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Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Swanky new wine bar opens in Tower

The new Cuvée Spirit & Wine Parlor looks more like something you’d stumble upon in San Francisco’s Union Square than in the Tower District. Swanky, I think, is the best word to describe it.

The new wine bar is at 1140 North Van Ness Ave., just south of Olive Avenue. The owners have put a lot of effort into making this spot look nothing like the Hungry Howie’s Pizza and the mixed-martial arts store it used to be.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, but as for the experience, expect modern lounge music soft enough to hear yourself talk and waitresses clad in black, skin-tight clothing.

It’s definitely a different vibe from the more down-to-earth Pinot Wine Bar down the street on Olive Avenue. Different wines too: Where Pinot carries wines from all over the world, Cuvée serves only wines from California and France.

There’s food too, with small plates and appetizers ranging from sweet potato fries to plates of cheese and chocolate. Their wine and food menus are online here.

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Two new hot dog restaurants open

Fresno’s next big food trend? The hot dog, at least if two new hot dog restaurants are any indication.

  • California Hot Dogs — or Cal Dogs for short — opened last month in the Dewitt Building at 543 Pollasky Ave. in the former Salsa’s location. (Salsa’s moved down the street to 410 Clovis Ave.)

Cal Dogs combines hot dogs with California history, and even has a mascot — Gus the Gold Miner.

All 20-plus hot dogs are named after California history. There’s the Hidalgo dog, for example, a hot dog served with enchilada sauce and jack cheese, wrapped in a tortilla and topped with chilies. It’s named after the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War in 1848. The menu is at left. Click on it to make it bigger.

Cal Dogs is run by the Taliaferro family, who also run Serenity Funeral Services — no connection between the businesses other than family, they stress. The family is confident this restaurant concept will work because they’ve done it before. About 27 years ago the family ran a similar restaurant in the Bay Area. It was successful, but with babies at home they put aside the restaurant to focus on family — until now. Now those babies — Ross and Chris Taliaferro — are running the restaurant.

Is Bentley’s closing the demise of River View?

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The news that Bentley’s is closing didn’t really surprise me. Joan had reported that the bistro closed and speculated about the future of the store.

Things seemed pretty shaky to me about a month ago when I visited Zen Spa, where I get my hair done, and realized only four stylists were left working there. It was kind of sad. I really noticed that foot traffic was way down in the center and there were a lot of empty parking spaces.

So, what happened? How did the RiverView shopping center go from the hot spot to this slow demise. Is it just the economy? With the former Flamenco restaurant space still vacant and Bentley’s getting out, it makes me wonder if the other stores and restaurants can make it. (I hear the Red Door may be out too? Anyone know for sure? The phone is disconnected.)

I brain-stormed today, trying to think what business could possibly fill the Bentley’s anchor spot in the center. All I can think of is Trader Joe’s, and I have a hard time believing they would add a third store in the area. It took what seemed like eons for the Clovis store to open. Anyone have a guess? Or a wish?

If I had to push for something different, maybe someone could open one of these restaurant/movie theater places.