Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Tailspin Tommy’s closes, new Mexican restaurants open

Tailspin Tommy’s Aerodrome Eatery has closed — but maybe not for long. The little cafe at Chandler Airport where you could eat a burger and watch small planes land and take off closed Friday. The owners, who both have full-time jobs outside the restaurant, said the restaurant rarely paid for itself and they ended up paying bills out of their own pockets. Once the staff — including the purple-haired worker who had a sweet goodbye on Facebook — got other jobs, they decided with a heavy heart to close it.

But, they are close to finalizing a deal with an owner-operator who may have an easier time keeping the place afloat. I’ll keep you updated on that. The restaurant has been Tailspin Tommy’s for about three years, but a restaurant much longer than that.

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Dan Deacon, Joyce Manor lead second Catacomb Party lineup announcement

The Catacomb Party kicks off the week by announcing the second batch of artists playing this year’s festival (April 4 on the Fulton Mall).

If you remember, the first announcement had its share of locals (with rapper Zee Will as the main draw), plus Fresno-by-proxy band The Stone Foxes and Chicago songwriter Tom Krell, who performs under the moniker How to Dress Well.

Here we get a few more mid-level touring acts (the critically acclaimed punk band Joyce Manor, Chilean songstress Maria Del Pilar and rapper K.Flay) and a few more from the local scene (shoegaze band Sleepover Disaster, rapper Cockamamie “Gentle” Jamie and the Americana group Richfield). Famed electronic indie-act Dan Deacon gets top billing this time around. Deacon’s live shows are renowned and seem like a perfect fit for the lively atmosphere Catacomb is looking to create.

All said, this lineup is shaping up to be stronger and more focused than 2013′s, which included Afrobeat legend Tony Allen, Fresno rapper Fashawn and local blues-rock duo Strange Vine (among dozen of others).

Check out a video of Deacon, plus the complete list of bands on the jump.

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Save the date: Catacomb Party 2015


The organizers of Fresno’s Catacomb Party staged two wildly successful downtown events; If you mark success by the mass of people who showed up on the Fulton Mall for a day’s worth of free music and festivities (and I do). Thousands showed up for last year’s party (despite the July heat) to watch 40 bands play over six stages.

After taking a year off to regroup and reorganize, Catacomb Party returns in spring of 2015.

While there’s been no official save-the-date announcement, and lineup decisions are still being made (band submissions ended yesterday), we now have a look at the festival’s new branding.

Notice the date up top, put in the calendar and circle it in red: April 4. You can still volunteer to help with the festival (through Jan. 1) or just keep up-to-date by signing up for the Catahomies Newsletter.

On the jump: Watch Gentle Jamie killing it (or himself) at last year’s party.

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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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Five Things You Should Do This Weekend


Pull your Raiders gear out of the closet and have some fun this weekend …

1. Lucha Xtreme, Battle for the Gold tour
Home-grown pro-wrestling. You and your friends have been doing your backyard matches all wrong.

2. Fresno Open Carry Guitar Day
Protecting your right to freely and openly strum.

3. Fresno Grizzlies Final Five
I’m looking at anyone who hasn’t made it to the Chuk at least once this season.

4. Fulton Mall 50th Year Celebration
The Fulton Mall opened to pedestrians 50 years ago Monday. See the mall before it’s turned back into a street.

5. Allan Holdsworth at the Painted Table
For guitar nerds, this guy is the real deal.

For music-specific events, be sure to click over to our weekly BANDEEK roundup.

4 new restaurants on the Fulton Mall — and one really entertaining restaurateur

EATING OUT 1There’s a flurry of restaurants opening on the Fulton Mall. Two are open so far: Trendy Pasta Company and Indian Heritage Restaurant Express. Two more are coming: Take 3 Burgers and another Casa de Tamales restaurant. You can read more about them in this week’s column.

But one restaurateur wins the prize for most entertaining: Mike Cook at Trendy Pasta Company. When you go in there, you’ll likely be greeted loudly and flamboyantly by Cook, possibly in Italian. He’s not the only one working there — his wife Rosalie works the counter and co-owner Matthew McComas is usually hiding in the kitchen (but that’s McComas’ gorgeous artwork on the walls). But it’s Cook who’s in charge of making sure customers have a good time. If they like him — in addition to his food — they’re more likely to come back, he figures. You can get a glimpse of Cook’s goofy personality, including him pulling my leg a little, in the video below.

Bacon, bacon and more bacon Monday

Food Herbal Breakfast BaconBaconpalooza will take over Peeve’s Public House Monday. There will be an all-bacon menu from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. starring dishes such as bacon ice cream with a white peach compote on top and something the chef calls  “bacon crack.”

The event is officially called Peeve’s Bacon Birthday and you can get more details here. Peeve is the dog that inspired the name for the downtown pub, restaurant and market and it’s the fourth anniversary of his adoption. So Peeve and his handlers figured they’d throw an all-bacon feast and then play Frisbee on the Fulton Mall.

But back to the bacon. Chef Sean Dunn has prepared a menu of bacon-related appetizers. There is a main course, but that’s a surprise, he says. They’ll also be a Spanish tortilla made from egg, bacon and potatoes with veggies such as fennel from KMK Farms. And of course, there will be the bacon crack. That is based on a dish from Commander’s Palace, the New Orleans restaurant where Emeril Lagasse was once executive chef. It’s bacon slathered in molasses and corn syrup before cooking and topped with toasted pecans. “It essentially becomes bacon candy,” Dunn says.

Five Things You Should Do This Weekend

award-logo-circle-WEBTake your bicycle out of the garage

1. Scoopys
Local students make indie films. A Bee hands out awards.

2. APCal Battle of the Bands
I’ll be performing as the late Bon Scott.
3. Food Trucks and Farm Fare
Food truck + farm-made food + artisan crafts = a no-pain way to help preserve the San Joaquin River.

4. Cinco de Mayo Festival
Come see the failure that is the Fulton Mall.

5. Free Comic Book Day
Let your inner 13-year-old run loose for the day.

Fulton Focus: Mall’s fate could soon be shown

fulton mallBoth sides of the Fulton Mall debate have kicked into full battle mode in advance of the city council’s vote Thursday night. The save-the-mall crowd hosted a rally/party Saturday in the mall’s free speech area.

Those who support opening the mall to traffic have gone on a social media blitz.

The debate revolves around whether the council should accept the city’s proposal to use a $16 million federal grant (and other matching funds) to reopen the main stretch of Fulton street to traffic (while updating the area’s worn infrastructure). Many (including Fresno mayor Ashley Swearengin) believe that an open street would fundamentally change the economics of downtown by creating more marketable commercial spaces. Others believe the mall is a precious piece of historic architecture (and art and design) and should be preserved as such (with much needed upgrades in infrastructure). Still others, council member Sal Quintero for example, question the cost of opening the full six blocks to traffic and wonder if a compromise could be made. Quintero says he will put forth his own alternative at Thursday council meeting; It would open to traffic just the north and south sections of the mall and leave the center to serve as a town square of sort.

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Planning commission supports cars on Fulton Mall … but we’ll await City Council’s judgment

In other Fresno governance news, the planning commission last night voted, 6-0, advising the City Council to certify an environmental report and designate the six-block-long stretch of the Fulton Mall as a street.

Those blocks are currently designated open space/pedestrian mall.

This is the latest in the debate on the ultimate fate of the mall and a step closer to seeing at least a portion of it opened to traffic. It did not come without debate. There are those who would like to see the mall kept intact (with needed improvements), though the likelihood of such action seems to be shrinking. Only two options will be presented to the council in the next few months and both involve streets and cars.

A third option, calling for preservation of the mall, seems to have disappeared altogether.

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New place to eat downtown: Holiday Inn’s Zest

JuJu and Zest 041Zest 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.

Peeve’s local market meets fundraising goal

peeveskickstarterI bet there’s some celebrating going on at Peeve’s Public House & Local Market right now. The business met its Kickstarter goal around lunchtime Friday, meaning it will move forward with opening Fresno’s first market carrying only local foods. The market is designed to be a showcase for Fresno foods and give a boost to its fledgling food businesses. You can read more about the plans here. Construction is scheduled to start Monday and the peeps at Peeve’s hope to have the market open by Nov. 24, just in time for Thanksgiving.

If Peeve’s didn’t reach its goal of raising $18,500 in pledges by Saturday, Kickstarter wouldn’t give them any of the money. As of Friday morning, it was still about $2,000 short. Fundraising on the page continues until Saturday afternoon (they’re at $19,106 as I write this). Any extra money raised will go toward paint and decor.

It’s been pretty cool to watch people proactively take on this cause without the folks at Peeve’s even asking. One customer pledged to get 10 people to donate $100 each. A taco night fundraiser by James Collier brought in lots of money and awareness. Raizana Teas held a fundraiser too. The sense of community and loyalty that surrounds Peeve’s is pretty impressive and it paid off today.

The Parking Grouch to Tehee: I won’t go downtown!


Bring up the topic of Fulton Mall, and from many Fresnans — particularly those who live in the far-out ‘burbs, where streets are paved with gold, birds chirp in extravagant gardens, and every pedestrian has taken a shower this morning — you get a knee-jerk reaction:

A big long whine about parking.

Somewhere along the line, many people in Fresno and the surrounding area decided that the most important thing about a city’s downtown is that it has acres of free, flat parking. Never mind that nearly all downtowns need some sort of way to regulate parking (otherwise the people that work there would take up all the spaces). And never mind that downtown Fresno actually has lots of easily accessible parking — and priced so inexpensively that it could give a San Francisco meter maid cardiac arrest. Just read recent letters to the editor. People seem to want their parking in big, Wal-Mart-style lots. And they want it free.

My Beehive colleague Josh Tehee, in his 7 section column last Friday, tackled the topic. In this matter we’re in complete agreement: Parking is a non-issue for the Fulton Mall. There’s plenty of it, and expecting it to be free is just silly.

In the spirit of a free-wheeling discussion, I called on an acquaintance of mine, The Parking Grouch, to put Josh through the paces. He readily agreed.

The Parking Grouch: Read your piece from Friday, Josh. Let me tell you a little story. I just got back from a quick shopping trip to one of those sporting goods stores that’s big enough to be its own county. I drove right up, grabbed a prime spot right in front after cutting off a little-old lady, and I walked into the store sweat-free. No walking for me! Even if I wanted to shop at the Fulton Mall, which I don’t, why would I want to drive down there and fight for parking?

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Peeve’s Public House is open

Peeves signPeeve’s Public House & Local Market officially opened Monday on Fulton Mall. You may remember my sneak preview post about the coffee shop/pub/restaurant/local market. What I didn’t talk much about in that post was the food that will be served for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

It’s “hyper local,” meaning as many things as possible are sourced locally. Peeve’s serves Lanna Coffee and Raizana teas. The smoothies served Monday, for example, have nectarines from the Masumoto family farm in Del Rey, kale from Kristina’s Natural Ranch Market and Fresno state grapes and watermelon. (And they plan to run with that hyper local emphasis even more, getting locally milled flour and T-shirts that are sewn here.)

Peeve’s will have a limited menu with very few options to choose from — say, a burger and a vegetarian option for dinner — but it will change almost daily. It will serve chilled soups in summer and hot soup in winter. A Fresno State sweet corn chowder was on the menu Monday. Peeve’s has hired Sean Dunn, formerly of Water 2 Wine and Love & Garlic catering, as its chef.

The guest chefs will be a highlight of Peeve’s. About every two weeks, a local chef will be invited in to serve dinner. Friday, it will be “The Dusty Family,” otherwise known as the Stewarts who run Dusty Buns. Seatings are at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and the three-course meal costs $35. Reserve a seat by emailing More on that here.

The public market portion of Peeve’s selling local food products will be open in about six weeks.

Fulton Focus: No simple culprit

In the coming months (and, likely, years — let’s hope it isn’t decades), we here at the Beehive will keep you updated on an important community flash-point topic: the Fulton Mall and the proposal to open it up to traffic. We’ll call it Fulton Focus.

In this morning’s Bee, there was an interesting letter to the editor on the issue. In response to the Page 1 headline “Federal grant is same as saying Fulton Mall was a mistake,” Mary Savala writes:

The feds made us do it? No. The fault for the demise of downtown and the failure of the Fulton Mall to revitalize downtown lies right in City Hall. The city of Fresno approved residential developments, shopping centers and strip malls one after the other in the 1960s, bleeding the lifeblood of downtown. And the city of Fresno never implemented a housing element in the ingredients for a vital downtown although recommended by the mall’s designer.

Don’t blame the federal government for bad local land-use policies. Let’s accept and learn from the mistakes that made Fresno sprawl and just about killed downtown instead of trying to pass the buck.

As the debate gears up on whether to open the Fulton Mall to traffic — and it will get intense, no question — I wholeheartedly agree with Savala’s contention that Fresno’s relentless embrace of sprawl had more to do with downtown’s woes than whether you could drive your car up Fulton St. (And that sprawl-love includes the latest baffling support for  a health-sciences university 20 miles from downtown, far from any existing infrastructure.) The Fulton Mall question is as complex as a decades-long issue involving quick-buck developers, pliant politicians and a car-worshiping culture can be. To make it into a black-and-white “it’s all because we yanked the cars out” argument is too simple.

Sneak preview of Peeve’s Public House

Peeves 025While lots of people are talking about potential plans to rip up the Fulton Mall for traffic, the sneak preview for one little piece of the mall — Peeve’s Public House & Local Market — happened last night.

I know lots of you were there, so feel free to add your impressions. In the meantime, here’s a little recap of how the business is shaping up. (As you may recall, Peeve’s takes over for the much beloved Fresno Brewing Company, which closed about a month ago.) Former city official Craig Scharton is planning to open the spot — he’s shooting for Sept. 16 — as a restaurant, bar and market selling locally made goods. Peeve, by the way, is his dog (“pet peeve” — get it?).

The dark pub feel has been brightened up a bit with some green and yellow paint. There are new wood benches and wainscoting made from salvaged wood.

Peeve’s will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with outside food providers coming in to serve the food. The food will be “hyper local,” meaning it comes from farmers markets and the like. The restaurateur behind Mabel’s Kitchen downtown (which has closed, sadly) will be providing breakfast, for example. Others are still being finalized. Guest chefs will come in about once every two weeks to serve a special dinner. The wide variety of craft beers will stay on the menu (check out that photo below, that’s a lot of beer).

The market in the little slice of building next door will carry locally made food, such as P*DE*Q‘s little Brazilian cheese bread balls and Ooh de Lolli‘s ice pops. A Kickstarter campaign will start soon to pay for the shelves, refrigerators and freezers.

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Upload: Flowing with Famous, Episode 18

Downtown Fresno saw two well-attended and super-cool events happen within one-month’s times. That’s the jumping off point for the latest episode of Flowing with Famous, the podcast for the Fresnophile in all of us. Once again I am joined by podcast guru Mike Seay.

Also of note: An old-school blog war, Fresno Brewing Company says goodbye and a new owner says hello, Sahab as the musician of the episode and more.

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Upload: Flowing with Famous, Episode 17

It was a big weekend down on the Fulton Mall, so it’s fitting that the latest episode of Flowing with Famous is heavy on the Fulton-Mall talk.

For those who don’t following along, Flowing with Famous, is a long-running Fresno-centric podcast, where I sit down with podcast guru Mike Seay to talk about the city’s culture, media, music and politics.

In the episode we talk about:

As always, slightly (or more than slightly) NSFW. With audio editing by Reid May.

To hear all that and more, stream or download now.

Flowing With Famous is also on iTunes and Stitcher for those that like listening options. Just search ‘em up and subscribe.

Gig review: Napoletano Tap Takeover@F.B.C.

Dovves@F.B.C. (photo from Matt Napoletano) Fresno Brewing Company has done a good job of establishing itself as a hub for the craft beer set (also as a more-than-decent music venue, but that’s a different post). For those who care about things like IBUs and ABV percentages, this is the place to go and last night was perfect case in point. The Napoletano brothers (Matt and Nick) took over for the evening and showed off some of their favorite brews, including some kind of super-special keg of Tioga-Sequia’s Sugar Pine Cocoa-Vanilla Porter. I had the Obsidian Stout from Deschutes Brewery.

There was also some music, fire-eating and general good times had.

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Saigon Deli opens, pays homage to Tommy’s Hamburgers

photo(25)The new Saigon Deli opened last week at 944 Fulton Mall, just north of Tulare Avenue. It’s a Vietnamese restaurant in the longtime Tommy’s Hamburgers spot with the wooden porch out front.

Tommy died last October in a drowning accident and the restaurant was closed. You can read his obit here.

The new folks have a menu full of Asian food like pho, noodle bowls, rice dishes, spring rolls, and banh mi — Vietnamese sandwiches.

Some of Tommy’s old customers requested the restaurant keep their favorite hamburgers and the family agreed. In addition to the regular menu, a “Tommy’s Classics” menu is up the wall, featuring all kinds of burgers. Chili cheese burger, anyone?

The restaurant doesn’t have a website yet, but is open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday (which means yes, they serve breakfast too). They are still figuring out their weekend hours. Here’s some photos from my recent experience there.

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Downtown ice rink opens Friday

The opening of the Fulton Mall ice rink has been postponed until Friday. It was supposed to open today, but something about ice not freezing at 80 degrees tripped things up.

The rink, a project of the Downtown Fresno Partnership, opens at 10 a.m. and runs through Jan. 13. To thank people for their patience, the first 100 in line at the opening get in free. Details here. The opening coincides with Mattie’s Mobile Wood Fired Pizza and Catering testing out a permanent location nearby at Mariposa Mall.

The downtown partnership folks have a sense of humor about the delay and posted this on their Facebook page:

Below are a few pics of the ice rink, which is at the Fulton Mall’s Mariposa Street intersection, in front of the old Security Bank building. Here’s a map.

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Sudz in the City: The Beehive Q & A

Sudz in the City is this Saturday and, if you’ve been paying attention you know this annual Fresno brew fest comes with plenty of changes this year. It changed seasons (from May to October), locations (from Chukchansi Park to Fulton Mall) and focuses (from the beer big boys to smaller microbrews).

The woman at the center of the Sudz switch is Kate Borders, the CEO of the Downtown Fresno Partnership. It’s her first Sudz since coming to Fresno to take her post last year. Re-tooling the popular annual event is another of the bold ideas she’s brought with her — ya know, like the downtown ice rink that’s opening soon or Over the Edge, which sent people rappelling down Fresno’s biggest building.

I wanted to ask Borders about the changes for Sudz, to get in her head a little bit. She was happy to oblige.

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Five Things You Should Do This Weekend

Other than helping clean up a river.

Strange Vine is my favorite band in Fresno right now. Fact is, they’re a lot of peoples’ favorite band right now. In fact, I gushed about them in the paper today and said they should totally open for The Black Keys (like that FB page, y’all!). But let’s focus on the now: Strange Vine is taking off for a quick tour through Texas and Nashville and up to NYC. Send them off Saturday night at Audie’s Olympic. Indie rock darlings of the moment Light Thieves are also playing. [More]


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Five Things You Should Do This Weekend

Besides singing “Don’t Drop that Baklava.”

You know how The Cellar Door in Visalia gets all those cool concerts? Well, organizers are saying tonight’s is the biggest one of the year. It’s with ’80s-inspired dance-pop act (and critical darling) Twin Shadow and the very groovy Poolside. In fact, I’ve heard people from L.A. and S.F. have been buying most of the advance tickets. Don’t miss out, local hipsters! Read this interview I did with Twin Shadow to get you ready. [Tickets]


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Mobile food feast CArthop begins today


Today Fresno welcomes another step forward in its growing mobile food culture. CArthop, a weekly gathering of mobile food vendors, debuts at 10 a.m. on the Fulton Mall. The event is a joint effort from Dusty Buns Bistro Bus and Fresno Brewing Co.

It’s not quite Fresno’s version of Off the Grid. Instead, CArthop focuses on local, organic food. There’s also live music and art, making it seem a bit like a smaller, food-focused version of the Catacomb Party that happened in July

Today’s vendors include Dusty Buns, of course, plus Casa De Tamales, Summertime Pies and Mattie’s Mobile Wood Fired Pizza. It’ll take place on the mall, outside Fresno Brewing Co., which is at 1243 Fulton Mall, just south of CVS.

The Bee’s Bethany Clough had a nice piece about CArthop in Wednesday’s paper. You can read the whole thing, but this part will tell you more about the motivation behind the event:

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