24th Street Cafe continues the Huggs family's Bakersfield restaurant legacy.
I normally take I-5 when driving between Los Angeles and San Francisco, but since there are no viable eating options along that route, and I wasn’t in a hurry, I took Highway 99. The departure added about an hour-and-a-half of drive time, but I had plenty of intriguing eateries to choose from. My first stop: an early breakfast at 24th Street Cafe in Bakersfield.
Mark Huggs comes from a restaurant family. Growing up in Bakersfield, his grandmother owned the Traveler’s Inn nearby, and Mark spent a lot of time at Grandma’s restaurant. In 1987, after leaving Bakersfield for college and culinary school, he returned home to purchase Lorraine’s on a site that’s held a restaurant since the 1950’s, and re-dubbed it the 24th Street Café. He later added Milt’s Coffee Shop, out by Highway 99, but the 24th Street Cafe remains his flagship eatery.
24th Street Cafe features classic coffee shop decor, including an aqua counter and booths. They stock a dessert case island behind the counter with fresh-baked pies and cinnamon rolls.
Walls sport old time soda signs, oars and paintings of short-skirted women participating in winter sports like ice-skating. Unfortunately, no old time sodas were available.
My waitress told me that the red wagon belonged to Mark as a kid. That would have made for a great story, had it been true. Mark revealed that a friend actually donated the wagon. Regardless, the wagon was another colorful reminder of bygone times.
My waitress raved about the Cajun shrimp omelet, calling it “literally to die for.” Unfortunately, I learned a painful lesson in South Carolina about ordering seafood at breakfast, so I opted for one of the 24th Street Specialties.
Chicken Fried Steak ‘N Eggs ($8.95) featured “breaded, tender beef steak served with country gravy. Served with two eggs any style.” I chose eggs over medium, and my waitress gave me a choice between pan-fried potatoes or hash browns. This time, I listened to her, ordering pan-fried potatoes, which were terrific, tender cubes with crispy skins, cooked with green peppers and onions. My chicken fried steak was luscious, crisp outside, with pepper in the batter for kick.
I received a choice of buttered toast or biscuits ‘n gravy. I chose the latter. The cup of pepper gravy was really good. I spooned it on steak and biscuits, to good effect. House-made biscuits were square, fluffy and warm.
Based on my hearty breakfast, and the cool throwback decor, it was obvious Highway 99 was the right route.
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