Bakersfield Mass Ave
334 Massachusetts Ave. Indianapolis, IN 46204
Where to begin? After seeing hundreds of positive reviews and looking at their menu, we were wondering why we hadn’t tried this place sooner. Hand made tortillas? Check. Great Location? Check. Great food? Um, not so much. The restaurant does not take reservations and the reviews warned us that the wait can be over an hour on some nights, so we went on a Monday night to minimize wait time.
Before even entering, we could see this place was already packed. The host let us know we could share a four top with another couple upstairs or we could get a table downstairs. We are all for communal seating (like at Black Market), but let’s be honest. How awkward is it to share a FOUR top? That’s a bit much. One thing to note is that this place is LOUD. I get it, it’s a bar too, but having a conversation seemed impossible unless you were yelling in someone’s ear. The diners downstairs were able to bring it down to a dull roar.
We opted for the Chips and Guacamole ($6). The guacamole contained chunky avocados, red onions, a little cilantro and radishes as a garnish. The chips were plentiful, well salted and crispy. Our slight complaint about the guacamole is that there wasn’t an option for regular or spicy.
Recommendation: Worth getting, but if you would like some heat, add the green sauce provided or ask for some pickled jalapeños as a side (extra charge).
One of the menu items that had us salivating was the Short Rib Torta ($9). It comes on a telera roll and contains beef short rib, caramelized onions, chihuahua cheese, arugula, black beans and a roasted tomatillo salsa. To their credit, there was a fair amount of short rib on the torta. The onions added some sweetness, but the black beans and cheese added nothing in terms of flavor. The tomatillo salsa was a necessary addition, as the torta as a whole lacked any substantial flavor. Mexican tortas are traditionally served on ‘birote,’ a type of bread that is crispier that the telera. The juice from the short rib and the softness of the telera roll made the sandwich very mushy.
Recommendation: Although not great, this was the best non-appetizer we had here. We wouldn’t order it again.
After the disappointment from the torta, we were hoping the tacos could help salvage this meal. As we mentioned before, the tortillas are homemade and are around four inches in diameter. Since we already had the guacamole and torta, we decided to order four tacos (two per person), which turned out to be the right amount of food for us. We got the Fish ($4), Short Rib ($4), Pastor ($3) and Cochinita Pibil ($3). We also got a side of House Pickled Jalapenos ($1). The fish taco (bottom right) comes with crispy mahi, tabasco-lime sauce and citrus slaw. Of the four, this was Sean’s favorite. The batter was thin and the mahi was fried perfectly. The tabasco-lime “sauce” was a crema and, although the crema complimented the mahi well, it would have been better if the tabasco and lime were more prominent in the crema. The citrus slaw also lacked in the citrus department, but the slaw did provide a refreshing crunch to the taco. The Short Rib (top right) comes with braised short rib, queso fresco, crema, pickled onion, cilantro and radish. This was my favorite taco (not saying much here), although I must admit it wasn’t great, and as far as short rib goes, you’re better off getting the torta. Not only did the torta taste slightly better, it was a far better value (at almost twice the price, the torta had at least four times the meat than the taco). The Pastor (bottom left) is chili marinated pork, topped with pineapple, pickled onion and cilantro. Sean and I both agree that the Pastor and the Cochinita Pibil were our least favorite. The pineapple, although traditional to this taco, was far too sweet and there was just too much of it. Lastly, the Cochinita Pibil (top left) is achiote braised pork, pickled red onion, habañero salsa and cilantro. The taco was not only dry, but was also flavorless. The habañero was no where to be found.
Recommendation: This is a TACO place?! Decent, at best.
I ordered the Rosé Sangria ($6 drink/$24 pitcher), with Rosé, Moscato, Schnapps and fruit. This drink was sweet and fruity, as you would expect. I was disappointed by the lack of variety of the fruit. If my memory serves me, the sangria had apples and more apples. Sean ordered The Bakersfield Margarita ($6 drink/ $24 pitcher), with el Jimador Blanco, Triple Sec, agave nectar and fresh lemon and lime. It was extremely tart and on par with the rest of the meal—a total let down. I thought margaritas were supposed to be refreshing.
Recommendation: Although it’s probably counterintuitive at a place ‘known’ for tacos and margs: sangria > margs.
Perhaps we have been spoiled with authentic Mexican tacos, tortas and margaritas and that has tainted our opinion. We know exactly what these dishes are supposed to taste like, and trust us, this is not it. We were speechless by all the positive reviews after actually trying the food. We get it, it’s a trendy bar in a good location. We would come back (with earplugs) for a glass of sangria and an appetizer before a night out, but having a cool bar is not the same thing as serving noteworthy food. The only positive I can draw from this experience is that we didn’t end up with food poisoning. This is one of, if not the, most overrated restaurant/bars we’ve ever been to. In any city. In any country. Seriously.
Location: Downtown (Mass Ave.)
Dress Code: Casual