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PETE TITTL: Country Cafe an ‘Okie Cheers’

TOMI’S: Fried bologna? Next time

BY PETE TITTL, Contributing columniste-mail: | Wednesday, Nov 25 2009 12:07 PM

Ever wonder why a city like Bakersfield doesn’t have a decent Okie restaurant?

Original Review

Wonder no more, as Tomi’s Country Café has opened up on Weedpatch Highway for your biscuits and gravy and fried okra pleasure. We were tipped off to the place by long-time reader W.L. Wasco, who sent us an e-mail describing the place as an “Okie Cheers, because the pretty waitress seemed to know everyone’s name. Clientele is definitely redneck Dust Bowl descendants … I had the lima beans and cornbread. They don’t tell you the lima beans are flavored with bacon and onions. Tasty!”

So naturally we had to go check it out. It’s located on Weedpatch Highway about a half mile south of the intersection with Highway 58, in a building that is also a market. Looks like Tomi got about half the building, with a dining room decorated with old movie posters and lots of big tables decorated with red-and-white checkered tablecloths and metal-frame chairs. The sign over the door to the bathrooms says “Outhouses.” It’s that kind of relaxed country place. (Karaoke is also a regular event.)

Breakfast was impressive, though I didn’t get the “giant” biscuits and gravy. Something told me that when these people use the word giant, they mean it. I got the machaca and eggs ($6.99), while my companion selected the Anna’s Buffalo BBQ Chicken sandwich ($6.99). It wasn’t quite lunch yet, but this isn’t the kind of a place with a lot of rules.

I’m usually leery of ordering Mexican food in a restaurant that doesn’t specialize in it, but they do machaca well here: lots of brown bits of onion, tomatoes and bell peppers mixed in with strings of moist beef. The home- fried potatoes had a nice vegetable mix, and a similar thorough cooking process that allowed all the flavors to mingle. My only complaint might be that there was supposedly three fresh eggs in the mix, but you could barely detect their presence. Non-gigantic eggs maybe?

I did get a side of biscuits and gravy with it, and if b&g is your passion, you must check this out. The biscuit was crusty on the outside, moist and soft inside and had to be homemade. The gravy had a great sausage taste to it.

My companion’s chicken sandwich was fine, but it lacked the homemade charm of my plate. It did have fresh-cut sweet potato fries that were exceptional.

A dinner visit was less off-the- charts successful. I ordered the pork chops ($8.99), while my companion selected the tri-tip platter ($7.99), mostly because the newspaper-formatted menu said “We hate to brag, but folks say it’s the best around.” Not this folk. The tri-tip had been cut into strips and then grilled, pretty much stripping any residual moisture out of it while leaving grill marks.

My ribs were interesting. There were two pork ribs untrimmed in any direction: front, back or sideways, meaning that it looked kind of like that giant rack of ribs Fred orders in the credits of “The Flintstones.” It was cumbersome and difficult to eat, though the meat that I could remove tasted good. The fried okra chunks were good, but the fried potatoes didn’t have the charm of the home fries I had at breakfast. Heck, I could eat those all day.

Perhaps I should have stuck to the fried bologna sandwich, which I confess to eating as a child. Can’t say I’ve ever found that in any other restaurant, and may have to come back to try it.

Service was very friendly, and the restaurant does already seem to have a crew of regulars. Our waitress won points with my companion for warning her that they had chilled the red wine, yet then tracking down an unchilled bottle and giving her a glass. Tomi’s is that kind of place: real, friendly and ready to treat you like you’ve walked into a home and not a business.

Hours: 5 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday-Wednesday and 5 a.m.-10 p.m. Thursday and Friday.

Prices: Breakfast $2.99-$9.99, sides $1.50-$$3.50. Lunch sandwiches $4.50-$7.50, burgers $6.99-$7.99, soup and salad $3-$7.99. “Supper” appetizers $3.99-$9.99, steaks $11.99, BBQ $7.99-$8.99, seafood $7.99-$12.99, “Okie food” $3-$4, Mexican $1.25-$11.99, chicken and pasta $9.99-$10.99.

  • Payment: MasterCard, VISA, American Express and Discover accepted.
  • Dress: Casual
  • Amenities: Wheelchair accessible;  no vegetarian options.
  • Food: 2 1/2 stars
  • Atmosphere: 3 stars
  • Service: 3 stars
  • Value: 3 stars

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