Summer’s here and it’s time to drive U.S. Route 99, also known as the Golden State Highway, to Cutler, Calif.
People in a hurry or otherwise uninterested in Central Valley destinations prefer the I-5 as a north-south route. but the I-99 has great charm. Every Californian should drive the I-99 at least once.
We left home at 7:40 a.m. By 9:30 a.m., we arrived at the 24th Street Café (www.24thstreetcafe.com) at 1415 24th Street, Bakersfield, home of the Bowen Bloody Mary and the Mediterranean omlette, featuring locally grown garden cherry tomatoes, garlic Kalamati olives, capers, artichokes and fresh basil topped with Feta cheese, served with ($11.99) or without halibut ($8.99). For the less adventurous, there's the Caprese omlette with Tesch Family Farms garden ripe tomatoes, sea salt, olive oil, balsalmic vinegar and fresh mozzarella and basil ($9.99).
The owner, Mark Huggs, grew up in Bakersfield. He left town to go to culinary school and returned to launch the 24th Street Cafe.
Mark uses fresh, locally grown ingredients whenever possible. He makes his own sausages, grinds hamburger daily from whole beef, fresh-roasts turkey every day for the sandwiches and makes his soups and stocks from scratch.
The mashed potatoes are indescribably fantastic.
The staff is all local. They are so friendly that I wish they’d open a diner in our hometown of La Cañada Flintridge, just as a sociological experiment.
By 10 a.m., the 24th Street Cafe is packed. The customers begin to wait outside, but there are no lines. Mark treats the patrons to ample patio chairs, free coffee and an ongoing performance by a local acoustic guitar trio. The lead singer sounds exactly like Elvis.
As for the Bowen Bloody Mary, the drink is made with local “small batch, handcrafted American Whiskey” made by Wade Bowen, in Bakersfield.
Further up the I-99, in the town of Visalia, there’s a highly-ranked restaurant called The Vintage Press www.thevintagepress.com . Their food has been praised by Frommers, Fodors and our mothership, the Los Angeles Times. The restaurant was founded by the Vartanian family in 1966. The antique bar was shipped from San Francisco. The square cocktail tables are antiques from the Bank of America, complete with marble tops. The cocktails are muddled from scratch. Their wine list has received awards from Wine Spectator. I ordered halibut and a salad. Len had a steak. For dessert there was fresh, homemade plum sorbet. All the ingredients were locally grown. Simply delicious.
Summer’s here, at last. Time to hit the road for a while and then return, home to La Cañada Flintridge.
ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @anitabrenner.