Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

New life for Coarsegold’s Broken Bit?

If you’re like me, every time you drive to the mountains on Highway 41, you get intrigued by the run-down Broken Bit restaurant and bar in Coarsegold. Besides being an awesome name, it just looks like the type of place that was once a hopping hub of activity.

It was. And it may be again.

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Even more new restaurants opening

So I’m hoping you caught my Saturday story about all the new restaurants opening in Fresno — all 25 of them. The problem with doing stories like this is that there’s always someone you leave out or discover after publication. So, in addition to the new hofbrau, sushi and burger places in that story, here’s a few more that are coming.

The people behind REV’S California Cuisine contacted me this week to say they’d be opening in April. The restaurant is under construction in a building on Clovis Avenue near Fifth Street. Check out the menu on its site — rib-eye burger ground in house with bacon, a 2-day brined chicken breast, escargot and lobster mac n cheese. I’ll keep you updated as more details come to light.

The Painted Table is opening a restaurant — two, in fact. First, the catering company that operates out of the former Daily Planet space in Tower Theatre will open part of the dining room as a restaurant. It will serve the same “Fresno-centric” cuisine as the catering (which actually is a huge variety). Look for a March opening. (That picture is just a mock-up, by the way.)

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Free and cheap food on National Pie Day

It’s Friday and it’s much more fun to talk about food than actually get work done, am I right? (Excuse me while I wipe the donut crumbs off my shirt.) So, I bring you three free and cheap food options available today.

First, the newly opened Dutch Bros. at Blackstone and McKinley avenues is having its grand opening today. You can read all about the new location (and how it’s pronounced “bros”) here. It’s selling $1 16-ounce drinks all day today. All the money you do spend goes to Valley Children’s Hospital.

Did you know today is National Pie Day? Yes, it’s a thing. There’s no free pie, unfortunately, but there is cheap pie. Marie Callender’s $7.99 whole pie sale is today.

Also, Chipotle has a not really free food deal that starts Monday. First, you have to pay for a dish with its organic tofu Sofritas on Monday, Jan. 26. Bring the receipt back between Jan. 27 and Feb. 28 and you get a free burrito, bowl, salad or taco — made with Sofritas or any kind of meat you want. Details here.

Silver Dollar Hofbrau is closed. What’s your memory?

The news of the Silver Dollar Hofbrau closing has hit Fresno hard. In case you missed it, the restaurant and bar on Shaw Avenue closed its doors for the last time Tuesday after more than 35 years in business. The building is being sold to a new owner. You can read the full story here.

Ever since the news came out, people have been sharing all kinds of stories and memories about the place. So far, I’ve heard about swing dancing, bad dates, 21st birthday parties, former Fresno Bee newsroom employees who would head over for a drink after their shift and one story about a pimp in a fur coat nearly causing a fight.

So, what’s your story of the Silver Dollar Hofbrau? What memories do you have to share?

Is this guy hotter than your girlfriend?

File this one under news of the weird. Reporter Jim Guy’s story today about a pair of back-to-back robberies at the Super Mall on Olive Avenue and Golden State Boulevard (the former Kmart) is bizarre enough. You can read the full story here, but here’s the Cliffs Notes version of what the cops say happened: Some guys stole some jewelry from the store. As a security guard left to chase them, another guy snatched a woman’s purse in the store. One of the first robbers happened to have a gunshot wound from a separate incident last weekend. And the guy who stole the purse jumped into a stranger’s car in the mistaken belief the driver would help him get away when instead he took him back to the cops instead.

But the best part of this odd tale is in the photo Jim Guy took. The alleged purse snatcher is wearing a T-shirt that reads “Hotter than your girlfriend.” I’m pretty sure that shirt is meant for a woman, first of all. But I’ll let you decide if the T-shirt’s sentiment is true.

Here’s what’s up with Pinot Wine Bar

Pinot Wine Bar in the Tower District has been closed for a while now and some of you have been wondering what’s up. The picture at right is the sign that’s posted in the window.

Well, here’s what I know. A while back Juan Leija bought the business from Daniel Renteria, the wine lover who founded it, as Daniel wanted to spend a little more time enjoying his retirement. Leija has said from the beginning that he planned to shut down for a few weeks, do some work inside and reopen under a new name and concept. That’s happening a little sooner than expected, sped along by the transfer of the liquor license. 

“Pinot in and of itself as wine bar is no longer in existence,” Leija says.

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Facebook photo of the day: Baby jaguar and photographer version

Sometimes, Bee photographers get really fun assignments. This photo is proof.

This is Bee photographer Craig Kohlruss, who was getting some photos of the baby jaguars for this story at Project Survival’s Cat Haven in eastern Fresno County. Staff gave him permission to get right in the enclosure with the 2-month-old jaguars. They climbed all over Craig and Cat Haven president Wendy Debbas snapped this shot. The jaguars are named Nacho (the black one) and Libre (the spotted one) after the Jack Black movie “Nacho Libre.” 

Keep scrolling for a video of them at play, which I guarantee will be the cutest thing you see all day. 

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No reservations on New Years Eve? How about some good grub instead?

The problem with procrastinators like me waiting until now to make New Year’s plans is that lots of celebrations may be booked up. It might even be tough to get a seat at a restaurant (call to find out). You can read more about the big bashes that restaurants and others are having here, blogger Joshua Tehee has a ton of options and Elephant Lounge (hello Bollywood!), SchoolHouse Restaurant and the newly opened Zen Wok are celebrating too.

But what if you can’t get a reservation? Or if you’re the type to avoid the big swanky bashes? That’s what I set out to tackle in this week’s Eating Out column. But I have to say, it turned into a “check out this yummy restaurant that I haven’t had a chance to write about yet” type of column. Now, let’s be clear: These are not places you dress up for or will even be celebrating New Year’s. These are down home places, some that can best be described with words like hole in the wall and taqueria. Some are take-out only. Here’s the full column and a few latecomers that didn’t make it in.

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What was your favorite book of 2014?

There were so many good books to read in 2014: new books, old books made into TV shows and classics that are still getting some love. We at the Beehive want to know what your favorite book of 2014 was. It doesn’t matter when it was published, just tell us what the best book you read in 2014 was. Here are our favorites.

BETHANY: “The Cold Dish,” by Craig Johnson. This was the year I fell in love with Sheriff Walt Longmire. He’s the main character in my new favorite series of books. I sped through the first seven this year. Longmire is a laconic widower who is grief-stricken and screwed up and somehow hilarious. His young, snarky female officer and best friend Henry who lives on the Cheyenne reservation are just a few of the other strong characters in this crime mystery series. The setting of rural Wyoming and a strong Native American presence are like their own characters in the books and create a world that I actively miss between books. These are the type of books that you fly through and don’t feel like work at all.

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Tassels in Fig Garden Village closing

Tassels, the locally owned store in Fig Garden Village selling all kinds of elegant gifts and home decor, is closing. The store’s lease is up and the women who own the store say they decided not to renew it. They’ll be starting a big sale soon and closing when the merchandise is gone, but expect to be open through much of January. 

“We have a heavy heart,” says co-owner Suzanne Yengoyan. “Our lease was up at the end of December and after just several years of contemplating what we should do, felt it was best to move on.” The location was a good one for the holidays, but a little removed from the heart of the center for the rest of the year, she says. The space is up for rent.

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Humphrey Station to get new life

Do you remember Humphrey Station, the historic stage coach stop turned restaurant waaaay out on the outskirts of Clovis on Tollhouse Road? It’s been closed for the better part of a year but it will reopen soon. The property had gone into foreclosure, but new owners bought it, work is underway and it will reopen early next year.

Chef Sean Dunn is heading up the restaurant and working on a menu. “Basically I’m going to do the French Laundry meets the Clampetts,” he says. That means good, but down-to-earth food with a fresh, local emphasis. Think housemade cinnamon rolls, lots of soups with ingredients from local farms and other entrees. You might remember Dunn from Peeve’s. He was most recently working as executive chef/food director for Gold Arrow Camp on Huntington Lake.

There’s lots more in the works and I’ll tell you about it when the place opens.

Where to eat out on Christmas Day

My column about where you can eat out on Christmas ran Monday, but there’s a few more restaurants open that day that have since come to my attention.

One is the brand new restaurant Zen Wok at Palm and Herndon avenues. It’s a second location for the folks who run Zen Wok Fusion in the Tower District, but this one is bigger, has a bigger menu with several vegan items and a huge selection of craft beer and wine. You can read all about the restaurant here. Zen Wok will be open Christmas Day from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

Ducey’s on the Lake at Bass Lake is also having a traditional Christmas Day buffet from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will feature lots of entrees (hello baked salmon with truffle butter!), salads, sides and desserts and have a carving station with roast turkey with cranberry-orange relish and prime rib with creamy horseradish. Details here. Cost: adults $35.95, seniors 55+$27.95, children 4-12 $17.95. Make reservations by calling (559) 642-2585 x.444 or (800) 350-7463.

Of course, I know there are restaurants out there that aren’t included in my list. Where do you like to eat out on Christmas? Feel free to tell us in the comments.

Fresno High neighborhood losing P*DE*Q Corner, Ooh de Lolli Take Away Cafe

People in central Fresno are getting two doses of bad news: P*DE*Q Corner across from Fresno High School is closing and so is the Ooh de Lolli Take Away Cafe.

P*DE*Q Corner will close Dec. 23. The P*DE*Q Gluten Free Bakery at 435 N. Clovis Ave. will remain open. P*DE*Q Corner on Echo Avenue was the launching pad for the brand founded by owner Flavia Takahashi-Flores who transitioned from a home-based business. The delicious little balls of Brazilian cheese bread were made there at first. But the company has grown and she’s since hired Wawona Frozen Foods to make the P*DE*Qs, which are now sold in 23 Costco stores. The P*DE*Q Gluten Free Bakery has become the hub of the company’s gluten-free activity, and can do a lot more, including making and selling cupcakes, pies, cookies, bread and the PIZZA*Q line of gluten-free pizzas and dough. “We want to focus our energy on creating more product and focusing on just one store that we can view as a model store for franchising eventually,” she said.

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Where do you shop local?

My buy local gift guide was on the cover of Sunday’s Spotlight section with lots of gift suggestions. These are not just local, but super local: locally grown and locally made. We’re talking purses made in a downtown art gallery, “Fresbro” T-shirts printed in a Tower shop and chocolate-dipped apples rolled in M&Ms at the California Gourmet Co. 

But this is by no means a comprehensive list. Lots of places are selling locally made goods and lots of stores are locally owned. Where do you go to buy local and what do you like to buy there? Tell us in the comments.

PCH Subs in Clovis closing Sunday

PCH Subs is closing Sunday after about 13 years in business. The surf-themed sandwich shop — PCH is short for Pacific Coast Highway — at Herndon and Fowler avenues in Clovis just couldn’t make it any longer, says Guy Foell, who runs the shop owned by his parents, Dick and Chic Foell.

The shop’s lease is up and it’s been struggling since the Blockbuster next door closed and people stopped picking up sandwiches to eat during their movie, Guy says. Rising minimum wage and other factors played a part too, he says. “I think it’s just tough for mom and pops to compete and [with] the price of everything going up … it’s just tough,” he says, noting that there’s seven sandwich shops in a two-block radius of his restaurant.

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Here’s one ranking Fresno can be proud of

All these click-bait Internet rankings have declared that Fresno is among the least-educated cities, is among the top cities with people in need and is the 15th worst city for an active lifestyle.

Whether you take those seriously or not, here’s one label to be proud of: Fresno’s Vineyard Farmers Market is No. 8 on Buzzfeed’s list of 10 California Farmers’ Markets Worth Traveling The Extra Mile For.

The piece mentions the “majestic vineyard arbor” at Blackstone and Shaw avenues, and of course, the organic and locally grown produce. The market runs from 7 a.m. to noon on Saturdays and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays. You can see a list of all the area’s farmers markets here. Photo by Fresno Bee photographer Eric Paul Zamora.

Black Friday: Did you go?

Black Friday was different this year. Besides the fact that it was actually on Thursday — otherwise known as Thanksgiving — opening times were earlier than ever with most retailers opening at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. More about that here.

I’ve covered Black Friday openings for the last nine years as a retail reporter and this year had, by far, some of the calmest openings I’ve ever seen. Fashion Fair, which once had a line with hundreds upon hundreds of people waiting for the midnight opening, had just 70 or so people waiting for its 6 p.m. opening this year at the main entrance. Victoria’s Secret didn’t even have a line waiting to get in at first. A shopper told me things were calmer this year at the north Fresno Walmart too. Last year, she waited in line for two hours to even get into the store. This year, she walked right in.

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Here’s where to eat out on Thanksgiving.

Some of us love cooking up an elaborate Thanksgiving meal. But if the thought of that much cooking makes you want to bury your head in a bowl of mashed potatoes, fear not. Fresno restaurants are here to rescue you. Several are open on Thanksgiving offering both a traditional Thanksgiving meal and other options. Several others are selling take-home meals. And of course, many ethnic restaurants stay open on the holiday. This is not a comprehensive list, so be sure to call your favorite restaurant to see if it is open, and don’t forget to make a reservation!

Manhattan Steakhouse & Bar will serve a four-course Thanksgiving meal from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Menu here.

Peeve’s Public House is hosting a Rejects and Outcasts Thanksgiving dinner from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. and a party with a DJ starting at 9 p.m.

The School House Restaurant & Tavern in Sanger is serving a  a two-course meal for $34 and a three-course meal for $42 between 2-7 p.m. Menu here.

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Bare-chested barista boys come to Fresno

So guess what the top story on the Fresno Bee website is today? Yup, my story about shirtless male baristas coming to Fresno coffee shops. If you remember, a handful of coffee shops featuring scantily clad female “bikini baristas” opened in Fresno and Clovis earlier this year. At the time, many women wondered where their eye candy was. Well, he’s here now and his name is Emilio and he’s working at Java Girls Espresso in northwest Fresno. You can read more about him and see a video of him in action here.

So, what do you think of shirtless male baristas? Yea, nay or indifferent? Feel free to share your opinions in the comments.

Three new bakeries means more sweet treats

You’re in the mood for something sweet, right? Three new bakeries have opened in the area selling not just cakes, but individual-sized sweet treats. Each has a pastry case full of goodies where you can pick up a 99-cent cream puff, for example, on your lunch break or on the way home from work. You can read all about what’s driving this trend in today’s food page story, but here’s the skinny (or not so skinny?) on where the bakeries are and what they specialize in.

Baked Sunnyside, 6105 E. Kings Canyon Road, next to Sunnyside Bicycles. This new bakery specializes in cakes with licensed Disney characters on them, but also has a pastry case full of goodies: cupcakes, mini strawberry pies, sugar cookies and more. The sugar cookies are the top seller here. Baked also sells 25 flavors of Hawaiian shave ice and 12 flavors of Fresno State ice cream. They’re open from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.

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Would you wear these?

While touring the new Tower District location of Bebe O’s Boutique (in the former dojo, more on that here), I stopped in my tracks when I saw these babies. See the big furry things on the boots at left? They’re not boots, but leg warmers slipped on over a pair of boots. This is apparently a thing. It’s quite the fashion statement, that’s for sure. Would you wear them? Are they crazy cool or just Bigfootesque?

Vets get free and discounted stuff Tuesday

Veterans Day is Tuesday and many restaurants and retailers will be saying “thanks” by offering freebies and discounts to veterans. The list is long this year and involves more than just free meals. (Times, days and identification needed vary, and some meals are dine-in only, so you may want to look up where you’re going online before heading out). Check it out:

Pizza Factory: free lunch special or free lunch buffet.
Applebee’s:   Free meal from one of seven menu items.
Hooters: Free meal up $10.99 with drink purchase.
California Pizza Kitchen: Choose from five free pizzas, three pastas or five salads.
Denny’s: Get a free build-your-own-Grand Slam from 5 a.m. to noon.
Famous Dave’s: 25% off.
Texas Roadhouse: Choose from one of 10 free entrees.
Dollar General: Get an 11% discount on your purchases.
Dutch Bros. Coffee: Free drinks.
Starbucks: Veterans and military spouses can get a free tall coffee.
Jojo’s Yogurt: 50% off yogurt or shaved snow.
Dough Ray Me: The Madera bakery has free coffee.
JCPenney: Get a 20% in-store coupon valid from Nov. 3 -15 at
Central California SPCA: Discounted rates on dog and cat adoptions.

Shuttered Fresh & Easy to become a library

Have you seen the post flying around Facebook about McAllen, Texas turning an empty Walmart into a giant library? Well, Fresno is doing something a little bit smaller, but just as cool. Remember the Fresh & Easy stores here that closed? One of them is going to be a library. The Cedar-Clinton branch of the Fresno County Public Library will move into the former Fresh & Easy store on Cedar Avenue, south of Shields Avenue. The new library could be open by next summer.

Here’s the story with all the details that ran before the Fresno County Board of Supervisors voted on it. They agreed Tuesday to move forward with the process. It will cost $2.6 million to buy the property and $1 million to renovate it. (The reporter who covered the meeting tells me that they need to do quite a bit of tinkering with the heating and air conditioning system, because apparently not having grocery store coolers helping to cool down the interior changes things.)

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New place to eat downtown: Take 3 burgers

There’s a new burger joint on Fulton Mall. In fact, there’s several changes downtown, including the opening of Cafe Aroma Coffee House, Big D’s Tri-tip and the closing of Indian Heritage Express and Trendy Pasta Co. (for now). You can read that wrap up in my column here. But let’s focus on Take 3, the newest restaurant to open on the Fulton Mall.

The movie-themed restaurant opened last week two doors down from Antojitos and across the mall and a little south of Peeve’s Public House. The restaurant serves burgers, jumbo hot dogs and a fried chicken sandwich, along with milkshakes. The burgers — you can get a single patty for $4.75 or a double or triple burger for more — come with lots of toppings choices. You can get a fried egg, sauteed mushrooms, avocado, pineapple, onion rings, chili, a sliced beef hot dog, pastrami and more. They’re taking suggestions on more toppings, by the way. Take 3 is open for lunch, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until 8 p.m. on Fridays.

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It’s a good weekend to shop in Fresno

It’s a good weekend to kick off your holiday shopping. (Yes, I know, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but some people have been shopping for months.) Or, you could just buy yourself something. Anyway, there’s a whole bunch of shopping-related events this weekend, many of them featuring things you can’t find at chain retailers and one kick-off to fall fashion. Here’s what’s happening.

Thursday: Macy’s is hosting a fall fashion “shopping party” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Fashion Fair store. The event will feature a fashion show, food, music and more. The event is free, but you need to get tickets here.

Intimate Cups IV is an art exhibit at Clay Mix, a ceramic gallery and studio, featuring cups created by artists. And you can buy the cups. You’re not going to a find a mug with an artsy little bunny like that on it at Target. The event  is part of the monthly Art Hop and runs from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at 1003 N. Abby St.

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