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Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Foie gras is back on Fresno-area restaurant menus

Update: One group dislikes foie gras and how it’s made so much that it canceled a reservation at Guri’s because it serves the delicacy. You can read the full story about the California Democratic Council canceling its meal for 100 people here.

Love it or loathe it, foie gras is back on Fresno-area restaurant menus. A ban on the fatty duck or goose liver was overturned by a judge in January and has steadily been making its way back on local menus (for some, it may have never really left, despite the ban).

Guri’s GrubHouse began promoting what it calls “Fresno’s most luxurious burger” last week. The foie gras burger has a patty made with 50% ground chuck and 50% bacon topped with seared foie gras, apple butter and pickled red onions. It’s served on a brioche bun from Max’s Artisan Breads. It costs $24. The burger is in limited supply to ensure freshness of ingredients. It’s pictured at right.

“It’s going to be ducking delicious,” Guri’s chef Megan Beck said in news release. The burger is her creation and Beck has been itching for the chance to return foie gras to the menu after serving it regularly at her previous restaurant, Urban Solace in San Diego.

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Celebrate St. Patrick’s day with Irish food and green drinks

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Irish or not, this is an excuse to eat some delicious Irish food — maybe even some green food — and drink some Guinness. Here’s a rundown of what restaurants in the area are serving in honor of the day. This is not a comprehensive list, so if you’ve got something to add, tell us in the comments.

Swiggs starts celebrating when the doors open at 11 a.m. with $1 Guinness. As part of the “Guinness waterfall,” the prices get higher as the day wears on. Details here. (And sorry, that delicious looking corned beef sandwich at right isn’t available locally. It’s a pic from photographer Andre J. Jackson of the Detroit Free Press.)

Of course a place called Irish O’Sullivan’s is celebrating St. Paddy’s Day today. They have an outdoor beer garden, a DJ and live music, specialty drinks and Irish nachos. See their menu here.

Shenanigans Irish Pub & Grill

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Fresno loves its barbecue, here’s one more restaurant serving it

I feel like all I write about lately is barbecue restaurants opening. Here’s one more. The latest Dickey’s Barbecue Pit opens in Clovis Thursday in a former Blockbuster at Herndon and Fowler avenues near Vons. This is the small, quick-service Texas-style barbecue joint (that means no tri-tip) that also has restaurants in the El Paseo shopping center, Tulare, Hanford, Visalia and Porterville.

In what Dickey’s folks are calling a “three day party,” they’ll be gift card giveaways on Thursday, a visit from “Mr. Dickey” as they call the chairman on Friday complete with $2 pulled pork sandwiches (that’s one at right), and more giveaways on Saturday.

If you’re burned out on Dickey’s, here’s some other happening barbecue restaurants in town:

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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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Kwirkworld closing, Hobby Lobby may be coming, more food and shopping news

One of Fresno’s quirkiest and most-loved stores is closing, but there’s news of a lots of openings in the works too. Here’s a rundown on what’s happening the shopping and eating world in Fresno and Clovis.

Closing: Kwirkworld. The River Park store known for novelties such as stick-on hipster mustaches and socks that say “bacon” is closing. Owner Kirk Psenner is returning to selling real estate. He said Wednesday: “When I look at the economic picture, it’s the difference between just skating by and going back to my passion that I was hugely successful at.” You can see the full story here and read the announcement Kwirkworld posted on its Facebook page here. The store will close sometime in March and is already having a sale.

Possibly opening: Hobby Lobby. The craft retailer that makes headlines for other things confirmed it is looking to open in Fresno. “We are actively looking for a location in Fresno but nothing has been signed as of yet,” says spokesman Vince Parker of Hobby Lobby Stores Inc.

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What’s your favorite appetizer in Fresno?

Restaurants are doing such innovative stuff with their menus lately, especially with appetizers. That’s a category that seems to attract a lot of creativity, plus it usually has lots of tasty fried stuff. I’ve seen kimchi fries at Little Leaf Bar, fried pickles at Westwoods, fries with jalapeno popper dip at the newly opened Bulldog Burger Bistro, and apparently the Vintage Press in Visalia is known for its wild mushrooms cooked in a cognac cream sauce and served on puff pastry.

So it got me thinking, what’s your favorite appetizer to get at a Fresno-area restaurant? Is it something new and different? Or is it an old standby, say, french fries, that are just really delicious? Whether fancy or down home, at an independently owned place or a chain restaurant, doesn’t matter, just let me know in the comments. This part is key though: tell me why you like it so much. We may feature a few beloved dishes in a story for print. 

Small bites of food news: dessert, vegan cheese, free pizza and free coffee

I’ve been bombarding you with news of new restaurants opening lately (see here, here or here), but sometimes the ones that have been around a while have news to share too. So here’s a smorgasbord (heh, see what I did there?) of food news at Fresno restaurants.

  • The Daily Grill has revamped its dessert menu, cutting back on prices and portions. The traditionally big desserts were a lot to stomach after a meal, so the north Fresno restaurant shrunk them. The prices also dropped from $10 to $13 down to the $6 to $7 range. A carrot cake bread pudding was added to the menu, which still features favorites such as a brownie sundae, Key lime pie, sugar-free cheesecake (that’s it at right) and a daily cobbler that’s currently made with strawberries and apples.
  • Pieology Pizzeria, the custom pizza chain that opened in Fig Garden Village in October, sent a press release to reporters today announcing it is introducing vegan cheese. It’s news that surely would have excited local vegans and the lactose intolerant, except for one problem: There won’t be any vegan cheese at the Fresno location. Fresno doesn’t appear on the list of 29 locations that will carry it. It doesn’t say why, but apparently Fresno is just not enough of a hotbed of veganism like, say, the Portland area or Southern California, which will have the cheese. 

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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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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?

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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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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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.

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 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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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.

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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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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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.

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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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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