FresnoBeehive.com

Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

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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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.

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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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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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.

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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Cracked Pepper Bistro moves to new spot

IMG_7127Cracked Pepper Bistro, which has a reputation for being one of the best restaurants in town, has moved to its new location in northwest Fresno. It’s at 6737 N. Palm Ave. near Herndon Avenue in the North Pointe Shopping Center (which is having a little revival of its own, now that Rue Cafe and Parma are there, along with By the Sea and Club Habanos). Cracked Pepper opened in its new digs Tuesday, taking over part of the space that Samba left behind when it moved. Owner and chef Vatche Moukhtarian says the move was mostly driven by behind-the-scenes difficulties (employees sardined into a too-small kitchen, for example) along with not enough parking. Here’s what you need to know about the new place.

It has a bar now. And that means all kinds of new “culinary cocktails” on the menu. The cocktails have fresh vegetables and fresh-squeezed fruit juices. The Palm 67 cocktail, for example, has vodka, lime, sugar, cucumber and mint. The Honeysuckle cocktail has fresh Fresno chiles in it.

Diners pass the wine cellar — actually a room with a glass door — on their way to the restrooms. The staff is really excited about this room stacked floor-to-ceiling with wine bottles. Before, wine storage was spread out over four or five locations, causing wait staff to go on a bit of a hunt to find your wine.

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