The day finally came. After much anticipation (especially from yours truly), Firestone Grill Bakersfield opened its doors to customers on January 5th, 2016.
You may remember my article last year, where I was the first to break the news that Firestone Grill had moved forward with alcohol licensing on the old Wavelengths building on California Ave and Real Rd.
This was big news at the time, because it had been a whole year prior to that that they had announced on Facebook that they planned to come to Bakersfield. I am very proud of that post— it’s on the front page of Google when you search “firestone grill bakersfield” and is still our number one article on the blog.
Moving on— I was finally able to visit Firestone Grill two weeks ago to try out the food and experienced. Armed with my trusty camera and stomach, I headed over on a Sunday afternoon with my younger brother to see if the reality matched up my hype.
My brother and I arrived to Firestone Grill on a Saturday around 5:15 PM. We actually got a pretty good parking spot close to the front door and there wasn’t that much of a line to the counter. I’d say it was just the right amount of “busy”— clearly people like this place, but it wasn’t so packed that getting your food would be a stressful experience.
We sat at a table towards the “back” of the restaurant— the section closest to the windows facing California Ave. After waiting around 5 minutes or so, I realized something must be wrong. So I got up and went to speak to one of the employees— it turns out that the section of the restaurant that has table service was on the south side, closest to the front door (the two “halves” of the restaurant are separated by a bar in the middle). So, I moved us to a seat close to the entrance. Throughout the night, I noticed that a server would explain the seating situation to people coming in— I suppose we just had bad luck coming in. I would suggest that a simple sign on the door or inside the entrance would both help customers and lighten the servers’ responsibilities.
Once we had sat down at our new table, a very nice young woman came to take our order. We ordered a couple appetizers and drinks, and asked her if we could put in our orders for our main entrees once the apps had come. She made a note of this and left. A food runner brought us our drinks very quickly after ordering them, and my brother and I proceeded to converse and catch up.
After about 20 minutes passing, I realized something isn’t right— there’s no way a basket of fries and a basket of onion rings would take this long. I tried to wait for our server to pass by, but she didn’t. I managed to flag down the other server, and she came up to our table. I told her we had ordered our appetizers 20 minutes ago, as well as needed to add our sandwiches to the meal. She said she would check on it right away. Although they weren’t super packed (like I said earlier) I now thought to myself that with only two servers they were perhaps stretching themselves a bit thin. She came back and apologized profusely, saying that the other server had completely forgotten to enter our order. She said the appetizers would be on the house, and that we would get our food right away.
Now, you might be thinking ‘Geez, what’s going on with the service?’. I thought this for a second, too, but then I realized it was more due to the aforementioned short-staffing than the servers themselves not being “on top of it”. For a restaurant that’s only been open for a couple of weekends, I suppose I can’t blame them for not having their scheduling down pat. Also, I always appreciate it when a place fully owns up to their mistakes— it never feels good to have to ‘ask for the manager’.
Sure enough, our appetizers came out straight away. Now, I’ve probably talked about this before but let me just say— these fries are amazing. I’ve seriously never had better fries. They’re just the right amount of crispy-on-the-outside-fluffy-on-the-inside. Their most shining feature, though, is the seasoning. I’m not sure what kind of seasoning they use, but I want some for my personal cooking. It’s salty but with a slight hint of sweet, which creates the perfect storm of flavor that makes me “can’t eat just one”.
Something I truly appreciate about Firestone is that their “basket of fries” is actually is actually deserving of the name “basket”. I’ve been annoyed in the past with restaurants using this term and completely failing to deliver (like a certain buffalo wing place that claims to be ‘wild’). These suckers come IN A BASKET, as you can see in the picture above.
The onion rings don’t slack of either. They are humongous— both in diameter and thickness. In my opinion, an onion ring fails to deliver if at any point you take a bite and (because the batter is so loose around the onion) you take the whole string with you. Not a problem with these guys— the batter is thick and crumbly, creating a great mix of crunch and gooey-onion-inside.
After we virtually devour these, the server comes back with our two main orders. I had ordered the classic Tri-Tip Sandwich, while my brother ordered the Monster Burger.
I’d never had a burger from the Firestone family of restaurants (meaning Doghouse in Fresno). I’ve always stuck to tri-tip or chicken strips. Always striving to adhere to negative Big Brother stereotypes, I made my younger brother let me try it first.
This burger was GREAT. Two thick beef patties separated by strips of American and Jack Cheddar cheese— that first bite was juicy and magnificent. I usually like to order burgers with extra toppings (avocado, guacamole, bacon, sauce, etc) but I can honestly say that this burger didn’t need it. I don’t know what I expected, considering they’ve proven to me to be great at seasoning and grilling before, but I was very much pleased.
Now, the main attraction. This sandwich was my first introduction to Firestone Grill (called Doghouse Grill in Fresno). Once, I had an extra credit assignment for Jonathan “H” Hernandez’s Small Group Communication class at Reedley College— I drove the extra 40 minutes to Fresno State just for this. It is, very sincerely, the best tri-tip sandwich I’ve ever had. I know Bakersfield doesn’t slack on barbecue. We’ve got Jake’s Tex-Mex, Fred’s Barbecue Factory, and of course (featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives) Salty’s BBQ. I’ve been to all of those places and have good things to say about every single one. But there’s just something about Firestone’s Tri-Tip sandwich that is without compare.
The tri-tip is so soft it almost melts in your mouth— never a piece of grit or fat. The french roll is buttered and toasted just the right amount. But what is probably my absolute favorite thing about it is the barbecue sauce. Made in-house, the caramel-colored sauce is thick and sticky. I’d say it’s mostly sweet, but not quite. It is so good, I always ask for extra cups to take home.
I definitely left the restaurant that evening very satisfied. Despite a couple of hiccups and confusions at the beginning, it was an overall pleasant dining experience. The food was wonderful and the ambience was good. The pricing is what you’d expect from a barbecue place (and the quality truly speaks for it).
Overall, I’d say I rate my experience a 4/5 stars.
Overall, I’d say I rate my experience a 4.5/5 stars.