new Mexican-themed restaurant and bar, Bakersfield on Mass Avenue, we finally made it down on a rainy Saturday lunch and had no problem getting in. Now we understand why it is always packed. It's that good. They are a small chain with four locations in Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio, Charlotte, North Carolina and here. Last summer, after they opened, we kept hearing about their great outside seating, but unfortunately, in January we had to settle for a tall bar table by the front window. It is a much larger space than we expected, nicely decorated in what we would describe as "California roadhouse rustic" with a seemingly endless loop of Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Westerns playing on the TVs over the bar.
After being seated, I remarked that I was surprised we were allowed in since no one working appeared much over the age of 30 and there must be a minimum amount of tattoo coverage and piercings required for employment....read this, a very hip place.
The bar menu offers only two wines, but invites you to inquire about their Reserve list. We decided Margaritas seemed more in the spirit, and we were glad we did because the $7 Bakersfield Margarita, served in a salt-rimmed Mason jar, is about as good as you will find. And they will bring you a 64-ounce pitcher, but not a driver, for only $28. Well worth drinking. As you would expect, they also have a wide selection of craft beers and high-end whiskey.
The menu is tight, offering six appetizers, three salads, two sandwiches, two tostadas and eight tacos. We began with the homemade chips and guacamole, which was chunky, heavy on the lime and garlic and absolutely phenomenal with the crisp chips that might be the best we have had in the city. We decided to share the braised short rib sandwich on a telera roll, a Mexican take on a baguette. It came adorned with caramelized onions, crumbly chihuahua cheese, arugula and roasted tomatillo salsa. And sharing was good idea since it was more than enough for two.
But, no, we kept going and tried three of the taco selections, served on homemade, soft corn tortillas. My pick was the Cochinta Pibil that featured achiote braised pork, pickled red onion, habanero salsa & cilantro...a little too spicy for Linda, but very tasty. Linda's pick was the Pollo Rojo, with tomatillo braised chicken, smoky guajillo chili salsa, queso fresco, white onion chipotle lime crema and cilantro that we both enjoyed. But the real winner was the joint pick, the fish taco, with crispy Mahi, tabasco lime sauce, citrus slaw and cilantro...wow, great fish taco. We are anxious to go back and try some of the others, but will always order the fish!
The bargain was a delicious sandwich that fed two for only $9, with the chips and guac coming in at $6, and the tacos all priced at $3 or $4 dollars, all in all, a lot of good food at a pretty reasonable price. While hard to judge the service on a slow afternoon, what we experienced was excellent, as we told our server that we were there to relax and graze, and she paced the delivery of food nicely, but kept checking on us regularly. We can't wait to give it a try when we can sit outside in the spring, maybe if we show up at 11 AM!