Last week we had a great evening at the Noriega Hotel - it's located in a quiet out of the way part of Bakersfield. On Sunday night there is only one seating at 7pm - everybody gathers in the bar area and then at the appointed time folks are admitted into a large room with two very long tables and a few small ones on the side. The food comes very soon thereafter. A hearty soup, salad with a bleu cheese dressing, beans (ranch?), bread,plate of tomatoes & onions,pickled tongue, a spicy salsa, a fall off the bones oxtail stew with delicious buttery, flavorful potatoes that had soaked up much flavor from the cooking liquids, over cooked pasta with a marinara sauce, vegetable, the best french fries - fried in lard I hear, and then some very good fried chicken slathered with a sauteed garlic paste, slices of bleu cheese and some vanilla ice cream for dessert. A house wine is on the table. All for $17 (includes tax). The room is buzzing with energy and conversation. I knew there would be lots of food but I was really impressed by how good some of the items were - it's not easy to make good crispy fries for 100 folks....the oxtail stew was satisfying in a low key way, and the fried chicken was very tasty.
At night the neighborhood is very quiet - it's like everybody is coming to a secret event. This is not fine dining but nevertheless, a very satisfying evening - of a type that is not available in many places anymore. The two Basque restaurants in SF have closed.