Bakersfield, where honky-tonk meets fresh-Mex cantina, is now open in the Short North.
The restaurant has taken over a high-profile spot at 733 N. High St., at the northwest corner of High and Buttles Avenue.
Partners Alex Blust and brothers Joe and John Lanni said they have been scouting the Short North for the better part of year before a preferable site opened.
The Columbus store is one of three. The original opened in February in Cincinnati. Another has since opened in Indianapolis.
Joe Lanni calls it "regionally local."
"We've just tried to find an exciting neighborhood in each of these cities and be-come part of that community, instead of just being another chain," he said.
Bakersfield seats 100 in 4,000 square feet of space, formerly home to the China Bar and Black Olive.
Blust said the concept was taken from Bakersfield, Calif., where outlaw country music and Mexican restaurants find a comfortable cohabitation.
The Short North store uses a mix of repurposed barn wood, bourbon barrel tables, exposed brick, high-top booths, a snappy bar and a new wooden floor -- alternating between dark and light -- for its modern-yet-rustic look.
The menu is succinct by design, Blust said, offering salads, sandwiches and eight different tacos.
Among the choices is braised short rib, crispy mahi mahi, chicken with mole sauce and, for the more daring diner, huitlacoche, also known as corn smut or corn mushrooms.
No single menu item is priced above $9. The chef is Chas Barracato, who attended Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts in Pittsburgh with Blust.
Freshness is the key to the menu, Blust said. For example, Maria Natividad turns out 2,000 handmade corn tortillas per day.
Naturally, margaritas are a big deal at Bakersfield. Each of the two signature choices is made with 100 percent agave tequila.
The Bakersfield option combines el Jimador Blanco tequila, triple sec, agave nectar and freshly squeezed lemon and lime juices.
The "premium" version features El Arco Blanco tequila, Cointreau, agave nectar, fresh lime juice and a splash of Grand Marnier.
Bakersfield is open for dinner six days a week and closed Sunday. Blust said Sunday and lunch hours soon will be added. For more information, call 614-754-8436.