"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:
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...
Great review on Wingstop. I am actually a fan of theirs. If you have never tried their fries, they absolutely beat anyone elses fries in town hands down.
I've seen some of the other comments on this blog about good resturaunts in bakersfield. I think bakersfield has a vast variety of "decent" resturaunts to choose from, but nothing out of this world. There is one resturaunt that is a cut above the valenteins and Cafe Meds though, and that would be TJ Maxwells. Its a dark setting, very quiet and private on 17th place (near 17th street) I took my girlfriend there for her birthday and it definately stands out in my mind as one of the best resturaunts I've eaten at in California. (I am Brasilian, and am used to VERY good resturaunts, to a fault.)
For italian, I have to plug Josephs on F. Street. A good friend of mine have the debate of Rosa's and Josephs all the time, and which is better. (Though now, I believe they are owned by the same family) There was a time when they weren't. While Rosa's is good italian food, I dont think beats the quality of Josephs.
Now, I am off to wingstop :)
I want to thank the folks who recommended Valentien. I'm on a 3 day business trip to Bakersfield, and it was just the oasis I needed. I almost turned back when I saw that they had nightly piano music, but decided to forge ahead after rejecting the salad bar place next door. In fact, the unpretentious singing of songs like "Huckleberry Friend" and "Carolina in My Mind" was sort of enjoyable when eating alone.
The decor was at its heart casual. I'm pretty sure the chairs were from Ikea. The prices weren't quite as casual. I ended up spending $45 before tip, without wine. But this was for the following 3 courses and dessert:
First: Smoked Scottish Salmon with shaved fennel, red onions, capers and arugula. Basically a small salad, with a good lemony dressing on top of some melt-in-your-mouth lox. Went down very easy, wish I could have it on a bagel every morning. The fennel made it more interesting than the usual salmon/onion/capers affair. (Also a good dish to have when dining alone, given the effect on one's breath. Though the lemon in the dressing may have offset that some?)
Salad: Mesclun with roasted beets and goat cheese. The lettuce was a little tough, but it is February. Perfectly acceptable.
Entree: Lamb shank with creamy mashed potatoes. I decided to order this because seeing it on the menu brought to mind some very large fields of sheep that I had seen earlier in the day. I'm not sure what that says about me, except that I guess I'm not a vegetarian. Indeed, the lamb was quite good, only tasted lamby in the good way. And the mashed potatoes actually had some chunks of potato in them, which is how I like them. More like real food than if they had been super creamy. It was all covered in a good gravy that I soaked up in the good bread.
Dessert: Chocolate Maquis. "It's like a chocolate mousse, but thicker, so they slice it." Sounded good to me, with home made whipped cream and a few fresh berries and a spring of mint. And it was. Waiters started teasing me about how well I had cleaned every plate. What can I say, I was enjoying the food.
The casual atmosphere was reinforced when the owner/founder came in to eat, wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and flip-flops. He and his companion ended up at the table next to mine. After ordering the soup, he busted out his tape measure and calculated the dimensions of the table. I guess they are still refining the place. Overally the service was really good, friendly, casual even though it could've been pretentious.
Definitely a win, especially compared to the place I ate the night before: Wool Growers. One of the noted Basque restaurants in Bakersfield. It was sort of entertaining: every meal comes with literally about 10 plates of food, including beans, spaghetti, french fries and green beans. Unfortunately I didn't think any of them were too that good. And I'm not sure how much they represented Basque cuisine. My entree, Brochette of Beef, wasn't bad. And it was fun, if a little embarrassing, to have all those plates on the table in front of me. They are brought out gradually, but because you can't finish them, they stay out there. And it sounded like if did manage to finish any of them, they would bring you a replacement. Especially the french fries.
One more night in Bako. Maybe I'll try Wingspot.
TravelinJack, you sound like you have some experience and discernment with cuisine. If you come back to town and crave sushi, may I suggest Miyoshi. It's at the corner of Stockdale Highway and Coffee/Gosford. (The road changes names after crossing Stockdale Hwy -- this seems to be the norm in Bako, don't ask.)
The owner is a trained architect. His attention to decor is actually reflected most in -- get ready for this one -- the men's room. (I'm sure the women's room is nice too, but I haven't peeked.)
This is the best sushi place in Bako, hands down. The owner is paranoid about sushi quality. Service was pathetic when the place first opened a few years ago, but they now have their act together and are effective and welcoming. There is new competition in Bako now (Shogun and Toro), which have fancier decor and big city vibes, but inadequate emphasis on the basics -- i.e. sushi quality.
My wife and I travel a lot (almost every weekend) to LA, SF, and elsewhere. We eat sushi like most people eat bread. We frequent many big city places -- and big price tag places -- and find ourselves comparing them to Miyoshi. Not to imply Miyoshi would be better than, say Matsuhisa or Sasabune or Hide in LA, but it often does compare favorably. There are very few restaurants in Bako that would survive in LA/SF or any other big city. This is one that would have a good chance.
Final tip, try the beef fried rice. Okay, it's not the purist's choice to go with sushi. But hey, it's Bakersfield baby. Nobody judges you on your food choices here. As easy as it can be for some to poke fun at this town (don't eat outside because the manure smell will affect your flavor experience), everyone agrees that the people here are genuinely the nicest you'll ever meet. Why else does an affirmed chowhound continue to reside here?
Well, I decided to try the Wingspot on this trip. Turns out it is actually called "Wing Stop", if you are ever trying to google it. Fortunately the directions (strip mall at Gosford and White Lane) were sufficient. I love how nothing has addresses in Bakersfield. Just locations like "in the mall at intersection of X and Y."
Anyway, the wings were pretty good. I'd go back. I had "Hickory Smoked BBQ" flavor. Nothing too original, but tasty. I did get celery and carrots, but had to ask for it, and pay extra. The fries were okay too, seasoned, but real pieces of potato.
The Miyoshi recommendation is intriguing, and I will file it away.
If you liked Valentien, please try Cafe Med (on Stockdale in strip mall where Outback is - just ask for directions to Outback and you'll get there). Don Dixon, who used to have an interest in (and helped open) Valentien is now there. He developed the wine list at Valentien and now is in charge of it over at Cafe Med. The wine list reflects his knowledge and is, IMHO, the best wine list in Bakersfield - maybe in most of the southern valley. He is also very knowledgeable about saki. The food tends to Mediterranean as the chef is originally from Israel.
My last few experiences at Valentien were not as good as they had been. I learned later that it had been sold and has a new owner/chef. I would follow Don to whatever establishment he went to - that's how much I respect his ability to suggest appropriate wines. (No, I am in no way related to him - just a very strong opinion.)
Oh and now I really need to try Miyoshi the next time I'm there.
Bakersjoe: Thanks for a great report on Wingspot. We have a Wingspot about a half a mile away from my work but no one has tried it or heard anything about it. Now I know what to expect and might give it a try. I share your frustration with the lack of really good Chinese food out there especially when I venture out in the outskirts of the central valley into the more rural communities. Lately, I have been experimenting with making salt and pepper chicken wings and drummettes at home. You might give it a try. Good luck with the new baby.
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!
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.
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......
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.