Written by Bakersfield Magazine
Cool is...well, Cool. Sure, there are lots of cool things about Bakersfield, but this list has a twist. These are the hippest, grooviest, and funkiest things about our city you’ve probably never heard of. So put on your darkest shades and prepare to be enlightened. Only then are you cool enough to cruise the following pages...
“At last, DRAMA!”
Dinner theater has always gotten kind of a bum rap.
Relegated to retirement villages and crumbling old buildings; the butt of farce in which has-been actor Jeffery Anderson (played by Kevin Kline in 1991's Soapdish) has resorted to playing a rather inebriated Willy Loman in an Opa-Locka Dinner Theater production of Death of a Salesman.
But not so for the talented cast and crew of Stars Dinner Theater.
Not by a long shot! Flush with local talent, this handsomely renovated bank plays host to raucous comedies and spirited musicals all accompanied by a truly superb menu.
After you're done reading this you will be just in time to get your tickets for Kesselrings' Arsenic and Old Lace which is why Stars Dinner Theater is on our Curtains Up Cool list!
A Sign of Things to Come!
From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and again from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., you can find Priest dancing, smiling, and waving you on to whatever destination you happen to be driving toward.
And while you may not even remember the national pizza chain he's shakin' his thang for you will certainly remember how entertaining he was as you drove by.
But the cool story behind the gyrating sign is that Priest is sweating his bum off to support a daughter and help put his girlfriend through school.
Most inspiring of all is the gregarious attitude and pleasing disposition he brings to each step despite the rare single-finger salute he might receive.
Because we know it's not what you do for a living but how well you do it that truly counts.
A Room With a View
One unfortunate aspect of the urban landscape that has evolved from the swampy grass-lands of Bakersfield's distant past is that there aren't a lot of scenic views to be had.
All but cornering the market on this real-estate rarity is the Petroleum Club located on the 12th floor of the Stockdale Towers.
In particular, the Sky Club aptly deserves its name and a place on our list of Cool Places to Drop a Penny from.
Actually, we are not encouraging the tossing of a Lincoln from 12 floors up (seriously), but we are encouraging everyone to enjoy the sweeping, panoramic view while sipping expertly-crafted libations from the bar and some of the finest cuisine available at roughly 156 feet off the ground.
Taking a Dip in the Deep End of Fun!
Whether you're hunting for Easter eggs under water or simply floating on the surface watching a movie, the McMurtery Aquatic Center has become the retreat of choice for some 66,000 water-seeking residents between June 1st and September 11th alone!
Offering a stunning variety of activities, from aquatic conditioning to kayak lessons, master swim classes to fly fishing, this state-of-the-art facility is regarded as one of the best in the state.
McMurtery is definatley one of the the Coolest Places to Get Your Feet Wet in Bakersfield.
Night of the Living Cool
Boyd Coddington and Alberto Vargas would be proud!
Scott “Zombie” Stevens has already made a name for himself in the burgeoning hot-rod subculture. What brings him to our list of Cool Dudes is that this self-taught graphic illustrator made it big on his own talent and his own steam.
As a publisher/contributing artist/photographer of Traditional Rod & Kulture Illustrated and visionary founder of Authentic Zombie HotRod Wear, this 37-year-old Bakersfield native, entrepreneur, and father of three is the man’s man of the pre-1965 “kustom kommunity.”
With over 80,000 in quarterly distributions and fans of his graphic artwork the world over there is little doubt that success favors the skilled.
Variety is the Spice of Life!
Owned by Mike Yang and his lovely wife, Mindy, the Asia Market (now on White Lane) has become a staple for the local Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, Indonesian, and Burmese culinary enthusiast.Aisle upon meticulously stocked aisle of fresh and pre-packaged foods beckon the shopper to linger, explore, and experiment.
One of the most delightful aspects of this Cool Conglomeration of Shopping is that Mike will walk you through each aisle helping to pick out items to complete or complement any meal you could possibly dream up. Need some fresh catfish or sashimi-grade salmon? They got it.
In fact, you could pretty much start anew with bare cupboards and an empty kitchen and, before you know it, have a sumptuous Asian meal in no time replete with service ware and decorative items to complete the over-all ambiance.
The terms “contemporary” and “south-western” aren't generally used when describing the same thing, much less jewelry.
But Don Lucas has found a way to artistically blend the two, thusly winning a spot on our list of Cool. Equal parts artist and craftsman, gemologist and silversmith, Mr. Lucas continually designs and hand-makes his eye-catching pieces which can be purchased from California to New York and many places in between.
Of course, it helps to have a mega-star like Sarah Michelle Gellar touting your creations on the red carpet, but we aren't prone to name-dropping...much.
The coolest thing about Don Lucas Jewelry is how close it is! Like, in our own back yard!
Bacon Love Ice Cream
No, you didn’t read that wrong and no we didn’t print it wrong either. Bakersfield has one of the hottest new creameries on the West Coast which is why Moo Creamery on Truxtun Avenue makes its first appearance on our list as one of the coolest places to chill.
The brain-child of Jessica Pounds and Richard Yoshimura, Moo Creamery offers an eclectic amalgamation of a '50s-inspired soda fountain, local sports bar, and gourmet restaurant all under one roof. The simplicity in its décor belies the sheer perspicaciousness of its menu and atmosphere. Where else could one find a classic Caesar Salad on the same pages as Beer-Battered Pickles and a Breakfast Burrito?
Why is it this seemingly random equation of ingredients works? The same reason, we suppose that led Moo Creamery to offer Bacon Love ice cream. And after you taste it you'll just smile, nod, and ask, “Why ask why?”
Burning Fat, Not Oil!
The cogs on their bikes may be “fixed” but there is a definite sense of fluidity for these irreverent athletes of the street.
Combining the sportishness of street biking with the fun and adventurous sense of a moving party is what puts this loosely organized group on our Movin' Cool List.
Meeting every Thursday evening these two-wheeled banditos have created a community with a common mission: bring bicycle safety awareness to Bakersfield and have a great time doing it.
With cyclists ranging in ages from 11 to 111 (kidding) there is a place for everyone who wants to take a ride on the wild side. But sometimes simply pedaling down the street just isn't enough: themed events like scavenger hunts, costume races, and even movie nights keep the wheels spinning.
Sliced, Diced, and Cooked Just Right!
“Good ingredients treated right.”
That is Chef Meir Brown's mantra when teaching the Bakersfield food-loving community how to prepare fresh, savory, and delicious meals.
After an extensive remodel, Chef Meir Brown and his staff are once again opening their presentation kitchen for what promises to be a fun and informative lesson in all things culinary. They offer public and well as private functions so that your next baby shower or corporate team-building event need not be like everyone else’s.
They even offer classes for kids—which is good news for moms who don't want to clean up the kitchen after little Suzy or Johnny's experiment with mac-n-cheese.
A View From the Front Porch Looking In
Front Porch Music opened its doors to local music enthusiasts way back in 1978.
Back then there was an actual front porch and a drive to perpetuate what was already a thriving music scene in Bakersfield.
Founded by John Arthur “Artie” Niesen, Front Porch Music maintains a unique if seemingly over-stocked aesthetic all its own.
With its very own collection of Bakersfield-based Mosrite guitars (played by such musical legends as Joe Maphis and the B-52s) to back-rooms filled to the rafters with instrumental accoutrements, drum kits, and amps the size of small vehicles, this shop has earned its title as the Coolest Place to Shop-Then-Rock in Bakersfield.
Multi-media Gone Green
To look at them you'd think garage band.
To see their work you'd think high-end design firm (with an irreverent edge).
It may be hard to reconcile the face(s) behind the extra-ordinary work but once you do you'll see why Fluxar Studios, Inc. has earned a spot on the Cool List, 2009.
From print, to web, logo design to flash-animation, Fluxar has put out some of the most recognizable images known in Bakersfield. But a good part of their business-savvy stems from a relentless commitment to happier employees (their break room is a swank game loft) and a healthier Bakersfield environment.
By getting their green on, Fluxar has gone where few companies have the courage to go: unblinkingly into the future of the eco-friendly business.
The More Things Change...
The Five & Dime Antique Mall located in the old Deco-revival Woolworth's building is packed with three floors of collectibles, antiques, and memories.
You can almost hear shoppers commenting nostalgically to themselves, “I remember this when I was a kid.” With literally dozens of independent vendors, the variety is practically endless; from Cambridge stemware to delicately hand-stitched textiles you would be hard-pressed to leave without cradling a new-found (or re-discovered) treasure in your arms.
Adding to the ambiance is the old Tin Lizzie from 1926 chauffeured by a Knotts Berry Farm refugee. Much could be said about how the building has been able to retain its distinctive character and charm over the past 60 years, so we give the Five & Dime our Cool Stamp of Approval.
Shiver Me Timbers!
We were placing bets in the office: how many people in Bakersfield knew that we had our very own Pirate Guild. So far, barely anyone in the office knew so it's a safe bet that you didn't either which is why the Kern County Pirate Guild made our Cool List. But don't confuse these scurvy dogs with the Hollywood-inspired poseurs of cinema; these devoted men and women are all about balancing historical accuracy with fun. Founded by Kenny (Mr. Kenneth) Mount back in 2004, this rag-tag bunch of mariner misfits has grown to include their very own sail crew: Rack and Ruin. And these guys do it all, from hand-sewing their own period-accurate garments to forging boot buckles.
Focusing on the “Golden Age” of piracy (1675 to 1725) Mr. Kenneth and crew aim their cannons at dispelling the myths of piracy as well as educating local school kids on their historical value. But educating the public is only part of the ill-gotten booty: The Kern County Pirates Guild annually volunteers with the Safe Halloween event held at the Kern County Museum. So don't let the Jolly Roger fool ye—thar be bucaneers o' good fortune in Bakersfield!
My Big, Fat Plate of Slouvaki
For 37 years (and counting) the Greek Food Festival of Bakersfield has fed, entertained, fed, educated, and (did we mention?) fed local residents heaping plates of delectable Greek food with generous helpings of genuine Greek hospitality.
And while the food alone surely would’ve guaranteed the Greek Food Festival a place on our Cool List there is so much more to be enjoyed: spritely young dancers in authentic Greek costumes skipping a syrtos to live music and an old world-inspired marketplace makes this two-day event worthy of writing about.
Best of all, special consideration is given to the elderly patrons of this much-anticipated “fest” making it fun and enjoyable for all who attend, Greek or otherwise. Opa!
Great Things Happen When Inspiration Silences Excuses
If you like beer (and who doesn’t like a good, ice-cold barley-pop now and again?) then you’ve no doubt had one of Lengthwise Brewery’s signature beers. Established in 1998, Lengthwise has grown and expanded, serving the best brews in the area—which is why their passion-turned-action makes our list of All Things Cool. But it’s not just the beer that keeps the regulars coming back. Their homemade sodas, blended spices, and even fresh breads make Lengthwise more than just your friendly neighborhood brewery. Maybe it’s the eco-friendly refillable Growler with their ever-popular Triple Hop Red Ale that keeps the party jumpin’. Or the signature “Stinky Fries”...because sometimes you just don’t want to share. Either (or both) are reasons enough for us to tip our glasses to Lengthwise Brewery in a Cool “clink” of gratitude.
Leaders of Their Own Pack
It may have taken almost 20 years to make it to the same stage as the late, great Buck Owens, but the blood, sweat, and riffs were worth it. Now the longest-running, non-country act to perform at the world-famous Crystal Palace, FattKatt and the VonZippers (currently comprised of FattKatt, Billy-Ray, Hot-Rod, and Styx) are keeping it real, keeping it local, and keeping the Bakersfield Sound alive and well. Taking part of their inspiration from early rockabilly greats like Gene Vincent and Bakersfield Sound originators like Red Simpson, FattKatt and the VonZippers are turning on audiences young and not-so-young alike to the wholesome sounds of our very own Nashville West. But they aren’t just your average cover band. These groovy dudes put out a CD of 15 original songs like Rockin And Rolling Tonight and Why Or Why Not, that capture the very spirit of a genre they so ably embody. On our Cool-O-Meter these cats rock!
Do I Need a Vaccine For This Viral Film?
A post-apocalyptic America is over-run by government-spawned, flesh-eating zombies...right here in Bakersfield! Making their first appearance on our list of Cool, Hectic Films (founded by life-long friends and creative cohorts Jason Sanders and Rickey Bird) has only one goal in mind: bring Hollywood to Bakersfield in a big way. And why not? Every other major metropolis in California has had its own zombie mob, from San Francisco to San Diego, why not Bakersfield? So we think it’s pretty cool that a couple of local boys will be premiering Phase Two at The Fox Theater this December. Just remember that zombies think brains are delicious, so wear a hat.
When a Patch of Green is More Than Just a Park
It took a lot of time, a whole lot of work, and some 1,500 hundred tons of rock, but the results speak for themselves. Finally opened to the public in late May of this year, Phases 1 and 3 of the Mill Creek project located between 21st and 19th Streets, just east of R Street, have already become the crowning jewel in an otherwise questionable urban landscape of brick and concrete.
Complete with covered walking bridge, wireless hot-spot and faux-cobblestone pathways, this respite from the hard edges of city life begs to be enjoyed weekend after weekend by everyone! Not only did we have to put Central Park at Mill Creek on our list of Cool Locales, we also have an in-depth article where you can read all about the Complete Mill Creek Project see the Features Tab for a link.
Since the tender age of 15, Bo-Bo the Millennium Clown has been entertaining Bakersfield audiences with his unique brand of kid-friendly entertainment without resorting to scaring the be-jeezus outta the random Stephen King fan.
If you’ve lived in Bakersfield for any amount of time, you’re certain to have seen Bo-Bo perform for children’s birthday parties and various charitable events.
He infuses every gathering with a little magic, a lot of fun, and a certain sense of innocence which guarantees him, and his sequined pant-suit, a spot on our list.
Because Everyone Likes To Sit Down Once In a While
Gone are the days of the shady and clandestine dirty sidewalk ticket sales, last-minute mark-ups of 500 percent, and dicey deals for seats sold three times over.
Taking the side of poor, misguided fools (like ourselves) Pete Kennedy has ushered Bakersfield into the 21st century of legal event ticket brokering. Offering a wide variety of services from pay-over-time to international ticket event sourcing, Pete’s Seats should be your first stop before shelling out the big bucks.
The coolest part is their ability to get great deals or advise a customer on the best time to purchase event tickets, because for Pete it’s all about making sure his customers have the best seats in the house. For all major events local, national, and worldwide, call Pete any ticket, any time!
Blogging His Way to Success
On the scale of literary “coolness,” Nick Belardes is off the charts. Creator of facenews.org, Nick has joined the exploding ranks of social site e-news journalists that are changing the way we get our daily dose of headlines. Relying heavily on Tweets, Facebook walls, and other social e-site feeds this published author, father, teacher, historian, artist, and actor successfully endeavors to bridge the gap between detached, stoic-faced news anchor narration and conversational approachability. As a published author of two books (Lords, Part 1 and Random Obsessions: Trivia You Can't Live Without) Nick believes that a literary renaissance in Bakersfield is long-overdue. We couldn't agree more, which is why Mr. Belardes, purveyor of on-line verbosity, makes the cut.
Bakersfield's International Cinema Society
Whether you have an interest in provocative directors like Wayne Wang (Joy Luck Club) or superlative actors like Assi Dayan (Things Behind the Sun) your go-to place of choice is FLICS, Bakersfield’s only Indie/International film screening organization. And for sheer entertainment value, we had to add this to our list of the “Oh-So-Cool.”
For only $5 you can see a critically-acclaimed movie in the historic Fox Theater without having to drive all the way to L.A. Or, for $50 you can get a pass for up to 17 movies per season. And if you're just not sure you can check out a free show in June.
One not-so-widely-known aspect of FLICS is their philanthropic interests which include donating surplus revenue to important local causes, giving real meaning to paying it forward.
Perhaps best of all, the screenings are shown at one of Bakersfield’s best entertainment venues, the lovingly restored Fox Theater.
Award-winning movies in the Arts District of Bakersfield couldn't be more entertaining, or more cool.
Go To Jail!
Bakersfield Magazine was the first to bring the Jailhouse Rock Café to the public consciousness some 19 months ago and it still remains one of our favorite places to go when we get a-hankerin' for a good, ol' fashioned burger and fries.
Located in the retro-esque Woolworth building on 19th Street, the Jailhouse Rock Café embodies all of the quaint characteristics you'd come to expect from a '50s-era diner, replete with layers of Coke-a-Cola paraphernalia and malts so thick you need a spoon to eat them. But what we think is best is the guy that runs the joint.
Greg Pfeifer can be found manning the mile-long counter or working his diner magic at the platen grill with only one goal in mind: keep you happy and keep you coming back for more...which we think is Totally Cool.
Large And In-Charge
Not because he holds several world records for his somewhat peculiar physical talents.
Not because he's a whopping 7'3” tall.
And certainly not because he's a self-professed freak.
George Baird McArthur holds a special place on our list of the Coolest People We Know because he actually pulled over on the freeway to give us an interview so he wouldn't drive while talking on a cell phone all illegal-like.
OK, maybe it takes a little more than that. But this 40-year old altitudinous specimen of theatrical fortitude is the complete package: humble, grounded, family-oriented, and funny, without a single aversion to laughing at himself. And talk about devoted to his Bakersfield roots! He may travel from time to time, appear in the occasional movie, late-night talk show, or America's Got Talent, but this performer does his best work right here in Bakersfield, fire-breathing and all.
More Bakersfield Sounds
A Google search of “House Concerts” will turn up a plethora of valid results highlighting the multi-national grass-roots revolution of how live music is brought to the masses. In fact, this trend isn't at all unique to Bakersfield but it still deserves a place on our Coolest Seats in the House list. Presented by the Arts Council of Kern and hosted by enterprising community members, the Bakersfield 2009 House Concert series provides an intimate atmosphere reminiscent of a smoky basement nightclub or progressive coffee/art house. From the conversational phrases of contemporary klezmer to the jazz-infused repertoire of Severin Browne the series presented in Bakersfield is unpretentious and accessible—just the way we like it.
What's Your Roller Derby Name?
As it turns out, ours is Dead-Line...but we digress. If extreme sports on skates and fear-inspiring names gets you all excited then you'll understand why Derby Revolution of Bakersfield jams, blocks, and pivots their way onto our list of Coolness. But don't be hypnotized by the frenzy of flat-track derby drag racing; behind the campy nomenclature and short-shorts these athletic ladies are all business—think linebackers on wheels of fury.
Since 2008, these fierce females have been elbowing their way from counter-culture obscurity to out-and-out local manic popularity. Just check out a game and you'll know why only the toughest chicks can hang with Derby Revolution.
Born To Be Wild
We're betting you didn't know that Harley Davidson made a scooter, didjya?
Pretty much since combustion engines overtook horse-drawn carriages, scooters have discreetly transported people across the globe. Here in Bakersfield, a small but dedicated group of scooter enthusiasts is blazing a trail across the state and having a blast doing it. Participating in organized rides such as San Luis Obispo’s Rides of March and Santa Monica's Endless Summer is but one aspect of the Pilot's social agenda; being part of the Bakersfield Toy Run right next to the big dogs is what puts Rally Pilot's Scooter Club on the map (and this list!).
The Best Performances Money Can't Buy
What do Michelle Branch, Buck Cherry, and Duncan Sheik all have in common? They, along with about 91 other talented acts and performers have all appeared on The Fox Theater Stage at the World Famous Kelly Lounge, downtown Bakersfield. Getting to see, meet, and even chat with a musical performer before they explode into untouchable stardom is what puts the Kelly Lounge on our list of Things That Make Living in Bakersfield So Darn Cool!
Started over 8 years ago, The Kelly Lounge has consistently delivered world-class music to music-loving Bakersfield audiences who appreciate their music up-close and personal. Keeping the audiences small ensures that everyone enjoys an intimate performance, a great view, and superb sound.
But keeping the tickets free—now that's priceless.
Oildale & Wine = Oil & Water?
If you thought an Oh-Eighter couldn't be a connoisseur and purveyor of fine wines, then you thought wrong. But dispelling this pesky “Oh-8” myth is only a happy by-product of Team Imbibe's passion. The real magic lies in the coolest wine-tasting, wine-storing, wine-educating boutique in Bakersfield (and quite possibly California).
Fortunately, one needn't be a oenophile to enjoy some of the world’s best wines the world has to offer.
Part and parcel of the service offered at Imbibe is helping the customer to develop their own palate in selecting just the right beverage. Whether your tastes run delicate and cloying as with a 2005 Climens Sauternes Barsac (yup they got it) or rich and distinct with the 2001 Heitz Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Martha's Vineyard, this specialty shop has got it covered.
Set Your Compass to Fun
If you live anywhere in the 215 square miles that make up North of the River, then you've probably taken advantage of the long list of activities and acres of fun, open spaces.
And even if you don't live within the NOR boundaries, there is a good chance that you've partaken in their numerous out-of-doors activities like rock climbing or Frisbee golf.
Wanna learn Ballroom dancing? They offer that, too.
From kids to seniors, NOR has something for everyone which makes NOR a truly unique, not to mention Cool attribute of Bakersfield.
They Serve Pizza?
Jerry Baranowski is a really smart fella. So how does a guy with a degree in political science from the University of Warsaw end up running one of Bakersfield’s most popular and longest-running music venues/eateries? Poland-born Jerry Baranowski saw a need and filled it. Not that Bakersfield needed another pizza parlor at the time (although this one is certainly among the best) but because there weren't enough local music venues to keep the “kids” entertained.
Now, you might not have heard of (much less listened to) Vogue in the Movement or Millionaires but your kids probably have...not to mention the scores of local bands trying to make their mark on Bakersfield’s' music scene. Adding to the live performances is Jerry's own Klub Plush (Saturday's DJ-driven electronic dance party) where from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. the music is pumping and the dance floor is a-jumping. So after 17 years of being a music hot-spot, Jerry's Pizza makes our list of Coolest Basements in Bakersfield.
All It's Missing is a Roller Coaster
Because growing some of the best cherries in California wasn't enough, Steve and Vickie Murray pursued grander ambitions.
They provide the urban-dwelling residents of Bakersfield with a true-to-life working farm atmosphere and plenty to keep the whole family busy and entertained.
More than a farmers' market or a kids' petting zoo, Murray Family Farms is a San Joaquin retreat.
They offer everything from hay rides (which can also pick you up and drop you off in the fields to pick your own farm-fresh produce), relaxing picnic spaces.
This October's first-ever 10-acre corn maze, Murray Family Farms can put everyone back in touch with their agricultural roots (pun definitely intended).
In “Pursuit” of Local Knowledge
If you don't already know, Sandrini's has been taking back Tuesday and Sunday nights with a trivia game that'll have you scratching your noggin'.
Bakersfield native Dave Rezac painstakingly puts together a trivia contest for anyone who thinks they have the cerebral stones to hang with the know-it-alls. Divided into two rounds of 24 questions, Dave writes each game individually, taking inspiration from his celestial collection of knowledge. Buying into a game for the night might run you $8 but the three top-placing teams can win a healthy dose of scratch or brew while the last-placed team is acknowledged with dollar-store booby prizes.
Coolest part of all? None of those darn pizza-shaped pieces to worry about.
Not Your Average Rhinestone Cowboys
We here in Bakersfield are lucky to have our fair share of museums. But what makes the Bakersfield Country Music Museum so special is that it commemorates the founding fathers of the music that made Bakersfield famous the world over—that famous Bakersfield Sound.
Displaying the priceless memorabilia from artists such as Billy Mize and Lawton Jiles, musicians as well as history buffs can get their fill of Bako-music trivia. Especially unique is that the museum, located in the old Chamber of Commerce Building on the Kern County Museum grounds, continues bring the classic Bakersfield Sound to Kern audiences through intimate concerts played by local legends like Rockwell's Blackboard Playboys.
Paying homage to the past as well as sending up props to the present and future—that's what makes BCMM Banjo-Pickin' Cool!
Article appeared in our 26-4 Issue - October 2009