There’s some cool new places in Fresno gearing up to open that I’m dying to tell you about. It’s a little too early to do a full newspaper column on some of them, but Beehive readers like to be in the know, so here’s a preview.
Richie’s Pizza & Hot Dogs. This Tower District restaurant should be opening any day now. It will sell pizza by the slice and whole pies, along with gourmet hot dogs. It’s in the space that used to be Scoop’s ice cream.
Goldstein’s Mortuary & Delicatessen. A few folks have seen this one on Facebook and said “what?!” This business with the tongue-in-cheek name is a craft beer bar in the work. “No bodies, no pastrami, just beer,” says Ephirman Bosse, who is behind the project. He used to own Fresno Brewing Company and is the bartender at Gazebo Gardens food truck nights.
Chili’s is building a new restaurant in the former Baker’s Square spot at 3585 W. Shaw Ave. near Marty Avenue. Chili’s isn’t talking, so don’t we don’t when the restaurant will be up and running, but the building permit confirms that it is a Chili’s being built.
I’ll make this easy: Go see this show. “Nightmare in Bakersfield” is a one-man show by Les Kurkendaal about accompanying his boyfriend to his 20-year reunion in the armpit of California — Bakersfield. Les’ partner hasn’t told his classmates that he’s gay, which provides opportunities for all sorts of laughter. But the show isn’t just a bunch of jokes. Kurkendaal also delves into the creeping jealousies of having a partner who was voted one of the top 100 people ever to come out of Bakersfield when he himself has always dreamed of being a successful actor. The serious parts are so honest and bare you can’t help but connect with Kurkendaal. For $5, it’s all easily worth the price of admission.
About the only flaw in this show is the music he uses during certain parts sounds like it’s coming from a cellphone. It was unnecessary and had me looking around to see who was rude enough to not turn their phone off. Another thing to know about this venue: It is intimate. Studio 74 is a converted house and you are literally sitting in a living room. That means that if you sit in the front row and spend the entire time flipping through the Rogue program or rustling the plastic bag you’re holding, your fellow audience members will notice. This show is too good for that kind of disrespect from the audience.
In a blatant act of self promotion, I just have to shine a spotlight on The Spencer Morris Duo and their song “Paper Boys of the Fresno Bee.” The song is part of their Rogue show, “Downtown Fresno Blues,” a love letter to Fresno of years past in song. Their songs cover everything from Kearney Bowl to Lester Burger and something called the Sky Slide at Manchester Center (OK, who remembers that one?). But it’s the song about paper boys throwing papers from their bikes after school that had this unsuspecting Fresno Bee reporter smiling from ear to ear. The song references the days when The Bee was an afternoon paper. That all changed on Dec. 6, 1976. Their song poignantly ends with this verse:
“While internet readers now drift away and the morning delivery is every day, arms throwing from moving cars is what you’ll see, not paper boys of The Fresno Bee.”
The Spencer Morris Duo has three shows left: 7:45 p.m. March 2, 7:45 p.m. March 5, 11 a.m. March 8, Veni Vidi Vici, $5 in Rogue Bucks.
Here’s a little snippet of the song:
If you’re looking for something different and a little weird, this is it. The program describes “Dolores” as a “mime opera,” a “dreamy futuristic tale about the final day of a 220-year-old woman.” Carolina “Coicoi” Duncan of Seattle is the mime who expresses emotions far deeper than the sidewalk mimes most of us are familiar with. Duncan graduated from the Flying Actor Studio and Clown Conservatory in San Francisco, and it’s definitely fascinating to watch how she moves her body as a part-robot woman. All of it is accompanied by the music and sound effects of Carlos M. Kampff.
A program handed out before the show is helpful in following along. The best parts are when Duncan is performing scenes of everyday life that most of us can relate to: blissful new love, infidelity, rage and heartbreak. My favorite scene depicted a newly married wife happily making breakfast for her husband, an act that turns into a resented chore as the marriage goes on. Kampff’s singing during this scene is as tasty as the fresh-baked biscuits and French toast he’s singing about.
The Awkward Art of Flying is short on dialogue and long on physical acting — all of it done in pantaloons and corsets. Claire Patton and Lucia Rich of Boulder, Colo. start the show as cave women communicating with grunts. A portrayal of Amelia Earhart shows up throughout the show, along with other scenes of womanhood. Throughout, the pair dole out messages about being yourself and learning to fly in the metaphorical sense.
It’s the kind of experimental show Rogue is known for. At times, they lost me — why the heck was she biting her partner’s arm? — but the overall message is easy to grasp and there was plenty of laughter from the audience. The best parts of the show are when the spotlight is on the absurd: The cave women putting the blood from an animal they just killed for dinner on their cheeks as blush, a reluctant ballet dancer forcing her legs into a plié and an announcer reading rules of feminine virtue that women can’t possibly live up to. (“Never eat with your mouth open — or closed.”)
People on the internet are smiling today — at least Game of Thrones fans are — after it was revealed that one of the Malayan tiger cubs at Chaffee Zoo has the same name as a beloved Game of Thrones character: Arya. The name was one of several the zoo put up for a vote to the public. Not surprisingly, it got the most votes at 1,690. Several people on Facebook said they voted for the name because they love the character.
But it wasn’t intentional. Chaffee Zoo assistant curator Lyn Myers said they chose common Indonesian names and the 7-week-old cubs aren’t named after any characters. Arya means warrior or truthful — which is pretty fitting. For those not familiar with the wildy popular books by George R.R. Martin or the HBO series of the same, Arya Stark is a spunky character who is 9 years old in the first book. Unlike her princess sister, she’s a tomboy who loves swordplay. She spends much of the series fighting to get reconnected with her family — like a warrior would.
(Tiger photo — we’re not sure which of the four cubs this is — by Craig Kohlruss. Arya photo by Nick Briggs.)
Mardi Gras is coming and that means it’s time for gumbo. The 7th annual Gumbo Throwdown is from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Vineyard Farmers Market at Blackstone and Shaw avenues. For $10, you get to try gumbo from five local restaurants and vote on which one you think is the best. There’s some pretty talented chefs on the list this year. Check it out:
Leftover gumbo will be sold for $5 a bowl after voting is finished at around 11:30 a.m. More information here.
Plenty of restaurants are doing something special for couples on Valentine’s Day and I’ll get to that in a minute, but first I want to share this event geared toward single folks who get the shaft on the romantic holiday. Ducey’s Bar & Grill in Bass Lake is having a S.A.D. Party, which is short for Single Awareness Day. It’s not really a sad event, they say. In fact, they’re also calling it a “Cupid is Stupid” party. They’ll have a DJ, drink specials and lots of anti-Valentine’s decor. $5 cover charge, 9 p.m. to midnight.
For those of you lucky enough to have someone to celebrate Valentine’s Day with, my column last week has suggestions for where you can dine out. They range from the budget friendly (heart-shaped pizza from Me-N-Ed’s) to dinners designed to wow your date (a Valentine dinner at Erna’s Elderberry House). Remember, reservations are must.
A few restaurants that shared their Valentine’s plans after deadline include:
- Plaza Ventana. Both restaurants are offering a meal for two for $39 that includes a choice of salmon with shrimp, a chicken mango salad, pollo en mole or a rib eye steak. It also includes two margaritas, and dessert.
- Vino & Friends is having a Valentine’s dinner Thursday and Friday. For $60 per person (plus $20 for wine witch each course), diners get a three-course meal. Entrees include pork chop with sweet potato gnocchi, seared sea bass, duck breast with apricot jam or a roasted filet. A blood orange creme brûlée — doesn’t that sound amazing? — is one of three options for dessert. Full menu here.
Stoners, students and late-night munchie seekers can breathe a sigh of relief. The Taco Bell at McKinley and Blackstone that was torn down last fall (and inspired a surprising number of messages to me) has been rebuilt and is open. The franchisee said the former Taco Bell needed an upgrade, so he decided to rebuild a bigger, more modern restaurant that seated more people. It’s a different look than most of the other Taco Bells in Fresno. The restaurant has plugs for customers to use and is in the process of getting wifi.
Remember when Hostess, the company that owns Twinkies, went bankrupt and everybody freaked out? Well, not only are Twinkies back on the shelves, but discount Twinkies are now too — at Big Lots stores. News of the century here, I know. (We here at the Bee are serious about our Twinkie coverage. This is the company that sent me to the Kings Canyon Walmart at 4:45 p.m. on Friday to cover their return to the shelves — a day when it was 107 and my car’s air conditioning broke.)
See, when the original company shut down Twinkie-making operations in 2012, it also closed about 600 Hostess Thrift Outlet stores where customers could buy cheap Twinkies. Instead of reopening those stores, Hostess has partnered with Big Lots stores to carry those discounted Twinkies. The stores will also carry discounted Zingers, CupCakes, Fruit Pies, Donettes and other Hostess snacks at up to 40% off the regular price. The selection varies by store and by week, so check back if you don’t find what you’re looking for. The snacks hit stores when they are getting close to their expiration dates — about two weeks before, which Big Lots tells me is a significantly longer timeline than when they were in the outlet stores.
And just because we’re having fun here, I’ve included the strangely intriguing video Big Lots released of women dancing with Twinkies boxes.
As you may recall, Fulton’s Folly Antique Collective in the Tower District closed last month after 32 years. The owner sold the building and the new owner is currently looking for a tenant. Yesterday rumors were flying around Facebook that a Dollar General was going to take over the space. Building owner and local businessman Troy Collins says they’re not true. “I haven’t talked to Dollar General. I haven’t talked to any of their representatives. … I don’t know anything about it.”
Collins is talking to several people interested in the space, mostly restaurant and bar types or other entertainment venues. But it begs the question: What would fit in that building? At 9,500 square feet, it’s a decent-sized space for the Tower District.
Collins is also thinking big about the neighborhood and its potential. “That [building] could be a catalyst to redevelop the Tower District,” he says. “If the right thing goes in there, it could really get things rolling.” He’d like to get an attraction that would be powerful enough to draw people from north Fresno and their spending. So, blog readers, what do you think? What would be a good fit for that space? And what — if anything — can accomplish Collins’ vision of revitalizing the Tower District?
In case you missed it, Walmart has announced it will open a supercenter smack dab in the middle of town — in the former Mervyns at Blackstone and Ashlan that’s been empty for five years. You can read the full story, but basically Walmart will open a store that’s a tad smaller than typical supercenters, and includes a full grocery store, clothing, toys and electronics — but no auto center. (Much to the relief of the GoodGuys Tire just steps away, I’m sure.) Work has already started. It will create 250 jobs and open this summer.
The news inspired a flood of comments on The Fresno Bee Facebook page and the story, from people saying it will chase away prostitutes and homeless in the area to comments from people who boycott Walmart. Others said they’d really prefer an Ikea there.
The one thing that’s for sure is that a Walmart there will change things. Will it change your shopping habits? Having such a store there is likely to draw some customers away from the nearby Save Mart, Vons and the Grocery Outlet right across the street. It might mean competition for the Target at Blackstone and Bullard avenues, too. Will it change your habits? Will you shop there?
Did you have a favorite Super Bowl 2014 commercial? It didn’t really seem like there were many whiz-bang home run commercials this year that made you laugh or were particularly clever. (Between that and the lackluster game I drifted off to the kitchen to make some lentil soup, so maybe I missed some good ones.) Here’s my top three favorites. What about you?
Reliving some 1980s favorites in the Radio Shack commercial was fun:
Zest California Grill & Bar has opened inside the downtown Holiday Inn on Van Ness Avenue. This restaurant that has been serving breakfast and dinner for a while, but a new management company is shaking things up by opening for lunch with the new look and name.
Perhaps the biggest change is the removal of dark brown blinds from the floor-to-ceiling windows. Now, it’s a bright, airy space painted in shades of lime and lemon that’s leading some passers-by to say “hey, I didn’t even know this was here.” Zest’s main entrance faces that stretch of walking mall between Fulton Mall and Courthouse Park. You can get there from the hotel itself and its garage too (and they validate parking if you park in the Holiday Inn garage). Also eye-catching is the chalk art on the walls and a pillars local tattoo artist Danny Duran.
The food is “fresh California cuisine.” That means lots of wraps, sandwiches, salads and three soups that change daily. Many of the dishes are on the lighter side — so the fettuccine alfredo won’t be the heavy dish you’re used to, says chef Bryan Fetzer — but you’ll also find a 14-ounce rib-eye and burgers on the menu. The restaurant also has vegetarian and gluten-free options, including eggplant Parmesan and a black bean and corn quesadilla.
The restaurant is open now and will celebrate its grand opening Feb. 4.
Ronnie’s Midway Market’s last day of business is today. The market on North Blackstone Avenue in Pinedale joins a growing list of longtime local companies that have closed in recent years. It’s in that same category of businesses that you miss because they were just part of the fabric of Fresno, such as Warner Co., Old Doc’s, Fulton’s Folly and Fig Garden Bookstore.
But nostalgia can’t keep a business alive. Ronnie’s was opened in 1953 by the Asadoor family, (that’s brothers Jon, left and Steve Asadoor in the picture). The market was facing some pretty stiff competition: Walmart, Costco, Target, Sam’s Club and Sprouts.
Today’s story by reporter Robert Rodriguez has some great details about those hand-painted signs, grocery deliveries to aging customers and the chorizo that apparently lured people from miles away. You can see a cool gallery of photos by Bee photographer John Walker (I love the one where the owner is hugging a customer).
We don’t know what will take Ronnie’s place yet. The retail reporter in me wouldn’t be surprised to see the building knocked down and a chain retailer building anew there, but that’s just speculation.
I’m drooling here. I am being inundated with luscious photos of desserts, recipes, emails about free food and all sorts of delicious food-related goodness. So I figured I would share. We ran this photo of cookies being made at P*DE*Q on the front page this morning. The story that accompanies it is about Valley food producers jumping into gluten-free and other specialty markets. And here’s a gallery of photos from the G-Free Foodie box club and P*DE*Q. (And by the way, a story about the upcoming Fresno Food Expo was on the business page today.)
Today’s food page was chock full of taters. My colleague’s story about potato appetizers for the Super Bowl has recipes for Dusty Buns‘ bistro fries, potato lollipops from Trelio and others. My column about the House of JuJu restaurant opening in Clovis ran next to it.
But I just don’t want to pimp my own stuff here, especially since there’s free food involved.
- Panda Express is celebrating Chinese New Year on Friday with a free serving of Firecracker chicken breast. You need to print out this coupon or show it to them on your phone.
- On Monday, the Yogurtland in River Park will be celebrating National Frozen Yogurt Day with free yogurt and toppings between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Customers will also get a spoon that changes colors when it gets cold.
- After the internets got all excited about Carl’s Jr.’s strawberry pop tart ice cream sandwich, the fast-food chain is debuting its successor, the snickerdoodle ice cream sandwich. It’s a scoop of vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two snickerdoodles. For a limited time (they don’t say how long), customers can get a free snickerdoodle sandwich with the purchase of any Philly cheesesteak burger combo. It costs $1.49 on its own, but here’s a 50 cents off coupon.
Here’s something a little different for Clovis. The House of JuJu opened during the first week of December in Old Town, in the space formerly occupied by Salsa’s and California Hot Dogs at 453 Pollasky (in the Dewitt building with the breezeway). It’s a gourmet burger place that also sells hearty salads and wraps, along with local wine and beer. You’ll find burgers on the menu such as the “JuJu bleu” served with crispy bacon, caramelized onions and blue cheese. Or the “Dragon Lady” with teriyaki slaw, pickled onions and spicy garlic aioli.
The restaurant has an emphasis healthy eating, in part because co-owner Scott Glenn lost 120 pounds on a low-carb diet. That’s why you’ll find a “burger in a bowl” option, along with a lean bison burger and Mary’s all-natural chicken. There’s also no fryer. They serve fingerling potatoes instead of fries and their coleslaw is made with teriyaki sauce, not mayonnaise.
JuJu, by the way, is a nickname for co-owner Julie Glenn. It’s what her grandkids call her and as you can imagine, the restaurant is having all kinds of fun with the “good vibe” definition of the word. You can also find Clovis-based W Brewing’s 559 beers on tap at the restaurant. The family that owns House of JuJu is the same family that owns On The Edge coffee shop. You’ll see daughter Jaynae working at both places. My column Wednesday focuses on the Glenn family, who has a long history of running businesses in Clovis.
Today’s food page is a meat lover’s paradise. Seriously, check this out:
Who’s hungry now?
gluttony food challenge has it all: A burger with nine patties, John Candy and local history. Let me explain. See, the 1988 movie “The Great Outdoors” and its fictional Lake Resort Pechoggin was filmed at and fashioned after The Pines Resort at Bass Lake. In the movie, John Candy attempts the “Old 96er” challenge of eating a 96-ounce slab of steak. A clip of his character Chet shaking and sweating his way through this disgusting feat is below.
In honor of this, Ducey’s Bar & Grill and chef Johnathan Frabotta have created the Great 96er challenge. This Saturday a few brave souls will attempt to eat a burger with nine 1/3-pound Angus beef patties, six slices of cheddar cheese and all the fixings, along with a pound of french fries with the restaurant’s blazing saddles sauce. If you can eat it in 30 minutes, you win a cash prize (how much depends on the number of entries), a T-shirt, a night at the Pines with dinner for two, “eternal glory on the wall of fame” as the press release says and probably heartburn (the press release doesn’t say that part). Second and third place winners get $100 and $50 gift cards, respectively. Sign up between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. or do it ahead of time by calling Erin at (559) 642-3121, ext. 438. There’s a $35 fee.
Yesterday’s shocker that World Sports Cafe has closed is still sinking in. The River Park bar and restaurant’s lease was up and owner and former San Francisco 49er Tim McDonald closed the business to focus on his new job as defensive backs coach with the New York Jets, his colleague said. The closure opens up a prime piece of Fresno real estate for something new.
As we learned with the survey River Park did for the Borders space — which clothing retailer H&M will take over — public input really does play a role in who gets that space. So, what would you like to see in the World Sports Cafe space? I’m sure we’ll get plenty of chains as answers, but don’t forget local businesses. Any you think could flourish there?
After months of rumors, River Park today confirmed that trendy clothing retailer H&M is coming to Fresno. It will open in late summer or early fall, in the former Borders spot that has been empty since 2011. H&M is a global company known for quickly getting runway looks to the masses at affordable prices. Just how excited are people in Fresno about this store? Very, very, very excited, judging from the response on social media this morning. Take a look.
My personal favorite tweet of the morning:
Check out the number of shares and likes from the Bee Facebook page in the first two hours:
Kern Street has a new sushi restaurant, Umi Sushi. After its predecessor, Sushi Hana, shut down its spot across from the Fresno Convention Center several months ago, some sushi fans were quite bummed. But Umi has taken over that same spot and opened last week. The restaurant is a full-service sushi bar. One highlight, according to the owners: the “soft shell crab wonder,” with deep-fried crab, spicy tuna and cucumber. After learning that the Chinese chicken salad at Sushi Hana used to sell out, they made sure to put it on their menu. There’s also bento boxes, salads, soups and vegetarian rolls.
And you may recognize the sushi chefs behind the counter. Ketut Sutama and Wan Takian have worked together at Sushi Day and then Roll One for Mi. Co-owner Tracy Wayte (who is also Ketut’s wife) playfully calls them the “Odd Couple.” (Ketut’s cousin married a cousin of Wan’s, so technically, they’re family.) And don’t be surprised if they fix up something new based on what regular customers like. “They like to play with food,” Tracy says. “Sushi is art.”
The owners hope to have their beer and wine license soon. The restaurant is open 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and on Saturdays during special downtown events and performances.
Changes are happening at Pinot Wine Bar in the Tower District, including the addition of lunch. Taste Kitchen, the food side of the business led by chef Martin Franco, is now serving lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. Now you can get hamburgers, soups, salads, garlic fries and that grilled cheese royale with red wine onion jam.
Pinot also started opening at 4 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. and has expanded its beer selection. It now has six beers on tap and 20 bottled beers, including lots of craft beer and familiar ones such as Bud Light and Coors. Pinot has always had a full bar, but has recently hired a new bar manager who “knows everything there is to know about beer and spirits,” and is doing a lot more with cocktails, says owner Daniel Renteria.
It’s starting to sound more like a regular restaurant and bar, isn’t it? I asked Renteria about that and he said Pinot will always be a wine bar. That’s his passion. But like any business, they’re adjusting to serve customers. He noticed wine sales dropped off at 10 p.m., with people opting for beer and cocktails, so they beefed that up.
Pinot is also hosting the Tower Beer Run Jan. 25. It’s kinda like a wine walk, but with craft beer. The event starts on Pinot’s patio, where participants pay $1 for a small plastic beer glass and number to wear (like in a marathon or a run, get it?). Participants can then get a small glass of beer for $1 each at 10 participating bars and restaurants. Details here. Presumably there won’t be any actual running involved.
Rick Quinonez takes down a wooden horse fo a customer at the Clovis Antique Mall. Photo by Mark Crosse.
The Clovis Antique Mall in Old Town Clovis reopened Thursday after a fire next door led to an 11-month closure. Last February, Country Rose Antiques & Accents on Fifth Street was destroyed by an overnight fire. The Clovis Antique Mall didn’t burn, but had what appeared at first to be minimal damage from smoke, water and firefighters who battled the fire. The owners even considered reopening the next day.
That didn’t happen. It turned out the crumbling west wall of the building, which is more than 100 years old, had to be replaced, along with a lot of other things. After about $300,000 worth of work (covered by insurance) and 11 months later, the store finally reopened with about 80% of its original antique dealers. The store also is picking up a few dealers from Fulton’s Folly closing.
The Native American guy outside the front door is back and kids were buying $1 bottled cokes from the vintage machine Thursday.Vendors have spent the last 11 months buying up treasures and waiting to resell them, so the store is particularly packed with treasures, says co-owner Jacque Jones. Shane Davis, whose livelihood is selling vinyl records on the second floor of the Clovis Antique Mall, is back with his full
You know the air is bad when the weather forecast on your iPhone says — not sun or rain — but “haze” and the background is a murky gray. The lungs of people in the Valley have been pummeled by hazardous soot levels for weeks now, stemming from fireplaces (despite no-burn days), diesel engines, cars and other sources. Heck, Clovis hit the highest level of pollution at around 9 a.m. this morning: “Very Unhealthy. Everyone should avoid outdoor activity if possible.”
There’s been a chorus of coughing in our newsroom, and I’m betting our readers are feeling the polluted air too (literally and figuratively). I can’t seem to kick this lingering cough from the cold I caught before Christmas. So, I want to know, what are your symptoms? I’ve heard folks complain about and the EPA warns of these lovely symptoms:
- Stinging eyes and throat
- Asthma attacks
- Heart problems (And I shouldn’t be too light-hearted here. One study shows that pollution leads to more than 3,800 premature deaths a year in the San Joaquin Valley and Los Angeles County/Inland Empire air basins. This stuff is dangerous.)
What other effects are you feeling from the crappy air?