Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

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 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.

What do you think about dogs on restaurant patios?

Pooches will be soon be allowed on restaurant patios. A new state law signed last week legally allows people to bring their dogs to outdoor eating areas beginning Jan. 1. While there is plenty of rejoicing at this news (and far too many uses of the phrase “bone appetit”), I want to know what you think of this practice. Do you welcome it as a fun way to spend breakfast with Fido? Or does the thought of fur floating through the air and landing in your eggs Benedict gross you out? 

I’d also like you to help me out with a future column. Where have you seen dogs welcomed on patios in the Fresno/Clovis already? Or where have people tried to bring dogs? Are any restaurants in town particularly pet friendly? 

It’s worth noting that this new law is not a furry free-for-all. It comes with lots of rules, including:

- The dog must be on a leash or in a carrier.

- The dog cannot sit on a chair or bench (so that puppy in the picture is a no no).

- Utensils, condiments, etc. must be stored in enclosed containers when dogs are present (meaning fur shouldn’t mingle with forks).

- Employees who deal with food can’t pet dogs and if they do, they need to wash their hands.

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New place to eat: El TacoLicious

El TacoLicious is easy to spot in its Belmont Avenue neighborhood — it’s the only place around with a fresh paint job and a big new sign. The restaurant opened in January, taking over for El Unico, right next door to Aldo’s Nightclub. The first thing you notice when you walk into the restaurant, at 555 W. Belmont Ave., is the happy decor: lime green walls, clouds painted on the ceiling and stools that look like giant beer bottle caps from Pacifico and Modelo.

But it’s the food everybody cares about, right? El TacoLicious is fast-food Mexican, with a mix of authentic recipes and newfangled dishes. Nothing costs more than $6.25. The basic carne asada taco is the most popular, says owner Eddie Quintana, who also owns Aldo’s. And he duplicated his mom’s gordita recipe — a thin spongy dough that is briefly fried and then stuffed with meat, beans lettuce and pico de gallo.

But there’s also some delightfully funky new items on the menu, including a Cali burrito. It’s like a regular buritto, but it has french fries inside. Quintana tells me it was inspired by surfers in San Diego who were so hungry after a day of surfing that a regular burrito just wouldn’t cut it. There’s also asada fries on the menu, courtesy of his college-age daughter’s urging. These are like nachos, with meat, beans, jalapenos, guacamole and “lots and lots of cheese,” only with french fries instead of chips. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, until 3 a.m. Saturday through Monday mornings.

The Starbucks pumpkin spice latte is coming — eventually

In the world of Starbucks fans, the pumpkin spice latte is a really big deal. It’s a drink that’s only available for a limited time in the fall and always inspires lots of Facebook photos of Starbucks cups and nicely manicured nails. It even has its own abbreviation, PSL. Like some highly anticipated birth, the PSL is due to arrive any day now.

As far as I can tell, Sept. 2 is the official release date. But some stores will have it earlier. It appears the Starbucks marketing machine is capitalizing on the excitement surrounding the PSL with a little social media game. Customers who play the game can “unlock” the drink early for anyone ordering at their store.

So, to get the drink early, Starbucks is encouraging customers to follow @TheRealPSL Twitter account. The internet savvy latte started tweeting clues yesterday and will continue through Monday. Customers are encouraged to “work through the game challenges with the help of the PSL community.” Customers who correctly figure out the special password will unlock the PSL for the stores they visit, meaning anyone can order a PSL after that whether they have the password or not. The earliest this will happen is Tuesday. Still confused? Read this. And if you’re one of the truly dedicated who do this, please tell us in the comments which Fresno-area stores have the drink available early.

Mobile teppanyaki business brings the food and the show to you

File this one under “Hey, what a cool idea.” New mobile teppanyaki business Teppanyaki 2U started barely a month and a half ago but is already getting booked up. The Clovis-based business brings a 9-foot griddle and a teppanyaki chef to your backyard. Like teppanyaki restaurants, the chefs prepare food right in front of you with flair, including making “onion volcanoes” that spew fire (at right) and juggling rice bowls (keep scrolling for a video of Chef Jimmy juggling the rice bowls).

Personal trainer Eric Sunamoto got the idea for the business while taking a break at his 10-year-old daughter Kimora’s birthday party. He was thinking that buying and preparing the food was a lot of work and he should have hired a taco truck. His daughter loves teppanyaki and he then thought, “Man, I wish there was a teppanyaki place” that would deliver. The business idea was born.

Teppanyaki 2U charges a minimum of $300 for an event. Prices vary depending upon the number of people and whether you’re getting steak and lobster or chicken. The business can handle events as small as six people or as big as 150 people. You can see lots of pictures of the events on Facebook and on Instagram under the username @teppanyaki2u

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Autistic boy inspires local fashion line

Children’s clothing line Fly Kidz a has a new kiosk in Fresno and a sweet backstory. The kiosk selling boys and girls clothing opened about three weeks ago in front of the Disney store at Fashion Fair mall. The family-run company also has a store in Reedley at 1036 G St. and got its start selling urban streetwear for little boys.

The line was inspired by Ian Escoto, who was 4 years old when he was diagnosed with a severe form of autism: a rare genetic disorder in which a bit of a chromosome is missing. When he was getting 20 hours a week of therapy, designing T-shirts with his mom was used as a reward for completing therapy. Ian doesn’t talk, so he’d use hand motions to describe a breakdancer or headphones that he wanted on the shirts. Now 7 years old, Ian uses an iPad with a special app to communicate, pointing to pictures in the program. He still picks the colors of the shirts, but mostly now it’s mom and dad — Jacklyn Garcia-Escoto and Jose Escoto — choosing the images.

The family is in the process of forming a non-profit organization called A Puzzle Piece to My Heart. A puzzle piece appears on the clothing tags because “every child with autism has a different puzzle piece that has to be met,” says his mom. Eventually, a portion of sales will go to the nonprofit. The Escotos hope the money can be used to help other families afford iPads and the expensive app that Ian uses to communicate. Ian has made lots of progress since getting the iPad and has far fewer tantrums.

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Who’s coming, who’s going: A new Chick-fil-A and more

Lots of openings and closings to catch you up on today, starting with plans for a Chick-fil-A restaurant at Fashion Fair mall. The tire store outbuilding in front of the mall near Shaw Avenue and First Street will be torn down and rebuilt as a Chick-fil-A, says the mall spokeswoman. Work hasn’t even started yet, so it will be a while before it opens (that’s a file photo of the north Fresno location at right).

Also at Fashion Fair, Love Culture is closing. The national retailer is bankrupt and closing its stores. A going-out-of-business sale has already started. No word yet on when the store will close, but prices should continue to drop.

A store called Metal Mulisha will open Aug. 22 in the former No Fear space. This one is geared toward people living the “Motocross, BMX and X Games lifestyle.” It’s the same company that used to create Metal Mulisha branded merchandise for No Fear.

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And the winner of the taco throwdown is …

There was a clear winner at the fourth annual Taco Truck Throwdown at Chukchansi Park at the Grizzlies game last night: La Elegante. The restaurant that has two taco trucks won both the people’s choice award and the judge’s award. La Elegante also won the inaugural taco truck throwdown in 2011. 

If you want to check out this award-winning deliciousness, you can find La Elegante’s restaurant at 1423 Kern St. in downtown Fresno. The restaurant also has two trucks, one of which does special events and the other is often parked near Pick-A-Part near Maple and Muscat avenues in the afternoons. This is La Elegante’s 30th year in business, by the way.

If you ever doubted that Fresno is taco central, check out these stats: 13,845 people walked through the gates to watch the game or chow down on tacos. That’s the fourth-biggest attendance in Grizzlies history. At the throwdown, 27,000 tacos were sold, up from 21,500 last year. That is a lot of tacos. Keep reading to see the top five winners in both categories. If you attended, feel free to share in the comments about how it went and your favorite taco.

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Clovis yogurt shop introduces “shaved snow”

Shaved snow. Have you heard of it? I hadn’t either until last week. This nifty frozen dessert is kinda like shaved ice, but instead of ice, it’s made from a mixture of milk or cream and flavors such as strawberry or Nutella. The mixture is frozen solid into disk and then placed in a machine that slices off super-thin ribbons of deliciousness. It’s topped with fruit, nuts and other frozen yogurt bar toppings, such as drizzles of condensed milk or marshmallow cream.

The newly opened JoJo’s Frozen Yogurt at Ashlan and Fowler avenues in Clovis is selling the dessert ($3.95 for a small, which can easily be shared between two people, $5.95 for a large). Lollicup Coffee & Tea on Bullard Avenue near First Street has been selling its version, “snow fluff” for a while now. Apparently shaved snow is popular and trendy in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. JoJo’s owner Don Soyinthisane waited about half an hour to try it in L.A. before deciding to make it part of their business. It’s just starting to catch on in Fresno. JoJo’s has developed a following among local Asians who are spreading the word via social media and seeking out the purple taro flavor.

Other flavors include Nutella (I can vouch for this one’s yummyness), strawberry, chocolate, green tea, pineapple, cantaloupe and avocado. Shaved snow is a bit lighter and even a little less fatty than ice cream. The texture, though, is difficult to describe. It’s surprisingly creamy. Don likes to say that if ice cream and shaved ice had a baby, it would be shaved snow. Keep scrolling to see a video of how it’s made.

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Restaurant week in full swing

Restaurant Week

If you’re like me, you don’t need an excuse to eat out, but here’s a good one: Restaurant Week is happening right now. You can read more about it here and see all the participating restaurants here, but basically it’s a time when you can get good eats for a lower-than-normal price. The 26 participating restaurants are offering three-course dinners for $20, $30 or $40. A few are doing lunch for lower prices. Newly participating this year are Aria Persian Cuisine, Shepherd’s Inn, Frankie’s 568, HCK (Hermosa California Kitchen) and Peeve’s Public House. It goes until Aug. 15.

Most of the restaurants have their Restaurant Week menus on the website. A few don’t and a few oddly have listed their regular menus. That’s a bit of a head scratcher, because certainly some diners are making decisions based on the drool-worthy descriptions of menus that are specifically for Restaurant Week. (Surely, the “deluxe feast of BBQ” at Westwoods with tri-tip, St. Louis ribs and honey Q fried chicken strips is luring in a few customers, and if you ever wanted to try fried green tomatoes, you can do it at Trelio.) After chatting with the organizer, the best advice we can give if the Restaurant Week menu isn’t listed is to call the restaurant directly and ask them what they’re doing for Restaurant Week. (And you may want to make reservations. Lela’s Restaurant said on Facebook that it’s booking up fast.)

At any rate, the promotion is still a good way to try out a new restaurant or experience one that’s normally out of your budget, or even take a risk on a new dish at a restaurant you already know.

Favorite foods from the Fresno Food Expo

The Fresno Food Expo was yesterday, with 126 specialty food producers showing off their locally made food and drink. They were hoping to catch the attention of the more than 700 buyers who attended and market themselves to the more than 1,000 people who attended the public portion of the event in the evening. You can read all about the expo and see a video here. I spent the day bombing Instagram with food photos and of course, trying out the food. There were some standouts, so here’s a few of my favorites and where to get them. And if you attended the food expo, please feel free to share your favorites in the comments section.

The Sarah’s Harvest fresh green chickpea hummus, particularly the roasted garlic and rosemary, was hands down the best thing I tasted all day.  It also comes in cilantro and spicy jalapeno flavor, and original recipe. This is a brand new product made by Sanger chickpea seller Califresh, so new it’s not in stores yet. They’re hoping some of the contacts they made at the Food Expo will lead to it being on store shelves. For now, you can get it at Grizzlies games during the Farm Grown Friday farmers market inside the stadium on Aug. 1, 15 and 29. The company recommends keeping on eye on this website to find out where you can get it in the future.

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Stores and restaurants on the move: Who’s coming, who’s going

Lots of restaurant and retail news happening lately, so I figured it was time for a round up. Here’s what’s happening.

Lots of folks have been asking what’s happening at the former Fajita Fiesta on Shaw Avenue, just west of Cedar Avenue. It’s going to be Guri’s Grubhouse & Taps. It’s a gastropub (that means lots of craft beer and gourmet food) that the people who own Swigg’s are opening. You can read all about it here. No opening date released yet.

The long dead corner of Clinton and Weber will get a Vallarta Supermarket. The Hispanic grocer probably won’t open until the end of 2015, but it’s nice to finally have some action on the site of the former Mid-State Bowl.

The Elephant Lounge is open at 80 W. Shaw Ave. in Clovis in the former North India Bar & Grill. It quietly opened a few weeks ago to work out the kinks. The restaurants sells Indian food — both authentic and fusion — along with Italian and American. Stay tuned for more details on that from me.

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