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Basque Restaurants, where are they?

Where are they?

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  1. Three each in Fresno and Bakersfield, one in Los Banos.

    7 Replies
    1. re: PolarBear

      Thanks for the detailed response, can you suggest any in Bakersfield?

      1. re: normalheightsfoodie

        A little out of my area of experience, hopefully a couple of the B'field locals will update.

        1. re: normalheightsfoodie

          I've been eating at the Bakersfield Basque Places for years.
          You can't go wrong with either Benjis or Wool Growers.
          Overall, I think Benjis is slightly better than WGs, but I really like WGs lamb chops.
          Benjis has excellent steaks, and I think their sides (soup/salad/fries) are better.
          IMO, both restaurants are gems, and help make Bakersfield a decent food destination.
          BTW, I am not a big fan of the Los Banos Wool Grower's, been there a few times and had some really inconsistent food (especially the entrees)

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          Wool Growers Restaurant
          620 E 19th St, Bakersfield, CA 93305

          1. re: Agrippa

            Ate at the Los Banos Wool Growers yesterday for Sunday lunch, had a very good time and thought the food was respectable. Lamb chops--my main dish--were well cooked and flavorful. Best of all, great atmosphere!

        2. re: PolarBear

          PB do you know of the one in San Juan Batista? just read about it...

          1. re: toodie jane

            Thanks for the reminder TJ, I've had it on the list for some time but haven't been. Checking my notes what caught my eye were many different items (Spanish Basque?) from the traditional Basque that we're used to, Lamb Shank, Gambas,Ox Tail Stew, Tongue dinners, and Sweetbreads. I don't see the shank on the current menu, may be a special item. They also have a new website, the old one comprised of their name returns an Asian page. Hopefully some hound will chime in with recent experience.

            [ETA] Noticed that the lamb shank is lister under ala carte and they also offer paella for two, with a 20 min. prep time.

            Matxain Etxea
            206 4th Street, @ Franklin off The Alameda (E entrance to SJB)
            831-623-4472
            http://www.thebasquerestaurant.com/

            1. re: toodie jane

              I was there about six months agomand really enjoyed it. Plenty of food, but not overwhelming. I had sardines In a tomato base, excellent.

          2. There are about eight Basque restaurants in Bakersfield. Some are a little more traditional than others.

            The three best IMO are:

            Wool Growers Restaurant
            620 East 19th Street
            Bakersfield, CA 93305
            (661) 327-9584

            Noriega Hotel Restaurant
            525 Sumner Street
            Bakersfield, CA 93305
            (661) 322-8419

            Benji's French Basque Restaurant
            4001 Rosedale Highway
            Bakersfield, CA 93308
            (661) 328-0400

            A few tips - Most of these places are pretty busy on weekend nights, call ahead for reservations if possible. Noriega seats everyone at 7 p.m. - if you miss it, you miss it. However, many people like the one seating/family seating because it's part of Basque tradition.

            Depending on your travel arrangements, Benji's is the closest to Hwy 99 (about four blocks away) and is close to hotels if you are planning a night stopover.

            Hope this helps.

            -----
            Wool Growers Restaurant
            620 E 19th St, Bakersfield, CA 93305

            Benji's French Basque Restaurant
            4001 Rosedale Hwy, Bakersfield, CA 93308

            Noriega Hotel
            525 Sumner St, Bakersfield, CA 93305

            1. What's the latest on Chalet Basque? I was happy with both the food and the seating options (small booth for this traveler). It is also freeway close.

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              Chalet Basque
              200 Oak St, Bakersfield, CA 93304

              Wool Growers Restaurant
              609 H St, Los Banos, CA 93635

              2 Replies
              1. re: DiveFan

                Chalet Basque is still there serving traditional Basque plates. Chalet Basque has been for awhile now a popular spot for the younger crowds on weekends. It is adjacent to Hwy 99 and has individual tables/booths in a 70's style retro feel. If you're driving a distance specifically to eat Basque, I would go with Woolgrowers, Noriega or Benji's.

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                Chalet Basque
                200 Oak St, Bakersfield, CA 93304

                1. re: DiveFan

                  Not sure why the automoron inserted Wool Growers in Los Banos into your post, but to avoid confusion the Chalet Basque is in Bakersfield. Kudos to DiveFan and chris1401 for outing this place that seems to have been under the chowdar for a long time.

                  -----
                  Chalet Basque
                  200 Oak St, Bakersfield, CA 93304

                  Wool Growers Restaurant
                  609 H St, Los Banos, CA 93635

                2. Thanks for the advice. Noriega is closed for first 2 weeks of August for vacation.

                  1. Just north of Paso Robles in a little burg called San Miguel is the Tenth Street Bistro, we had an interesting night there not long ago, not sure we would repeat, google or search the board, I think I reported on it. Have heard mention of a little Mexican place near the Chevron station that's piqued my interest.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: PolarBear

                      I agree on 10th St. Bistro. Two different nights about 10 months apart, and it was exactly the same menu, but not prepared as well the second time. The Mexican place next door is a winner, mainly for the tamales. They only make a certain number every day, and if you are later than about noon, you can miss them. --- Though, they might make a second batch later in the day. Best to get their phone number when you go thru, and if you like the tamales, order on the phone, next time.

                    2. Here's a link to an older post of mine about the Noriega Hotel
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8453...
                      at the end of this thread there is a recent update ........still sounds good.

                      -----
                      Noriega Hotel
                      525 Sumner St, Bakersfield, CA 93305

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: gordon wing

                        Centro Basco is in Chino - maybe a little closer to you.

                      2. Best overall of the Basque places that I've been to, IMO, is Benji's in Bakersfield. They also have the best salad I've ever had anywhere. Centro Basco in Chino has the best pickled tongue and house wine. Woolgrowers in Bakersfield is solid. There's also Le Chalet Basque in La Puente that is very good but also very quiet and underpatronized. Continental in Glendora purports to be Basque but is more prime rib house with some Basque tinges. Service is glacially slow there too.

                        Just over the border in Gardnerville, Nevada (south of Carson City on 395) is JT's and the Overland Hotel. I always seem to get there when JT's is closed. Overland is good...service can be brusque for some people, I have no problems with it.

                        I still need to try Noriega's...was unable to make their starting time the last couple of times I tried...and Pyranees in Bakersfield. I still need to get to Fresno to try their's too.

                        -----
                        Chalet Basque
                        200 Oak St, Bakersfield, CA 93304

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: heckonwheels

                          In Fresno my favorite is the oldest and original Old Basque Hotel just off Fresno and E Sts.

                          1. re: PolarBear

                            I completely concur on the Old Basque Hotel. Enjoy a picon at the bar before going into the dining room.

                            -----
                            Basque Hotel
                            1102 F St, Fresno, CA 93706

                            1. re: PolarBear

                              We3 had dinner at the Santa Fe Basque Friday night before the game and I was suprised to see Checken Noodle soup being served. They had some of the basics I always see in the Bakersfield Basque places such beans and green salad (without tomatoes), however they served lamb stew, potatoe salad with some bay shrimp, and nice rolls. Pickled tongue was a pay for side dish, no salsa, no cabbage soup, no tomatoe salad no french fries. The lamb chops my daughter ordered medium came well done, the fried chicked was a half checked that looked fried goodness. My calamari was OK, a little tough but acceptable.

                              Danny

                              http://www.santafebasque.com/

                              -----
                              Santa Fe Basque Restaurant & Bar
                              3110 N Maroa Ave, Fresno, CA 93704

                            2. re: heckonwheels

                              I have to disagree on the Overland. It's no where near int he same league as JT's. And and as long as we're talking about Nevada, there's also the Santa Fe and Louie's Basque Corner in Reno and The Martin and Ormachea's in Winnemucca and the Star and a couple of others I can't remember in Elko.

                              1. re: SteveTimko

                                Maybe not, but JT's is always closed when I'm in town. The Overland is still good and has a nice Basque attitude.

                            3. I'll be heading to Bakersfield soon and I am curious as I've never had Basque before and I'll do some more reading on the cuisine. Could you guys suggest some specific things to order? What kind of price range would a typical meal run at these places?

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: air

                                Dinner entrees run around $12-$30 for the full dinner. A setup, everything but the entree, runs aroun $8 - $12 depending on the place. We'll sometimes order one dinner with an entree, the other just a setup and share the entree.

                                Lamb is the usual specialty but I find that most do steaks and chicken very well also.

                                By all means, try a Basque place...eat family style if you can and go hungry.

                                1. re: heckonwheels

                                  Good to know. From what I can tell after more reading, everyone pays a set amount since it is all family style, so my question about what to order isn't relevant since they serve whatever they make on a given day. When travelling, I usually find myself eating solo (typically I am with people who aren't as adventurous with food), so this sounds like a great way to have dinner and meet new people.

                                  What is the dress code like? The whole thing seems casual so in other words, ok to wear jeans/flip flops?

                                  1. re: air

                                    I don't know if I'd wear flip flops, but jeans and tennis shoes would be fine.

                              2. A couple more for the thread:

                                Matxain Etxea in San Juan Bautista
                                Lizarran in Gilroy

                                -----
                                Matxain Etxea
                                206 4th, San Juan Bautista, CA 95045

                                Lizarran
                                7400 Monterey St, Gilroy, CA 95020

                                Lizarran
                                7400 Monterey St, Gilroy, CA 95020

                                1. Basque dining equals volume dining and not much more. But it is a fine local tradition and restaurants have happy crowds. Go for the whole experience, but not for the taste or refinement of the food. it is bulk overkill. But what isn't in America?

                                  18 Replies
                                  1. re: glbtrtr

                                    Your statement may be true of the old places in the Central Valley that grew out of boarding house eats for the working man. But entirely false for the modern Basque restaurants in San Francisco and Sonoma or in the Basque homelands that offer some of the most experimental and refined cooking in the world. Here's an old thread that talks about the differences.
                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/18152

                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                      You are correct -- I was referring to our Central Valley experiences as well as an old one in Truckee decades ago. What takes Basque food up a notch in the ones you have recommended? My only experience has been with rather plain, bulk items -- yes, sliced tongue is a novelty, but there was little to recommend recently it at WoolGrowers other than everyone snickering we were eating tongue which is a rarity on US menus, but not on Mongolian Airlines where it was the inflight meal flying from Ulan Baator to Irkutsk (!) My seat mate leaned over and uttered the obvious line " Do you have the Grey Poupon?"

                                      1. re: glbtrtr

                                        I wouldn't say that I was necessarily recommending those two places, just linking them up for the poster who wanted to know where the Basque restaurants are. There are several more in the SF Bay Area that I can't link here.

                                        The post that I wrote 10 years ago in the thread I linked explained the differences between the meat-and-potatoes boarding house cooking and the detailed Basque cuisine of its coastal cities. To offer some examples of the former, here's a link to my report on Piperade in San Francisco,
                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/46593
                                        And, I will get around to posting about Gilroy's Lizarran on the SF board, but for now, here's a slide show of the traditional Basque style pintxos (skewered tapas) that I consider food art. The ingredients, cooking style, finesse, and presentation at both establishments is much different than boarding house food.
                                        http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...
                                        (click on "show info" in the upper right corner to see captions

                                        )

                                        For an example of where Basque cuisine is headed, take a look at Arzak's website.
                                        http://www.arzak.info/ing/home.asp?800

                                        -----
                                        Lizarran
                                        7400 Monterey St, Gilroy, CA 95020

                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                          Goodness sakes, the Lizarran recommendation in Gilroy looks wonderful. Thank you for providing the photos. Always happy to find a good road stop place on the drive from Santa Barbara to SF. Looks like it will be Gilroy next time which never even got a nod in the past.

                                          -----
                                          Lizarran
                                          7400 Monterey St, Gilroy, CA 95020

                                          1. re: glbtrtr

                                            I've had lunch at Lizarran three times in the past year. Ducking in and ducking out in 40 minutes or less. It can be a very fast meal if you stick to the pintxos that are pre-made and on display in the tapas bar.

                                            -----
                                            Lizarran
                                            7400 Monterey St, Gilroy, CA 95020

                                          2. re: Melanie Wong

                                            Good grief, these pics should be the definitive entry under Food Porn in the dictionary, probably illegal in a number of states. Thanks Melanie, looks deserving of a Chowdown, and while I take exception to the characterization of our central valley offerings as being bulk and overkill, we would kill to have some of these tasty dishes. Also, agree about Piperade, had a wonderful meal there on our last visit to the City.

                                            Cheers,

                                            Dave

                                            1. re: PolarBear

                                              Two hours from Fresno, 1 1/2 hrs from SF, yes, Gilroy's Lizarran would be a good spot for a bi-regional chowdown. My first time there I made inquiries about bringing in a group and was advised that Saturday lunch time is dead, so a good spot. The full menu is available from opening at noon until closing, plus a few lunch special deals. Let's stay in touch about this, maybe in a month or two when the outside patio will be warm enough.

                                              -----
                                              Lizarran
                                              7400 Monterey St, Gilroy, CA 95020

                                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                If these treats are as good as they look, I'll need to eat crow at any future Chowdown for my Basque trash talk. What a find. As always Melanie, count me among those who end up following you anywhere. And I have from Iron Gate to Humble Pie to Bahama Grill.

                                                1. re: glbtrtr

                                                  I'm sure Melanie could come up with the perfect wine pairing to serve with that crow. ; >P

                                                2. re: Melanie Wong

                                                  I'd love to surprise a certain someone around mid-May, that would really top off a weekend getaway to Santa Cruz. Got it on the back burner.

                                              2. re: Melanie Wong

                                                Pintxos are not skewered tapas but are typically like canapes or crostini, where something delectable is placed on top of bread or some other delivery device. The "skewer" or toothpick is placed into the bread for math purposes; at the end of the meal, you add them up to get your bill. Pintxos are served on the bar, free for all style, and payment is on the honor system. Not sure anywhere in the US maintains this aspect of the tradition.

                                                Just thought I'd add this to an otherwise great discussion of the California Basque tradition!

                                                1. re: fame da lupo

                                                  How do you pronounce "pintxos"? Thank you.

                                                  1. re: fame da lupo

                                                    The word "pintxo" refers to the toothpick or spike. If you take the time to look at the slideshow in my post, you will see many examples of them, mostly on top of bread and all with a toothpick holding them together. Guess I don't understand why that is not a "skewered tapa".

                                                    These are from a restaurant in Gilroy, CA that has since closed in the year and a half since I posted. This restaurant would run an electronic tab, but it did provide a tall cup for holding and counting the depleted skewers. I believe that the NY branch and the Fullerton, CA branch may still be open.

                                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                      "Skewered" calls to mind an actual skewer like you have with a shish kebab. Just wanted to clarify that pintxos are like canapes.

                                                      The "tx" in pintxo makes the English "ch" sound, so it's pronounced PEEN-cho. You'll see it spelled "pincho" on Spanish tapas menus, although the "pincho moruno" is an actual shish kebab derived from the Moors.

                                                      1. re: fame da lupo

                                                        Thanks. Like a little "pinch" of food, eh? I'll remember that and we did enjoy Lizzaran when it was open in Gilroy - they had a great combo plate that made a perfect mid-trip road stop. Chowbow to Melanie for that one.

                                                        1. re: fame da lupo

                                                          Thank you for clarifying your viewpoint. Pintxos differ from the run of the mill canape or are a subset, if you will, precisely because they have a skewer in them.

                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                            Pintxos - is there a linguistic jump? I'm not saying there's not. Basque, Catalan and Sardegna etc. have old influences (Phoenician, Etruscan, etc.) that we don't consider.

                                                            so the idea of 'pinch' = 'bit' makes sense. the skewer idea is good but is more along the idea of picadillo

                                                      2. re: fame da lupo

                                                        Some discussions of places to eat in Barcelona has been split over to our Spain board so those recommendations can be found by people looking for food in Spain. You can follow them over here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8778...

                                              3. The Brass Rail - City of Alturas

                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/633146

                                                -----
                                                Brass Rail
                                                Lakeview Hwy, Alturas, CA 96101

                                                1. Like most of the Basque places, this one has been around for a very long time.

                                                  Nice folks good food.

                                                  Easy parking, room for RV's etc.

                                                  http://www.basquenorte.com/basque-nor...

                                                  -----
                                                  Basque Norte
                                                  3355 Esplanade, Chico, CA 95973

                                                  1. You forgot to list "The Pyranees Cafe" in Bakersfield. It is, in my opinion, just like Noriega's. In fact, I prefer to alternate between Noriega's and The Pyranees Cafe because variety is good.

                                                    Truth be told, I like The Pyranees cafe just a little more than Noriega's because of the sides....Really rustic things, and the slices of blue cheese.

                                                    I don't think that you can go wrong with Basque, unless you go to the Brass Rail in Alturas on the way to Boise, because when you come back through Winnemucca and stop at Ormachea's you will barf at the thought of the Brass Rail.

                                                    Maxim Extea is great.....I called ahead, and told the owner I was bringing the wife and 5 kids....he laid out a table for us complete with centerpiece........You see, I try to visit all the Basque restaurants, and cook Basque at home.......

                                                    I didn't realize I had trained my kids to eat in courses....I cooked a Basque Meal for an employee and his family. When my kids found out we were eating Basque, they pulled up to the table and sat patiently......My employees kids went nuts waiting for courses....so I brought it all out at once.......But my kids sit and grill when a Basque meal comes around. They know the routine...Spaghetti and French fries and Chicken at the same meal........all their favorites.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: sacwoodpusher

                                                      I hope it's not too late in the history of this post to recommend Basque Norte in Chico.

                                                      1. re: RobertLaughlin

                                                        Yeah, they are better than ever. Just started serving tapas in the bar area.

                                                        Very yummy!

                                                        -----
                                                        Basque Norte
                                                        3355 Esplanade, Chico, CA 95973

                                                        1. re: bukzin

                                                          Is this Basque Norte a new incarnation? I ate there about 10-12 years ago, but it was out on N Esplanade, "in the boonies" and was very quiet, and owner (in his 60's) was contemplating closing. Perhaps a family member moved it closer to town? Meats were excellent but the sides were rather ordinary.

                                                          1. re: toodie jane

                                                            Yes, this is the same place, north end of town.
                                                            Still owned by the original family, very nice folks.

                                                            The new tapas menu is a nice addition.

                                                            http://www.basquenorte.com/basque-nor...

                                                    2. Technically not in California, but close (and you go through it if you're going from South Lake Tahoe to 395), there are at least 2 Basque restaurants in Gardnerville, NV. Unfortunately, I was there at 10 AM so didn't stop at either.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: tardigrade

                                                        And as insanely nuts it is, Northern Nevada is part of the Southwest board. BUT any Tahoe restaurants that are in Nevada are on the California board. Just an fyi if anyone can't find what they're sure ought to be there :)

                                                        1. Costa Brava in Pacific Beach has good Spanish and Basque tapas.

                                                          1. Basque Cultural Center, South San Francisco

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: ola

                                                              always wanted to hit that place.

                                                              1. re: hill food

                                                                Also. looks great. I have seen the reviews on Check Please Bay Area. From my local PBS channel (9).Basque Cultural Center,599 Railroad Ave,San Franciso. (650) 583-8091

                                                              2. re: ola

                                                                I've been there many times over the last 20 or so years. It's a classic. Very reasonably priced, tasty food, nothing trendy, lots of families. You've got to love it.