BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – If you stroll through Downtown Bakersfield, you might notice two new dining options in The Mark’s old spot. 

It’s a new awakening at Zama Latin American Cuisine, one of the two restaurants which opened its doors Monday evening.

“There are all kinds of flavors, Johnny Diaz, manager of Zama, said.  “There are flavors for each one of us.”

One offers Latin American-inspired cuisine with flavors and ingredients found as far as Peru.

“We are more on the spicy, sour side; a lot of the ingredients have heritage at one point. “Some were not being used in the industry.”

At the other, Cask Strength Kitchen and Bar, owner Bryan Oberg hopes to soon offer classic bar favorites to complement the impressive Whiskey and Tequila selection that adorns their wall.

“People come down and they have options to choose, here or there,” Oberg said. “I’m not in competition with Zama next door — we’re here to supplement each other.”

The openings come at a time when businesses in Downtown Bakersfield are figuring out how to keep clients coming through their doors as COVID-19 cases spike and worker shortages continue.

“We want to see Downtown Bakersfield grow again, to shine again,” Diaz said.

But, as Oberg puts it, undertaking The Mark was not easy.

“We undertook a long process there,” Oberg said. “We got everything squared away and then COVID happened, so that put the nail in The Mark’s coffin. Fine dining is a difficult concept in town.”

The death of The Mark fueled inspiration to create Cask Strength but also the model in which Oberg plans to operate it.

“We can primarily work off of ordering at the bar,” said Oberg.  “From here we can see every table or customer that comes into the bar and there is no reason why our servers or bartenders won’t be able to greet them.”

Zama has already opened its doors to the public, but getting a table might be difficult as reservations are booked through next week.

Meantime, Cask Strength Bar and Kitchen are hoping to have doors swing open by Jan. 18.

 “I’m very excited to put the food out on that table for them and see what they think,” Oberg said.