MCKITTRICK, Calif. - An hour west of Bakersfield just off Highway 58 you’ll find the small town of McKittrick. Where oil derricks appear at every turn, a community surviving off the success of the oil industry one that of course has struggled in recent years.
But it’s coming back and with it a lot of people are returning to the town of McKittrick.
Where are they going for a great meal, at a great place? The Penny Bar a place with a million pennies on the wall and the story of one husband and wife who never gave up on the town never gave up on the restaurant and it’s paying off big.
It was nearly 20-years ago Mike and Annie Moore moved back from Eureka, California settling in on the small town of McKittrick to be closer to family, and to live out their dream.
“For quite some time when we in a business we didn’t enjoy we talked about getting a bar,” Annie told us.
But when she and her husband opened that bar, Annie made one simple request. Take her beloved penny collection, and forever place it all around the bar.
“He started right here, and went that way,” Annie points towards the end of the bar. “He got the counter top all finished he sat back and relaxed, and I said well when are you going to finish it?”
Over the course of nearly a decade Annie’s husband placed penny, after penny and in every square inch of the bar.
Pennies cover the walls, the floors, entrance ways, bathrooms doors even an old television set that came with the building.
Now visitors will find more than a million pennies covering greeting them at the old country restaurant and bar.
Over the years some of those pennies have worn….and right around the same time a sudden drop in crude oil prices in 2014.
The town slowed down, which meant business slowed down at the bar and restaurant adjacent to it.
”They’re used to be the day you waited in line to get in here now you see what’s happened,” Annie says as she describes her restaurant that appeared to be slow.
But to Annie’s surprise and perhaps symbolic to the rising price of crude oil and renewed confidence in jobs returning to Kern County’s oil business…just 30-minutes after our conversation, every seat was taken.
A packed house enjoying a special day here, where ribeye steaks sizzle on the grill. “These are really popular, we have a secret way of doing this.”
Steaks cooked with love by Annie herself. “My technique is just to cook them like that, when I flip them I put a little magic sauce on them, flip them with the marks.”
Those special steaks with the special sauce always a hit with hungry oil field workers. Stephen Brunner says this is a special place. ”It’s a little oasis out here in the middle of no where, I think everybody out here in appreciative of this place,” Brunner said.
Appreciative of the place, and people who never lost touch of who they are serving.
“There are a bunch of really nice people out here,” Annie told us. “Especially the oil field workers which are almost extinct now, but they are slowly coming back.
Perhaps it’s fitting that pennies dawn every square inch of this small bar and restaurant on the outskirts of Kern County.
Often overlooked and forgotten pennies…just like these people are really priceless.
Just like the love story that has kept this Kern County staple strong for so many years.