Bakersfield has Basque food heritage like no other US city

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) Basque cuisine is a Bakersfield tradition, spanning decades and kept alive by new generations of restaurant owners.

Basque food became a staple in the city after Basque immigrants rode into town in the early 1900s looking for work as sheepherders. The Basque came from France and Spain, and the hotels in Bakersfield catered to their native tastes.

The hotels served the Basque immigrants in a family-style setting, with seating at communal tables with laughter and stories shared over familiar meals.

Those early hotels became the Basque restaurants that are enjoyed by tourists and locals today.

Bakersfield is home to the largest collection of Basque restaurants in the United States, according to the Bakersfield Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Among the traditional Basque restaurants with long histories are Noriega Hotel, Pyrenees Caf and Narduuci's Caf. Among the "newcomers" is Benji's French Basque Restaurant, which Benji Arduain opened in 1986.

"I used to work in Basque restaurants, and then I decided to open my own," Arduain says.

Bakersfield Basque Restaurant Guide, from CVB {>}{>}

Julie Crawford, co-owner of Narducci's Caf, says Basque food is a beloved part of the community, because people of Bakersfield appreciate the passion and love of family that are ingrained in Basque culture.

According to Crawford and Jacob Moore, owner of the Pyrenees Caf, the most-popular Basque dishes are lamb, pickled tongue, vegetable soup and garlic fried chicken.