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Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

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 Jcp.com/military.
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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The spiciest restaurant food in Fresno

Occasionally I get questions from readers that are fun to find answers to. A few days ago reader Sundeep Dhillon wanted to know which restaurants had the spiciest dishes — Indian, Asian, whatever, the ethnicity didn’t matter as long as it got your taste buds burning. Being a bit of a wimp when it comes to spicy foods myself, I threw the request out to the eating masses on Twitter and Facebook and they came back with lots of answers. Below is what they said. Feel free to add more suggestions in the comments. And if you’ve tasted the dishes people suggested, what did you think? Hard core hot and spicy? Or could you handle hotter?

Umi Sushi‘s jalapeno bomb.

Thai Basil restaurant’s spicy beef salad, papaya salad, the Tom Kha Kai. (This one is in Visalia.)

Buffalo Ranch‘s atomic chicken wings.

B&K Asian Kitchen came up repeatedly as being able to make anything spicy.

Club One‘s spicy pad thai.

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Scary (and not so scary) Halloween eats

Halloween is all about candy, of course, but if you’re looking for a meal on Halloween here’s two options. They couldn’t be more different. Peeve’s Public House is hosting a “Very Offal Supper.” Offal as in the entrails and organs of animals used for food. A sampling of the small plates on the menu includes pickled cow tongue salad with chimichurri sauce, chicken gizzards, cow liver and onion hoagie and cows feet soup with cow leg, tendons, cow honeycomb tripe, eggplant, potatoes and a beef coconut broth. Honeycomb tripe, by the way, is part of a cow’s stomach. And you should not Google it unless you have a stronger stomach than mine. Here brave ones, I’ll save you the time. Click here for images.

If that image gave you the shivers, let’s change the topic to a nice, friendly chain restaurant pancake with candy on it, shall we? IHOP Restaurants is offering a free scary face pancake to kids 12 and under on Halloween, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The buttermilk pancake comes with whipped cream smile and eyes and a strawberry nose. Kids get candy corn and mini Oreos to finish the decorating.

Fresno goes crazy for banh mi sandwiches

If it seems like we at The Bee have been getting a little excited about the Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches lately, it’s because it’s true. The sandwiches, popular among Vietnamese folks for years, have been making their way into the mainstream in Fresno — and with good reason. They’re downright yummy. The sandwiches feature a crisp French bread (stemming from the French rule of Vietnam from 1883 to 1954, by the way), with cold-cut style meats and sometimes head cheese, a pate of ground meat, and vegetables such as daikon, cilantro, jalapenos, carrots and cucumber.

You can learn how to make them at home here. You can find out more about banh mi is driving Huong Lan restaurant’s expansion here. Huong Lan now has two locations, one at 4965 N. Fresno St., behind the CVS at Shaw Avenue and the new one at Clovis Avenue and Kings Canyon Road next to the new Food Maxx.

If you’re like me, you’ve been pronouncing banh mi wrong. According to “The Banh Mi Handbook” author Andrea Nguyen, it’s pronounced “bun mee.” (Luckily, restaurant owners are used to us pronouncing “pho” wrong and they’re pretty nice about it. Here’s the right way to say pho.)

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Pieology Pizzeria comes to Fresno

Another chain restaurant has discovered Fresno. Pieology Pizzeria opened the first of what will be several locations in the Fresno area, this one in the former The Ripe Tomato Restaurant space in Fig Garden Village Tuesday. The pizzas are individual-sized — 11.5 inches wide — and made to order. Customers pick their own toppings, sauce, cheeses and “after bakes” such as dollops of fiery buffalo sauce. You can see the process in action by watching the video below. Pieology also has a gluten-free crust option and employees will ask if you want them to change their gloves (though things aren’t as GF-free friendly in the oven and the menu says Pieology can’t guarantee the final product will be 100% gluten free).

The Southern California-based company has more than 30 locations in nine states. More are headed for Fresno, including one at the Campus Pointe development near Fresno State and the Marketplace at El Paseo near Highway 99 and Herndon Avenue. You may see even more outside of Fresno.

Organic Fresno restaurant to close

Organic Fresno, the farm-to-fork restaurant with dinner theater and a market, is closing. The last day to get goodies such as kefir mixed with hibiscus tea and “breakfast burrito (not!)” crepes will be Monday, Oct. 27.

It’s been a tough few months for the restaurant, says owner Tara Hamilton, who goes by “Ta-raw” these days. “People have less money so they eat out less and we have a very small market that we cater to,” she says. You can read more about her reasons for closing the restaurant on her blog here. The restaurant will have a meal and party Friday.

The restaurant attracted a lot of out-of-towners — hence its location on Parkway Drive close to Highway 99, between Belmont and Olive avenues — along with locals who were into healthy, local, seasonal food. Its sister restaurant, raw food place Revive Cafe, closed a while ago too.

Hamilton still has a lot going on. She’s written a book called “Cook Grow Love” that features personal stories and healthy recipes, including a cinnamon chia bread. She’s launched an IndieGoGo campaign to pay for self publishing the book and donating 1,000 copies to low-income families.

Although many people are sad to see Organic Fresno go (just check out the outpouring of comments on its Facebook post), check out what Hamilton plans to do next: “I think I’m going to go to Santa Barbara and live on my sailboat,” she says.

Erna’s Elderberry House celebrates 30 years with Austrian chef, dancing butlers

Four-star restaurant Erna’s Elderberry’s House in Oakhurst is already known for going all out for its meals. So what does such a restaurant do when it wants to celebrate its 30th anniversary? Throws a dinner that goes even more all out. For a celebration dinner at 6 p.m. Sunday, Erna’s will:

  • Fly in chef Toni Moerwald from Austria to prepare a five-course meal that includes potato soup with truffles, filet of “young venison” and a main course of wild char (that’s a fish).
  • Have dancers dressed up as butlers, maids and chefs and performing to “Be Our Guest” from “Beauty & the Beast.” The dancers will present the dessert, an anniversary torte, at the end of the meal.  
  • Have a gymnastics group of 7- to 10-year-olds tumbling on the lawn and handing out gifts as guests stroll through the gardens.

The dinner costs $195 per person and reservations are a must. You can see the full menu here (the dinner also celebrates Erna’s affiliation with Relais & Chateaux, an organization of fine hotels and restaurants).

Fajita Fiesta is out, Papi’s is in

Fajita Fiesta is officially no longer with us. But don’t mourn them just yet. The family behind the restaurants is running two other restaurants in town.

To catch you up: Fajita Fiesta once had three locations — one on Shaw Avenue, another at Cedar and Nees avenues and the little one downtown that was open for 25 years. They’re all gone now. The Shaw Avenue one is now Guri’s GrubHouse, a farm-to-table gastropub that we’ve written lots and lots and lots about. The Cedar and Nees location closed in 2009 after 10 years (and then became Mateo’s and most recently Uncle’s Bar & Grill, which last week had an eviction notice on the door and a disconnected phone number).

The Fajita Fiesta at Van Ness Avenue and Divisadero Street is now Papi’s Mex Grill Express, with the same family running it. Owner Raul Gutierrez saw the changes happening downtown — new lofts and young people coming in — and decided to tweak his restaurant. Instead of the traditional sit-down meal with waiters and waitresses, the restaurant is now a faster-paced order-at-the-counter affair.

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New Grilled Chz restaurant open in northeast

Grilled cheese fans in northeast Fresno can get their melty goodness on at the newly opened Grilled Chz restaurant at Cedar and Herndon avenues. The restaurant opened last week at 7059 N. Cedar Ave., in the same shopping center as John’s Incredible Pizza. This location is technically a move, as the owners closed the Grilled Chz at Willow and Nees avenues, opting for a more high-profile location. (The Grilled Chz on West Shaw near West Avenue is still open.)

But enough about real estate. Let’s talk about the food. If you’re unfamiliar with Grilled Chz, the menu includes just about any kind of grilled cheese you can imagine, along with tomato soup, chili, fries and dessert sandwiches. The gooey sandwich pictured at right is the restaurant’s best seller: the “extreme grilled chz” with cheddar cheese, macaroni and cheese inside, along with caramelized onions and smoked bacon with cheddar crusted onto the outside of the bread. The restaurant’s “molten extravaganza” of double-cream French Brie, bacon, sliced almonds, and homemade fig paste got some attention from AAA’s magazine “Via” last spring. See the full menu here.

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New places to shop: Boot Barn, fun socks, etc.

If you feel like buying new clothes or shoes, several new stores to check out have opened recently. For years, the Clovis Boot Barn has been the only one around, but a Fresno location opened Tuesday. The store is at 3324 W. Shaw Ave., right next to Home Depot. If you’re not familiar with Boot Barn, it carries a lot more than boots. It’s work and casual wear for men, women and children and a small corner of home decor. For men, this includes fluorescent sweatshirts for people who work near traffic and heavy duty Carhartt coats. For women, there’s Miss Me jeans and sweatshirts that say “Cowgirl Tuff.” And of course, cowboy boots, right down to tiny child size 4 boots.

Fans of fun and funky socks have an expanded source of them now that Heart & Sole in Fig Garden Village has more than doubled in size. It’s a comfort shoe store first and foremost, and it expanded to carry more shoes. But it also upped its selection of socks with whimsical images of avocados, owls and Abraham Lincoln and one of Frida Kahlo that frequently sells out. These socks are a big deal. After running a short piece with a picture of the socks in Sunday’s paper, sock sales apparently “went crazy,” the owner tells me.

The first Stein Mart in Clovis opens Friday. This newly built store is at the Clovis Crossing Regional Shopping Center at Clovis and Herndon avenues. Stein Mart sells women’s and men’s clothing, home decor, shoes and linens. It has plus-size and petite departments. (A piece of trivia: The “Stein” in the store name was the founder’s last name and his grandson, Jay Stein, is the CEO today.)

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Guri’s GrubHouse offers farm-fresh food and craft beer

New restaurant Guri’s GrubHouse is open. This restaurant, at 1713 E. Shaw Ave. in the former Fajita Fiesta spot, is a farm-to-table gastropub. To find out more about what those terms mean, and all the creative dishes on the menu at Guri’s, check out my column about the place. Or, watch this video for an introduction to Guri’s. 

What do you want to open in Fig Garden Village?

Coldwater Creek in Fig Garden Village is officially a goner. The retailer closed all its stores after filing for bankruptcy and the going-out-business sale is over. That leaves a large and somewhat prominent space open in the shopping center for a new business to move into. The store sits on a corner deep in the shopping center between Banana Republic and Heart & Sole comfort shoes. There’s a for-rent sign in the window.

So, here’s where you come in. I’m curious about what you guys would like to see go into that space. Any particular retailer you’d get excited about seeing in there? Fig Garden doesn’t seem to be afraid to convert retail spaces to restaurants (as evidenced by the newly opened Jack’s Urban Eats) so feel free to suggest restaurants too.

Restaurant news: More good food to eat

Lots of restaurant news to share today. New restaurants are opening and existing restaurants are doing new things. Here’s a rundown of what’s happening in the Fresno food world.

Menchie’s frozen yogurt is scheduled to open the first of many shops in the Fresno area today. The shop is at 3090 W. Shaw Ave. in the same shopping center as Target next to Jimmy John’s. The grand opening celebration is Saturday and will feature free frozen yogurt, face painting, a balloon artist and other fun stuff. Expect to see a lot more of Menchie’s, as they’re planning to open shops in the Marketplace at El Paseo at Herndon Avenue and Highway 99, and in the Target shopping center at Herndon and Willow avenues.

Jack’s Urban Eats opened Monday. More on that and the deliciousness that is its urban fries here.

Frankie’s 568 in the Tower District has opened for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. This is the restaurant that opened last spring in the former Cafe Rousseau spot and is run by the family behind several of the DiCicco’s restaurants. The menu features pasta and pizza and you can see it online here. (Yes, you can eat penne alla vodka pasta at lunch.)

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New Jack’s Urban Eats restaurant is open

The new-to-Fresno Jack’s Urban Eats is open in Fig Garden Village. It’s a quick-service salads and sandwiches type of place, with some french fries that get rave reviews. Here’s my full column on Jack’s (which also includes news about Sequoia Brewing, Frankie’s 568 and Menchie’s). Below is video introduction to Jack’s.

Jack’s Urban Eats opens Monday

The much anticipated Jack’s Urban Eats restaurant in Fig Garden Village will open at 11 a.m. Monday. The restaurant is near White House Black Market. It’s the first in our market of a Sacramento-based chain that has 12 locations total, most of them in and around Sacramento . The restaurant is quick casual (kinda like Chipotle, but obviously not Mexican food) with a big range of food on the menu.

The restaurant’s owners describe it as hofbrau-style cuisine, and it includes all types of sandwiches and salads. There’s the Jack’s Classic, which comes with char-grilled tri-tip, oven-roasted turkey or chicken breast, along with banh mi (a Vietnamese sandwich with grilled steak, daikon, cilantro and a sriracha-lime mayo). Vegetarians can order any sandwich by subbing in grilled portabella mushrooms for the meat. You can get a side of fries, dinner salad or mashed potatoes. (I’ve eaten at the one in Sacramento and let me tell you, the side of mashed potatoes they gave me was huge.) Salads range from a steak salad to kale and quinoa salad and a build-your-own salad option. Meals range from $6.95 to $9.95.

But it’s the “Urban fries” that get the most attention.  This signature dish is french fries topped with spicy chili oil, blue cheese and chili flakes. Or, as one Yelp.com reviewer described it, her “favorite food everrrrrr.”

The restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday and Monday, and from 11  a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. It employs 30 people.

New place to shop: Revival 23

Pretty. That’s the best word to describe the newly opened Revival 23 in Old Town Clovis. The little shop is at 453 Pollasky Ave., inside the Dewitt building and across the breezeway from Lululemon. Everything in here is pretty: flowy, feminine tops hanging on rustic pallets, colorful refinished furniture, vintage wall decor and bottles of bubble bath displayed on shelves that are painted pink.

The shop carries a little bit of everything, including clothing, decor and lots of jewelry. Chunky statement necklaces – usually priced between $18 and $24 — are popular, along with pendants on long thin necklaces. Revival 23 carries a line  of candles, hand cream and bubble bath called Lollia. It’s a line that’s also carried at Anthropologie (though Revival 23 appears to have more of it), and that’s fitting because the store has an Anthropologie feel.

But unlike that retailer, Revival 23 carries vintage and repurposed furniture, including an old farmhouse table and repainted dressers dolled up with new knobs that look like little clocks. There’s picture frames that have been turned into chalkboards and signs that say “coffee” and “home” spelled out in old hinges, handles and other parts.

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Tower e’rth Shop goes from home decor to street art

A little shop in the Tower District has a lot going on. The e’rth Shop — formerly E’rth World Imports — at 816 E. Fern Ave. was bought by a new owner about eight months ago who as been transforming it ever since. Owner Victoria Pallares has been steadily replacing the home decor with two things: clothing and art by local street artists.

First, the clothes. The shop sells a lot of vintage T-shirts. Concert T-shirts and vintage sports T-shirts — like the 1980s Lakers shirts — sell especially well. There’s other clothing, including women’s too. A jewelry maker who goes by the name “Alien Girl” sells jewelry made from gemstones, such as turquoise rings and stones as pendants. The store also sells streetwear, including “Boy Fresno” T-shirts from FTK, which used to have a couple of shops in the Valley.

But what sets the store apart is its emphasis on local artists. These aren’t the type of artists you’ll find at upscale galleries. Most fall under the definition of “street artists,” and their modern style of art has a urban and graffiti-inspired feel. You’ll find bright paintings featuring Native Americans, an updated take on Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup images, and a cartoon-like spray can that does all sorts of things. Many artists don’t use their real name, in part because their art is printed on stickers that are slapped on buildings and elsewhere in a modern version of graffiti art.

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Capo’s restaurant to raise money for Harkenrider family

Update: This is one of those situations that restores your faith in the human race. Capo’s owner Cher Martin says the fundraiser was a big success, with 400 people dining in and many more getting take-out food. Here’s what she says about the total amount raised: “Several families handed over envelopes with cash. Those totaled approx $1,500. With our donation, the matching donation, a private $1,000 donor and money that is still coming in we raised approx $6,800 – $7,000.”

Capo’s restaurant is holding a fundraiser Tuesday, Aug. 26 to benefit the daughter and pregnant widow of Matthew Harkenrider. Harkenrider is the 26-year-old man who was killed in that tragic crash at Fresno Street and Herndon Avenue by a woman who is accused of running a red light while high on methamphetamine. Harkenrider’s twin brother, Eric, has worked at Giuseppe Gallo’s in Clovis — another restaurant owned by the Martin family who owns Capo’s — for over a year.

The fundraiser is at Capo’s from 4 p.m. to close Tuesday. Capo’s is in the Park Place shopping center at Palm and Nees avenues near GB3 in Fresno. (Note that the fundraiser is NOT at Giuseppe Gallo’s.) The restaurant will donate 20% of its gross sales from that time to a memorial fund at the Educational Employees Credit Union. Judging from the restaurant’s Facebook post about the event, the restaurant is going to get a big crowd, so make reservations. The donations will also come from takeout orders. Family friends of the Martins have pledged to match the restaurant’s donation.

If you can’t make the event,  you can donate directly to the memorial fund at any EECU branch. The account is under the name Matthew Harkenrider Memorial Account #11956007.