“I’m going to order potato pancakes with sour cream and salsa,” I insisted before Judy and I even set foot in Nelda’s Diner. On his way to a mountain bike ride in Kern Canyon, my husband Marc had recently eaten a plate of the delicacies, which boast just the right ratio of savory dough to shredded spud. Just the right amount of diced scallion flirts with the batter, proffering tender, oniony kisses. Mm mm mm mm mm. How could I go wrong? I’ll tell you. Our waitress Michelle almost swayed me. When she listed the specials of the day, I almost veered from the path of truth and deliciousness known as potato pancake. I imagined, for a moment, enjoying a blueberry pancake sandwich or, better yet, a seasonally appropriate pumpkin pancake sandwich. But when Michelle described the cheeseburger omelet, with its slice of tomato topped with Thousand Island dressing, I snapped back to myself.
Nelda’s Diner in Lake Isabella, like Cheryl’s Diner in Kernville, is a classic booth and counter eatery, where pies and milkshakes and biscuits and gravy are as common as tadpoles in a pond. That’s not to say that the pies and shakes and gravied biscuits are not delicious. They are. I’m just using more words than needed to describe the local diners’ specialties. I should also mention that Cheryl is Nelda’s daughter, but that Frank — Cheryl’s brother and therefore Nelda’s son — now runs his mother’s restaurant. If I’ve lost you in the tangled branches of this diner dynasty’s family tree, don’t sweat it. All you need to know is that Nelda’s boasts 17 different burgers, more than 100 milkshake flavor combos, and pie varieties that change with the seasons. I recommend pumpkin.