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Sep 2, 2006 05:00 PM

"Buffalo" Wings in Bakersfield, preliminary review of new place: Wingspot

Located on Gosford, just north of White Lane in a strip mall of course. (For those unfamiliar with Bakersfield, all we have is strip malls.)

FIrst of all, I want to clarify that I have never set foot in this place. We ordered from them for lunch where I work. We are a group of close co-workers who order lunch together several times a month. Everyone seemed to have an opinion on the wings, and it is telling to note the backgrounds of the various commentators:
black guy from Montana
white guy from San Francisco
Chinese guy from Tennessee/Atlanta/LA (me)
Egyptian guy from LA
white girl from Napa

Second, let's put this in context. Bakersfield, while a great place to live, work, and raise a family, is chowhound purgatory. Other than Basque food, don't expect world class standards for food experiences. The attitude around town, is "we're lucky to have decent (fill in the blank) food here."

This is part of my ongoing California Buffalo Wings Quest:

Let's go...

Hint: don't try to ask for delivery. The first time we tried to order, they were so rude on the phone, the black guy wondered out loud whether they were racist. Unfortunately (fortunately?), the white guy had the same experience on a different day.

So somebody had to go pick them up. We were told the wing options by cellphone. I cannot remember them accurately, because I dismiss anything that sounds like Hawaiian barbeque wings or whatever. When I heard "atomic" I said yes 50 of those will do.

(1) WING SIZE: slightly on the small side, but consistent. White guy thought they were too small. Black guy thought they were good.
(2) DRUM/WING RATIO: perfect 50/50.
(3) COOKING/TEXTURE: All the men agreed that the skin was under-fried and soggy. The meat texture was good, no overcooking. Of course when you under-fry, you are less likely to overcook.
(4) FLAVOR/SAUCE: Excellent. Somehow we didn't get atomic, we got mild (service error), so they were not nearly hot enough (Egyptian guy complained vociferously). Even though they weren't that hot, they had the strong sinus-filling aroma, yet without relying too heavily on garlic. It's hard to balance good taste and minimal aftertaste, but they executed superbly in this regard.
(5) DRESSING: The bleu cheese sauce was outstanding! Good texture, with a few chunks. Flavor was perfectly in balance with the mild wings. I consider ranch sauce inappropriate foil for authentic Buffalo wings, which are already sour, but it was offered. I was the only one who wanted bleu cheese.
(6) SIDES: No celery was received. Was this another service error or a flaw in the menu?

I will have to return for the confirmatory experience. Questions to clarify:
(1) Can you get extra-fried wings? (And get them without overcooked meat?
)(2) Will "atomic" wings be hot enough without aftertaste overkill?
(3) Will the bleu cheese balance properly with the "atomic" taste?
(3) Is celery available?

In summary, they were enjoyable "Buffalo" wings flavored with some finesse. Overall, the minor elements were above average, especially the bleu cheese dressing. But the fatal flaw was the under-frying. Eating a well-flavored Buffalo wing with mushy skin is like sitting in a Ferrari with no engine. A good experience but kind of hollow.

Napa girl liked her wings that way though - mushy and mild, with ranch dressing. (Exactly my complaint about the typical California wing. Evidently you native Californians prefer your "Buffalo" wings this way. I'd call them Cal-Buffalo wings.) If she could only hear the Ferrari engine growl...

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  1. Great post ... and great thesis on the Buffalo wing. Looking forward to your next visit. Maybe you should ask to have them fried longer like some people ask to have fries cooked longer.

    Did your wife have the baby yet? Is she still craving wings?

    So, how long have you been in Bskersfield? There's no ethnic that's good except Basque? Well, I hope you report back on your area more, good or bad. I live in what looked to be the chow outskirts of the Bay Area. Then I just started walking in the door of alot of joints and looking to see what was unusual ... I found some amazing and interesting things. Maybe don't listen to convential wisdom and check out uncharted territory. Seems like an opportunity ... but then I don't really know Bakersfield.

    2 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      Thanks for the feedback, rworange! See below for my update.

      My wife is due in 2 weeks. Someone said a third baby delivers fast, like stepping on a watermelon seed. So I guess it could be any day now.

      I've been in Bako for over 6 years. The Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Indian, and Vietnamese places here are very disappointing when you relocate here from LA or SF. Here's an example: I went into a Chinese fast-food joint the first week I was here -- you know where they have about a dozen or so dishes ready to scoop into a styrofoam box in a "combo A" with fried rice and an egg roll -- and on the wall were plaques that read "Voted Best of Bakersfield Chinese Restaurants 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000." I just hung my head. Luckily Monterey Park is only a 2 hour drive.

      Went back to Wingspot recently with the family.

      First, they are very friendly when you dine in. It turns out they are a franchise and have many other locations in the LA area. Strange they seem to be completely under the radar, with no mention in chowhound, no matches on google.

      Revised critique:
      (1) WING SIZE: no change (consistent and slightly small)
      (2) DRUM/WING RATIO: no change (perfect)
      (3) COOKING/TEXTURE: big improvement! I thought about asking for extra-frying, but I didn't -- I just wanted to see what they would do. My faith was rewarded, they were fried just right.
      (4) FLAVOR/SAUCE: improvement. The Original Hot has the right level of spice. The Atomic wings were actually too hot. Both the Atomic and the Cajun wings had a very good flavor, but departed from the true Buffalo wing category.
      (5) DRESSING: no change (oustanding taste). But you have to pay extra! The bleu cheese balanced well with the Original Hot wings. You couldn't taste anything else with the Atomic wings.
      (6) SIDES: You have to order them separately too, that's why we didn't get any last time.

      In summary, this was a much better experience. A great addition to Bako dining options. Will order at work again soon and see if the others feel the same way. From now on, I will order the Original Hot wings and try to forget that I have to pay extra for bleu cheese and celery. If the wings were slightly larger, they'd be perfect. I'll have to order them take-out next time, because they don't sell beer. Drinking root beer with wings is not quite right, like say... putting a bumper sticker on a Ferrari.

      1. re: bakersjoe

        bakersjoe I noticed your comment on Chinese food here in Bakersfield. Have you tried Peking Palace in East Bakersfield off Auburn? Shrimp dishes are loaded with shrimp. The EggFuYong is great especially the beef. Another place in on Ming Ave in the Toys R Us Center next to Chuck E. Cheese. Don't know the name of the place. Try the Orange Beef if you haven't already. I've heard the chef studied with a master chef in China for this dish.

    2. Bakersjoe, let me echo rworange's congrats on your houndly research. Look fwd to hearing what your follow-up visit(s) yield.

      We're always looking for something decent when we pass through B'field. The past several years or so I've been relying on a good friend who travels down there on business almost weekly and would like your opinion on the few places he's found that are considered chowworthy, if you happen to have tried any of them:

      For Italian, he and his two sons like:

      Valentine - 3310 Truxtun Ave 661-864-0397

      Mama Tosca's - 6631 Ming Ave 661-831 - 1242

      This one I tried a couple of years ago and had a very good lunch.

      Uricchio's Trattoria - 1400 17th St 661-326-8870

      This one I haven't been able to find as yet:

      Taco Fresco - 4240 California Ave 661-328-0505
      (supposedly, W of 99, after Chester Ln before Mervyns Pl)

      Also, here are a couple of recos posted in the past by other hounds.

      T.L. Maxwells
      1421 17th Pl
      in the Alley behind Uricchio's in the Haberfelde bldg

      Gumbeaux's - Authentic cajun
      1418 18th St

      Maharaja (location unknown, couldn't find it on Google)

      Any information on the above greatly appreciated.



      3 Replies
      1. re: PolarBear

        Probably the best San Francisco-Gary Danko-Michael Mina-esque (food wise) offering available in Bako. Expertly prepared dishes with interesting ingredients are consistently reliable, and the servers clearly take pride in what they do. Alas the decor is somewhat sophomoric, and the location is awkward. Perhaps the lowered expectations raises the satisfaction levels with the food and service (although I like to imagine myself more objective than that.) Overall, a worthy chowhound oasis in a desert of mediocrity.

        Mama Tosca's:
        A string of disappointments has left me with little good to say about this Italian. I ordered the chateaubriand-for-two extra rare (Pittsburg rare, blue rare, etc.) and got medium. When I told the waitress, she said "oh sorry," and then turned and walked away without offering to re-do it correctly. Then I tried the place just for desserts, and the tiramisu tasted like thawed Trader Joes stuff. All the entrees have the same mashed potatoes and steamed veggies on the side. This place is perpetually packed with locals presumably enjoying the urban ambience and pleasant Marketplace location, overlooking overpriced, uninventive food. Style over substance, frills over finesse.

        A downtown Italian spot where many business lunches happen. Well-established with a loyal local following. For anyone expecting an experience like Valentino or Locanda Veneta in LA, you will be disappointed. But it's always a satisfying meal.
        A few years ago, there was an offshoot second Uricchio's location in SW Bako (corner of Gosford and Stockdale Hwy), that had a nice bistro-type atmosphere. Unfortunately it sunk faster than the Boston Red Sox in August. Fortunately it has been replaced by the only reliable sushi bar in town (Miyoshi). Maybe I'll review sushi bars in the future. It's a short list.

        I haven't been to the other four restaurants you named.

        Here are a few suggestions. None of these restaurants would, in my opinion, merit high critical acclaim from a true chowhound. But these are the places that reflect the local experience:

        Flame and Skewers (downtown between 23rd and 24th Streets, next to Starbucks and New City Cleaners) - mediterranean takeout, no alcohol

        24th Street Cafe (downtown, across from a furniture store with a yellow and blue sign) - pretty good breakfast in this country diner (they have fried green tomatoes!)

        Sequoia Sandwich Shop (downtown at 18th and L) - Try the Waldorf chicken salad sandwich and macaroni salad at this lunch mecca. NW and SW locations as well.

        John's Burger (Oak Street, just south of California) - Try the HUGE breakfast burrito. You can get it with bacon or sausage, but I highly recommend the CHORIZO breakfast burrito. Use the drive through. I can honestly say this is the only food item I have found in Bako that I have not been able to find better somewhere else. Take for example Joe's on Abbot Kinney in Venice, one of the best and most consistent restaurants in LA, where I've never had a bad dish and don't know anyone who has. One time I tried Joe's breakfast burrito. I found myself wishing out loud that I was having a John's Burger burrito! Shocking! Forget your diet (and all thoughts of eating again for about 12 hours) and indulge!

        1. re: PolarBear

          Gumbeaux's is closed (or about to close if it hasn't already).

          Grandview Asian on Ashe Road has dim sum on Sundays (I think it's the only place in Bakersfield serving dim sum).

          Pho V in "Little Saigon" (on Union Avenue) has good pho.

          As for Indian, I think Taj Mahal on California (in the strip mall on the corner of Lennox and California) is the only Indian restaurant remaning in Bakersfield.

          1. re: PolarBear

            And as to Maharaja, I tried to locate it but could not. I think it is now an empty building in the shopping area where Mervyn's is located (on California Ave.) As far as I can tell, as bakersjoe posted, Taj Majal is the only Indian place in town.

          2. The original comment has been removed
            1. Thanks for the feedback, bakersjoe. John's Burgers sounds like the perfect travel stop.

              1. Everyone seems to overlook a little Italian place (and I do mean little) in Bakersfield. It's called "Little Italy". It is located at 8200 Stockdale Highway in the Town and Country shopping center off Coffee Road. It's located in the south end of this center by the Burger King. It is VERY small but the food is excellent. One of the BEST Tiramisu I have ever eaten. Love the bread they serve with your entree, more like a simple pizza. Service is fast!

                2 Replies
                1. re: tnvfoodies

                  I went to the newly reopened and renovated Little Italy about a week ago. Nice murals in the room which used to be Subway. Unfortunately the praise ends there. I don't want to turn this into a whine forum, but let's just say that I'd rather have Mama Tosca's or Uricchio's or Frugatti's, or even pasta night at Seven Oaks. Perhaps I'll try the tiramisu one night for dessert, based on your recommendation. It can't be worse than Mama Tosca's.

                  1. re: bakersjoe

                    I have to agree on this one. I have been here once or twice before the remodel and once after. MY first expereince was good but with the last two I am left wondering why everyone thinks the food is so good. I grant you it is a nice local place and it is always interesting to watch when someone comes in because they always seem to know someone who is already seated. (Of course I don't live here so I don't know all the political types etc. but it seems they frequent the place.) Other than that, though......