For nearly 60 years the people of Kern County have been enjoying the delicious food served at the Wool Growers Restaurant, the most famous of Bakersfield’s many Basque restaurants. For those who haven’t been there lately, there’s great news: the high quality food and atmosphere of this culinary landmark have been lovingly maintained and it is even better than you remember. If you’re a first time visitor, you are in for a treat. Basque food comes from the Pyrenees Mountains of Southern France and Northern Spain, and it is fresh, hearty, memorable and abundant.
Meals are typically served with what’s called a “set-up”: unlimited quantities of a light cabbage soup, traditional bread, beans, salsa, green salad, tomato and a cooked vegetable dish. You can stop there — that alone is clearly plenty of food — but most people go ahead and order an entree, which can be steak, lamb chops, shrimp, fried chicken, halibut or sole, oxtail stew and more. Lunch options also include a number of sandwiches, including beef or lamb dip, filet mignon sandwich, Basque sausage sandwich, chicken breast with Basque tomato sauce and more.
Wool Growers is operated by third-generation owner Christiane Camou, with help from her mother Jenny. It was Jenny’s mother and father, Mayie and J.B. Maitia, who first opened Wool Growers in 1954, and both the restaurant and the Maitia family have become famous representatives of Basque culture — eating at Wool Growers is considered a rite of passage to becoming an authenticated Kern County resident. The restaurant is located in the older part of Bakersfield at 620 East 19th Street, reservations are a must on busy nights.