Friday, Jul 13 2012 11:52 AM

THE DISH: Restaurants branching out

BY PETE TITTL Contributing columnist pftittl@gmail.com

Two locally owned restaurants are establishing new branches in town. RJ's, celebrating its 10th anniversary at its Rosedale location, opened a second restaurant at the Bakersfield Racquet Club downtown, and Lengthwise Brewing Company is opening Lengthwise at The Marketplace in the small strip building that faces CSUB's south entrance (formerly home to a Terrio Physical Therapy & Fitness).

The Racquet Club, where RJ's has opened, has seen a lot of changes in its kitchen in recent years. Both Big Popy's Deli and Moo Two, a miniature version of Moo Creamery, tried to make a go of it in the downtown Bakersfield location, but both lasted just mere months before calling it quits.

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RJ's had a soft opening last week, unveiling a smaller menu and less elaborate items than it serves at the Rosedale location (similar to the approach Moo took). It will be called RJ's Grill & Catering. Co-owner Russ Carter said the interior has been completely remodeled and a patio will be added under the big tree just outside the entrance.

"We gave it a big face-lift, took the booths out in the front area, put in a new floor, and updated the lighting, added TVs and Wi-Fi."

Menu items include the more popular burgers (Kickin', Border, Bleu Cheese), the blackened chicken sandwich, blackened chicken tortellini and two signature appetizers: avocado egg rolls and artichoke hearts. The café will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week, and Carter stressed: "You do not need to be a member to visit."

Lengthwise, which opened its first brewpub in the southwest in 1998, was started by childhood friends Darin Schwicker and Jeff Williams. They opened a Rosedale location, called Lengthwise Pub (2900 Calloway Drive) last year, and plan to follow the same template used at that restaurant when they open the new place, just a stone's throw from Toro Sushi Bar & Grill.

"We love the location," said Schwicker in a phone interview. "We both went to CSUB and now we get to look at the campus out the window. I live in that area, and my business partner, Jeff, does, too."

Schwicker said they hope to have the restaurant open in September.

Get a jump on 'Party of the Year'

Tickets are now on sale for Village Fest, the annual fundraiser for the Kern County Museum and the Children's Advocates Resource Endowment. The "Party of the Year" is set for Saturday, Sept. 8, from 6 to 10 p.m. at the museum. More than 30 restaurants, 25 wineries and 60 breweries will be offering samples, and 17 bands will perform on five different stages. Tickets are $60, available at Vallitix. For more information, the website is www.bakersfieldvillagefest.com.

New and different

Papa Murphy's, the take-and-bake pizza outlet, is now offering a Thai chicken pizza with sweet chili sauce, grilled chicken, zucchini, mixed onions, mozzarella, and crushed red pepper on a crispy thin crust for a limited time.

Mimi's Café is now offering a "three- course bistro meal" for $9.99 that includes soup or salad, an entrée and an ice cream sundae. Limited time only.

Eureka! Gourmet Burgers & Craft Beer has made some cool, summer-friendly changes to its patio, adding misters and brown cloth drapes to shield the sun. When we visited on an evening when the high that day had topped 100, it was almost pleasant out there.

Tony Roma's no longer has a restaurant in Bakersfield, but you may come across one on your vacation. They have a special summer menu that features Cajun shrimp with lobster pasta, honey apple flatbread and two special rib/steak combos. These are available through Sept. 4.

An all-bacon burger

There is no stopping American innovation when it comes to new uses for bacon. Slater's 50/50, has created a burger it calls "'merica" that is made completely with bacon (not a surprise considering they long ago created a patty that was half beef, half bacon). The patty, made of ground bacon, is topped with a slice of bacon, a fried egg, bacon-infused cheddar cheese and a "bacon island" dressing. Owner Scott Slater was inspired to create it while discussing bacon and burgers at a San Diego Chargers tailgate party. There are locations in Huntington Beach, Anaheim and San Diego. (Maybe you can sample it on your next Disneyland trip?) The chain's website: slaters5050.com.

Readerrecommendations

In our continuing quest for fantastic hot dogs, Californian copy editor Erik Loyd recommends Taylor Brothers Hot Dog Stand in downtown Visalia. "They've been around forever and remain popular up there. I've eaten hundreds of their chili dogs since the early 1970s." The address is 206 N. Encina St., and the phone is 559-732-2781. downtownvisalia.com/ content/taylor-bros-hot-dogs

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