Restaurants surviving with take out and outdoor dining
Last updated 10/6/2020 at 4:33am | View PDF
While local restaurants have been struggling since March when the state shut down due to the pandemic, a few have met the challenge of keeping their doors open with a limited staff and outdoor dining.
Gov. Gavin Newsom's recent decision to allow restaurants to provide outdoor dining within the past week is also making it possible for local spots to remain open.
Catrina's Mexican Grill and Cantina just opened its doors to outdoor dining Thursday, Sept. 24 as owner Marcela Marquez set up a tent to provide sun-protected tables strategically placed for social distancing. Catrina's is currently serving a full menu.
The restaurant has had a difficult year due to the death of owner Cesar Marquez several months ago. Cesar Marquez was always visible sneaking out of the kitchen to greet diners with his engaging smile and warm welcome and now it is Marcela's turn as she greets everyone.
She engages customers in conversation to keep the momentum up and the atmosphere more inviting and homey. She can be spotted jetting from one table to the next making sure all the diners have what they need.
Marcela Marquez has brightened up the restaurant's interior with a lighter-colored paint and brightly painted picturesque framed pictures as well as colorful patterns on the walls by each doorway. She has also created "Cesar's Cantina" in memory of her husband.
As Mayor Tilo Cortez said in an earlier article, "Cesar served a killer margarita."
Losing Cesar has been a struggle for the family, but help by good friends who took over for Marcela when her husband died enabled her to keep the restaurant open during the difficult days.
On Thursday evening, the outdoor dining area began to fill up quickly once customers realized outdoor dining was available.
Diners Madelyn and Herman Davis, from Bakersfield, drove out to enjoy some Mexican cuisine.
On Saturday, customers Jody and Stephen Burt arrived with their entire family to relax and enjoy a family meal. Burt's family shared an entire table and was happy to know that Catrina's was back open again.
"We've been coming here for years," diner Jennifer Keillor said. "It's good to see it back open."
The Keiler's brought their 8-month-old daughter Poet along to enjoy the evening with grandparents and family members.
There is a long list of loyal customers who were not only friends of the family, but loyal customers because of the authentic Mexican cuisine.
Catrina's specializes in Chili Colorado, tender cubes of beef simmered in a spicy red sauce made from dried Chiles and spices.
Catrina's also offers a variety of appetizers, mariscos, chimis and burritos, sopas and salads along with best sellers such as fajitas and molecajetes. Catrina's also offers a selection of traditional Mexican desserts such as sopapillas and banuelos (crispy flour chips covered with cinnamon, sugar and Kahlua honey), deep-fried ice cream, churros and flan.
There is also a selection of beverages including their full bar menu. Catrina's offers freshly made horchatta as well as Mexican sodas.
For kids 10 and under, there is a child's menu available.
"During the warm fall evenings, outdoor dining is a nice substitute for sitting in an air-conditioned restaurant," Bakersfield diner Denise Maytubby said. "My meal was very good." Maytubby had a Chili Verdi dish which she described as tasty, spicy and hot.
Catrina's opens at 11 a.m. and is open through dinner at 1345 F Street. Call for reservations to make sure there is room at 661-758-3435.
Another restaurant that has joined the outdoor dining opportunity is Café 101.
"We are very busy during breakfast," owner Fidel Alfaro said. "Because of the closure of restaurants, we had to let our staff go and me, my wife, Griselda, are the cook, server and host/hostess." In an earlier interview, Alfaro said that they employed 12 people.
Alfaro owned Perko's for several years and changed the name when his partner relocated to Fresno permanently.
"It's been almost impossible to stay open," Alfaro said. Although he is grateful that he is able to stay open during the pandemic and with a few additions, has been able to offer outdoor dining.
Since Hoyett's Sandwich Shop closed down, a restaurant that serves breakfast was needed.
Alfaro said that the most popular time for business is breakfast. The restaurant has seen a jump in the morning hours as customers continue to look for a full breakfast menu to serve early risers.
"I love cooking," Alfaro said. "My favorite is cooking breakfast."
Denny's restaurant on Highway 46 was the first restaurant to offer outdoor dining in June when Newsom announced restaurants would be allowed to serve outdoor dining. They continue to offer take out, but have seen business open up once they placed tents, tables and chairs outside for outdoor dining.
Even with the outdoor dining, restaurants today are still struggling to stay open. Alfaro said that he did receive some covid-19 grant money from the city; however, it wasn't enough to retain his employees. He is grateful for all that he has received and for his new and repeat customers.