When the owners of Crawdaddy's decided to put a little bit of New Orleans' distinctive flair right in the heart of Visalia, they knew it would take more than great cuisine. What makes New Orleans so unforgettable is that it caters to all the senses and makes the smallest outing a special event. To fill that tall order, they took residence in a spacious facility that could be an exciting venue for music, parties, libations, food, and sporting events, all in one electric, lively place.
The second-floor dining room welcomes guests with a menu of fresh seafood such as blackened catfish and bayou butter prawns. A fully stocked bar wets whistles, and balcony seating offers couples a romantic setting under the stars?all 50 of them. Meanwhile, more than a dozen flat-screen TVs light up the crowd in the first floor's sports bar, where a mixologist whips up creative cocktails and TVs whip up the big game. In the dining area of the first floor, Keith and the Crawdads treat diners to lively tunes during the evening, and on the second level the nightclub sends crowds into fits of dance spasms as late-night DJs spin everything from hip-hop to disco six days a week.
At Tommy’s, candlelight casts dark wood wainscoting, burnt-orange walls, and stone floors in a warm glow. The elegant eatery—which has been hailed by Frommer’s as “the most creative restaurant in Visalia"—complements its environs with equally haute cuisine. Chefs serve succulent steaks on cedar planks and drizzle them with southwestern flourishes such as tequila-roasted green chilis, poblano cream sauce, and a single cactus tear. Additionally, Tommy’s stocks its wine cellar with an ample wine selection.
Founded to stage bold new theatrical works, Spotlight Theatre presents classics, dramas, comedies, and musicals. The theater boasts high-caliber production quality, homegrown talent, and a suspended net of tapioca-filled balloons to be dropped on audience members that linger too long after the show. The 2010–2011 season (the theater's eleventh) features nine works, including adaptations of Hamlet, The Producers, and Dreamgirls. The Drowsy Chaperone offers the whimsical tale of a diehard musical-theater fan that plays his favorite cast album and then watches in awe as the music literally bursts into life. The Great American Trailer Park Musical tells the story of a ménage à trois involving Pippi (a stripper on the run) and a married couple living in a trailer park in Florida, with a special appearance by a chorus line of trained tap-dancing alligators during intermission.
California Keyboards Music Center has sharpened the ears and tamed the wandering digits of the Southern Valley for more than 35 years. Each weekly 30-minute lesson is taught by instructors whose performance resumés include enlivening Carnegie Hall, marching in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and treading alongside jazz greats like Ella Fitzgerald.
Trout's proudly and strongly retains the music traditions that were imported to Bakersfield via underground honky-tonk pipelines in the 1940s. The nightclub/dance hall/saloon offers up live music nightly ($5 cover charge), with area instrumentalists, karaoke aces, and mysterious, guitar-slinging drifters with hat brims pulled over their eyes taking to the Trout's Legends or Blackboard stages. Toast the sound of house band the Blackboard Playboys with a drink ($2.50–$8), or train your heels to boot, scoot, and boogie with Trout's line dance classes ($5), offered throughout the week. Trout's also houses an extensive collection of authentic memorabilia ($5–$2,000), with signed celebrity guitars and artifacts from the "Bakersfield sound" era of country music, made famous by belt-buckled Bakersfield residents Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.
A local institution for more than 40 years, Bakersfield Music Theatre pulls in patrons with a schedule of major Broadway musicals and other songful spectacles. Stop by on October 8 for a one-night-only performance of Direct from Vegas: Frank Sinatra, featuring Gary Corsello crooning un-remixed versions of Sinatra classics such as “Luck Be a Lady” and “Come Fly With Me” to the orchestral accompaniment of five full-sized musicians. The hit musical Chicago (November 13, 14, and 20) follows the exploits of a pair of femme fatales driven to murder by the stiff breezes of the Windy City, while "This and That: A Night of Song and Dance" (February 26) combines the mouth-powered melodies of Bakersfield Music Theatre with the legendary leggery of the Civic Dance Center. Hairspray (April 30, May 1, and May 7) caps the season with the tuneful tale of a teenage dance queen whose fancy footwork and well-kempt coiffure help her to defeat her enemies, the Philadelphia Eagles.