Sunday, May 31, 2015

Gringo Taco #3: Bakersfield - Tasty, In Spite of the Marketing Department

   What started as a trickle in the neighborhoods, with The Local Taco, Mas Tacos, and Chagos, has lately stormed downtown Nashville with the opening of two or three such spots between Commerce and Korean Vets Blvd., 2nd and 5th.

   I've driven past Bakersfield at least twice a week since December and it's draw on my curiosity has been pretty relentless, so I answered the call without expecting much, as I'm a little prejudiced against chains. Bakersfield has spent time tuning up in Columbus, Cincinnati, Charlotte & Indianapolis before making its debut in Nashville.

   Because I had to drive, I took a pass on the tequillas for Jarritos, a Mexican soft drink favored by us non-HFCS types, that one finds at just about every authentic Mexican restaurant along Nashville's "wagon spokes" of Nolensville Road, Gallatin Pike, or Murfreesboro Road.

   In the press leading up to the opening, we've been told Bakersfield is inspired by the country music that sprang from that particular California scene. Think about that for a minute while you absorb the rustic interior, loud buzz from the sounds of patrons mixing with street noise of traffic and construction, and cheesy cowboy movies on the small screens, and peruse the menu. If you're looking for a salad, you might wonder why there are dishes named for Johnny Cash (not from Bakersfield), June Carter (not from Bakersfield), and Willie Nelson (not from Bakersfield). 

    Maybe somewhere in California, there's a restaurant named Nashville, serving up Buck, Merle, and Dwight salads.

    So. .. I call bullshit on Bakersfield's marketing and PR, but knowing that authenticity doesn't always matter to the American palate, let's get to the food. 

   The menu is fairly limited while still offering plenty of flavor combinations I want to go back and try. On this day I stuck to one appetizer and a couple of tacos. Bakersfield's queso & chips, on their  own, constitute a full meal. Under the attractively burned top layer lives an orange colored cheese sauce that's overcooked just enough for the ingredients to begin to separate, but retain overall cohesion and flavor. It's good, it's not great, but it is unique and will make fans and, for $6, it's a bargain and a half. 

   The highlight of Bakersfield is the taco selection. Where everything else on the menu is pared down to just a few choices, you can pick from a variety of meats, cheeses, and spice combos on the restaurant's kitchen-made, soft corn tortillas. I had a pollo rojo — tomato-braised chicken in a guajillo salsa, with queso fresco and the usual suspects. What I loved about it was the unique flavor imparted to the chicken, something that, in all of the rest of Nashville, I've only tasted at La Hacienda.    

   My other taco was the Huitlacoche, a vegetarian offering of corn truffles, poblano peppers, cotija cheese & more. That one was tasty, but nothing to write home about.
   There were no desserts on the menu, unfortunately, because I'm sure they'd have been enjoyable. And named after Dolly and Reba, or anyone else Not From Bakersfield. In the long run, the misnaming of this restaurant isn't going to matter very much; neither afternoon's office workers nor the evening's drunken country fans are going to care. They can get a taste of Nolensville Road without leaving downtown.

Soft drink, appetizer, & two tacos came to approx $17-$18

201 3rd Ave S Nashville, TN

Bakersfield on Urbanspoon

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