* ... THIS AND THAT: I will be off for a few days and I will leave you with my entirely unscientific views on some of the "best bets" about town. Enjoy.
* ... BEST SOUNDS: There are two sounds that greet you if you work or live downtown: the beautiful hourly chimes from the First Presbyterian Church, and the frequent wail of a train horn that serves as the soundtrack of where you live.
* ... BEST SANDWICH: The only problem with Sequoia Sandwich Co. is its popularity, particularly the downtown store that serves as a magnet for jurors and other folks who work in the downtown courthouses. There isn't a bad sandwich in the place, and my favorite: the Sequoia tuna melt with a side of cole slaw.
* ... BEST COMEBACK: When Rod and Julie Crawford bought the Pyrenees Cafe and Saloon, the best days for the east Bakersfield landmark were behind it. But they gave the old girl a makeover, introduced live music and now Pyrenees is one of "the" hot spots in town for Basque food and weekend cocktails. Check out its new outdoor seating area and new music venue.
* ... CORNER BAR: There are few restaurants in town that match Uricchio's Trattoria in terms of service and food. Hard day at work? Stop in at Uricchio's happy hour and catch up with your friends at its long bar, and don't forget the fabulous appetizers (fried clams being one of my favorites). This is one of the places I always take out of town guests to treat them to warm, friendly service and meals that never disappoint. The late Nick Uricchio would be proud of how his daughter Claire has carried on the family tradition.
* ... BEST NEWCOMER: This is a tough category because of the explosion of new eateries about town, but newcomer Jin Sushi on 19th Street is off to a fast start with healthy and fresh offerings and friendly service. Today's tip: they occasionally have blue fin tuna on the menu. It is a can't miss selection.
* ... BURGERS: There are too many to choose from that pass my taste test, but here are my local favorites: the 'Hudson' burger at Muertos, the 'Sonny' burger at Mexicali downtown, virtually any burger from Eureka!, and the bacon, cheese and mushroom burger from Pyrenees Cafe. (file photo of a Muertos burger)
* ... FUND RAISERS: Our town lives and breathes fund raisers, but there are a few that stand out above the rest: West Rotary's annual Cioppino Feed is at the top of my list, followed by St. Francis Parish's Crabfest, and virtually anywhere where Gary Icardo is cooking Harris Ranch steaks (like this week's St. Vincent de Paul Center event).
* ... HIKING: We take Hart Park for granted, but the undeveloped hills above the park provide a beautiful venue for weekend hikes and mountain bike rides. There are only a few things standing between you and enjoying these hills: a sturdy paid of hiking shoes and you own will.
* ... PIE RUN: And finally, the annual Thanksgiving 'Pie Run' has always ranked among my favorite early morning activities. It all starts on Thanksgiving morning at Hart Park where a hundred or so walkers, hikers (with their dogs) show up in this annual pot luck event to kick off the long Thanksgiving Day feed. Stay tuned for more details.