There’s some cool new places in Fresno gearing up to open that I’m dying to tell you about. It’s a little too early to do a full newspaper column on some of them, but Beehive readers like to be in the know, so here’s a preview.
Richie’s Pizza & Hot Dogs. This Tower District restaurant should be opening any day now. It will sell pizza by the slice and whole pies, along with gourmet hot dogs. It’s in the space that used to be Scoop’s ice cream.
Goldstein’s Mortuary & Delicatessen. A few folks have seen this one on Facebook and said “what?!” This business with the tongue-in-cheek name is a craft beer bar in the work. “No bodies, no pastrami, just beer,” says Ephirman Bosse, who is behind the project. He used to own Fresno Brewing Company and is the bartender at Gazebo Gardens food truck nights.
Chili’s is building a new restaurant in the former Baker’s Square spot at 3585 W. Shaw Ave. near Marty Avenue. Chili’s isn’t talking, so don’t we don’t when the restaurant will be up and running, but the building permit confirms that it is a Chili’s being built.
Mardi Gras is coming and that means it’s time for gumbo. The 7th annual Gumbo Throwdown is from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Vineyard Farmers Market at Blackstone and Shaw avenues. For $10, you get to try gumbo from five local restaurants and vote on which one you think is the best. There’s some pretty talented chefs on the list this year. Check it out:
Leftover gumbo will be sold for $5 a bowl after voting is finished at around 11:30 a.m. More information here.
Zest 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.
Here’s something a little different for Clovis. The House of JuJu opened during the first week of December in Old Town, in the space formerly occupied by Salsa’s and California Hot Dogs at 453 Pollasky (in the Dewitt building with the breezeway). It’s a gourmet burger place that also sells hearty salads and wraps, along with local wine and beer. You’ll find burgers on the menu such as the “JuJu bleu” served with crispy bacon, caramelized onions and blue cheese. Or the “Dragon Lady” with teriyaki slaw, pickled onions and spicy garlic aioli.
The restaurant has an emphasis healthy eating, in part because co-owner Scott Glenn lost 120 pounds on a low-carb diet. That’s why you’ll find a “burger in a bowl” option, along with a lean bison burger and Mary’s all-natural chicken. There’s also no fryer. They serve fingerling potatoes instead of fries and their coleslaw is made with teriyaki sauce, not mayonnaise.
JuJu, by the way, is a nickname for co-owner Julie Glenn. It’s what her grandkids call her and as you can imagine, the restaurant is having all kinds of fun with the “good vibe” definition of the word. You can also find Clovis-based W Brewing’s 559 beers on tap at the restaurant. The family that owns House of JuJu is the same family that owns On The Edge coffee shop. You’ll see daughter Jaynae working at both places. My column Wednesday focuses on the Glenn family, who has a long history of running businesses in Clovis.
Yesterday’s shocker that World Sports Cafe has closed is still sinking in. The River Park bar and restaurant’s lease was up and owner and former San Francisco 49er Tim McDonald closed the business to focus on his new job as defensive backs coach with the New York Jets, his colleague said. The closure opens up a prime piece of Fresno real estate for something new.
As we learned with the survey River Park did for the Borders space — which clothing retailer H&M will take over — public input really does play a role in who gets that space. So, what would you like to see in the World Sports Cafe space? I’m sure we’ll get plenty of chains as answers, but don’t forget local businesses. Any you think could flourish there?
Kern Street has a new sushi restaurant, Umi Sushi. After its predecessor, Sushi Hana, shut down its spot across from the Fresno Convention Center several months ago, some sushi fans were quite bummed. But Umi has taken over that same spot and opened last week. The restaurant is a full-service sushi bar. One highlight, according to the owners: the “soft shell crab wonder,” with deep-fried crab, spicy tuna and cucumber. After learning that the Chinese chicken salad at Sushi Hana used to sell out, they made sure to put it on their menu. There’s also bento boxes, salads, soups and vegetarian rolls.
And you may recognize the sushi chefs behind the counter. Ketut Sutama and Wan Takian have worked together at Sushi Day and then Roll One for Mi. Co-owner Tracy Wayte (who is also Ketut’s wife) playfully calls them the “Odd Couple.” (Ketut’s cousin married a cousin of Wan’s, so technically, they’re family.) And don’t be surprised if they fix up something new based on what regular customers like. “They like to play with food,” Tracy says. “Sushi is art.”
The owners hope to have their beer and wine license soon. The restaurant is open 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and on Saturdays during special downtown events and performances.
Changes are happening at Pinot Wine Bar in the Tower District, including the addition of lunch. Taste Kitchen, the food side of the business led by chef Martin Franco, is now serving lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. Now you can get hamburgers, soups, salads, garlic fries and that grilled cheese royale with red wine onion jam.
Pinot also started opening at 4 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. and has expanded its beer selection. It now has six beers on tap and 20 bottled beers, including lots of craft beer and familiar ones such as Bud Light and Coors. Pinot has always had a full bar, but has recently hired a new bar manager who “knows everything there is to know about beer and spirits,” and is doing a lot more with cocktails, says owner Daniel Renteria.
It’s starting to sound more like a regular restaurant and bar, isn’t it? I asked Renteria about that and he said Pinot will always be a wine bar. That’s his passion. But like any business, they’re adjusting to serve customers. He noticed wine sales dropped off at 10 p.m., with people opting for beer and cocktails, so they beefed that up.
Pinot is also hosting the Tower Beer Run Jan. 25. It’s kinda like a wine walk, but with craft beer. The event starts on Pinot’s patio, where participants pay $1 for a small plastic beer glass and number to wear (like in a marathon or a run, get it?). Participants can then get a small glass of beer for $1 each at 10 participating bars and restaurants. Details here. Presumably there won’t be any actual running involved.
Update: It’s taking El Cochinito Contento longer than expected to get everything done. The restaurant announced on its Facebook page today that it will open the day after Christmas.
Fans of El Cochinito Contento — the Mexican restaurant at 88 E. Olive Ave. on the edge of the Tower District — are getting antsy about when the restaurant will reopen. But sit tight. It will be soon.
The restaurant is known for its good food and walls plastered with mariachi and beer posters. But it has been closed since early November when a car crashed into the corner of the restaurant. The official target reopening date is Dec. 19. But work is going faster than expected, so it may open earlier, says Vanessa Ortega, daughter of the owners.
The car apparently missed the turn. That tarp is covering up the damage. The car crashed through the patio fence — just moments after customers got up to pay and leave — and went into part of the kitchen during the dinner rush. You can imagine the mess a car hitting the sinks and the prep tables would make. It also caused a fire extinguisher to go off.
“It went all over the place,” Vanessa says of the extinguisher fluid. “It was everywhere. There was grease everywhere.” And in the middle of it all were a handful of shocked — but unharmed — kitchen workers stopped dead in their tracks staring at a car in their kitchen.
That said, the repairs are underway and I’ll keep you posted on when the restaurant reopens. El Cochinito Contento — Spanish for The Happy Pig (Piglet? Piggy? Help me out here Spanish speakers) — will have a grand opening celebration when it reopens and meal specials during the first week. For those you who speak Spanish, here’s an entertaining little video the owner posted on the Facebook page.
Westwoods BBQ & Spice Co. is open, the newest big restaurant to catch Fresno’s attention. The restaurant took over the former Claim Jumper space at Blackstone and Nees avenues. Despite opening just last week, this one was packed last weekend.
The restaurant is a modern twist on barbecue. The meat isn’t drenched in sauce and there’s salads on the menu (check out the food pics on the Facebook page). So far, the burnt ends brisket, which spends 12 hours in the smoker, is a popular seller, along with the fried chicken and tri-tip. The Westwoods pastry chef tried 200 recipes before perfecting her cornbread. The owner and his chefs came up with the menu after a three-week cross country trip trying every barbecue restaurant they could find.
The owner is top Fresno restauranteur Dave Fansler. He’s the guy who created Tahoe Joe’s, Pismo’s Coastal Grill and Yosemite Ranch restaurants. He’s poured millions into revamping the Westwoods space so that it looks nothing like Claim Jumper — as in, knock-down-walls, tear-out-a-fireplace and relocate-the-bar kind of renovations. The restaurant is an homage to Fresno County and its farmers, so you’ll find plenty of ag-inspired details. The windmill out front was rescued from a Sanger property and the wood ceiling made from old barn wood, for example. You can see more details in this video.
The restaurant is half quick service – where you order at a counter and are handed a pager – and half full service, where a waiter or waitress takes care of you. One interesting tidbit: That pager never buzzes or lights up. It connects to a magnet in the table and uses technology that allows the server to know exactly where your food needs to go so you don’t have to get up.
Photo: Fresno Bee photographer John Walker
If the thought of cooking fills you with dread — or you just don’t want to do all those dishes — local businesses have plenty of options for you. Many grocery stores and restaurants are selling premade Thanksgiving meals that you reheat at home. Read more about that here. Many local restaurants are open on Thanksgiving Day too. This is a popular day, so if you plan on going, you must have a reservation.
The Manhattan Steakhouse & Bar will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. They’ll be serving turkey, of course, but if you’re not a fan of the traditional Thanksgiving main dish, you can pick from filet Mignon, pistachio-crusted halibut, tender rosemary lamb rib-eye, grilled swordfish and prime rib. Prices range from $29 to $39, depending upon the dish. Each meal comes with Thanksgiving favorites, such as candied sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, dressing and green beans. You can see the whole menu here.
Plenty of other restaurants are open Thursday too, including the School House Restaurant & Tavern, the Elbow Room, Erna’s Elderberry House, several restaurants in and near Yosemite Nation Park, Mimi’s Cafe and Marie Callender’s. You can read about what they’re doing here.
The Downtown Club is reopen and you don’t need a membership to eat there now.
After closing in February due to falling membership and growing debt, new owners have reopened the Downtown Club restaurant at 2120 Kern St. It’s open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays.
Much of the restaurant looks exactly the same. It’s still got the bright and airy feel, and a quiet atmosphere perfect for talking business. The new owners have kept some of the old menu items, including the steak salad and the club sandwich. Some of the staff have been rehired too, including a chef of 35 years, and Karl, the smiling doorman and valet (whose shoe shine business has moved to the Patterson building on the mall, by the way).
What’s different? The prices have been lowered so most are between $11 and $14. And they’ve added some new dishes to the menu, including a popular grilled chicken fatoush salad, a salmon BLT and a Mediterranean veggie plate. The menu will continue to evolve. The bar isn’t open yet, but will be as soon as the business gets its liquor license.
This time around, it’s not a board of directors, but a group of investors running the show. Nick Farid — who will probably come by your table to chat if you eat there — is one of several partners who bought the building and the business. They also bought a struggling business in Selma and turned it into what is now Famous Shish Kebab. They bought a closed restaurant in Fowler and opened Kebab City there.
There’s another new business going in next door. Remember Mabel’s Kitchen? Her old location closed, but she’s gearing up to serve breakfast and lunch in the former Kern Street Coffee space. I’ll keep you updated on that one as she gets closer to opening.
Since tomorrow is Saturday — which is way too often known as sleep-in-and-be-so-lazy-that-you-go-out-to-breakfast day in our house — let’s talk about breakfast. Where is your favorite spot to get breakfast? And what do you get when you go there? Tell me in the comments.
I’ve got breakfast on the brain because Fresno has two new breakfast places that I’m writing about in next week’s column. You’ll see more in Wednesday’s paper, but here’s a quick rundown.
Lots of people were devastated when the Train Depot restaurant burned down to a pile of rubble in April, but the popular breakfast and lunch spot reopened earlier this week. Now the restaurant is at 3045 E Ashlan Ave. near First Street (a few doors down from the yummy Alla’s Armenian). The owner has brought back the train-inspired decor, complete with a toy train chugging around the top of the room past paintings of Fresno. They’ve recreated the ticket booth too. It’s open 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. More details on the restaurant’s Facebook page here.
Remember where the Batter Up Pancakes used to be on Figarden Drive? A new breakfast place has opened in the same spot (if you remember, that location closed, but Batter Up’s Cedar and Nees location is doing swimmingly, I hear). The Waffle Shop at 4025 W Figarden Dr. is owned by the same guy who owns the Waffle Shop on Blackstone Avenue near Gettysburg. It’s one of the 13 owned by the Sacramento owner.
As you can guess, it specializes in waffles: classic waffles, strawberry almond waffles, bacon waffles with bacon inside and on top, even gourmet waffles with strawberries and vanilla ice cream. There’s other breakfast and lunch dishes, including sandwiches, burgers and chicken-fried steak. It’s open 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.
So where will you be eating breakfast this weekend?
Dinner is served at the new Capo’s by Giuseppe Gallo’s. Photo by Bee photographer Eric Paul Zamora.
If you like trying out new restaurants, you’re in luck. Eight restaurants in the Fresno area are in the process of opening, many of them with big names behind them. Some have opened. Some are coming soon. You can read more about the perfect storm of events that has them all opening now in today’s front page story. But, if you just want to eat good food, here’s a run down of who’s opening.
Westwoods BBQ and Spice Co., 8042 N. Blackstone Ave.: The founder of Tahoe Joe’s, Pismo’s and Yosemite Ranch is overhauling the former Claim Jumper space in River Park. The menu will be a modern take on traditional barbecue, including dishes inspired by other parts of the country and world, as well as feature some lighter options. Half the restaurant will be quick service with customers ordering at a counter; half will be full service.
Look for a giant retro sign facing Highway 41 that reads “BBQ” with an arrow. “You will forget that Claim Jumper was even there,” restaurateur Dave Fansler says.
Tentatively opening before the holidays.
Downtown Club, 2120 Kern St.: The decades-old hot spot for the city’s movers and shakers closed in February, but restaurateur Nick Farid plans to reopen it. Farid also runs Famous Shish Kebab in Selma. The new restaurant will open Oct. 1.
He plans to rehire the cooks and create a budget-friendly menu with a mix of American, Mediterranean, Italian and Asian food. He will change the menu every three months.
Shenanigans, 6650 N. Cedar Ave.: This restaurant and bar will open in the former Fibber McGee’s spot near Herndon Avenue. Chef Paul Palomino, former owner of Palomino’s in the Tower District, is developing the menu for the lunch and dinner spot. One of Shenanigans owners is the owner of The Office 1560.
Remember the big empty space at Bullard and West avenues where Bentley’s Steaks Seafood and Ribs used to be? It’s not empty anymore. The High Sierra Grill House opened last week serving hamburgers, sandwiches, tri-tip and salads.
The restaurant is owned by the same people who own the four busy Yosemite Falls Cafe locations in Fresno and Clovis. They saw the space up for rent on the prominent corner and jumped at it, saying the area needs an affordable option.
High Sierra Grill has some some similarities to Yosemite Falls, namely the Sierra-inspired decor (though High Sierra is a bit more classy. There’s no silly stuffed bear animals here). But the menu is much smaller. And dining here is different. The restaurant offers quick service — where you order at a counter and they call out your number when the meal is ready — and sit-down dining for people who’d rather deal with a waiter or waitress. The quick service is popular for workday lunches, and modeled after the Dog House Grill. Below the jump you can see a video of Manny Perales, one of the owners, explaining the two dining options.
Remember Samba — the Brazilian restaurant in northwest Fresno that closed a while back? It has reopened with a twist in Fig Garden Village. It’s now Samba Global Cuisine and serves Brazilian food, Indian, Mediterranean, pizza and burgers.
The restaurant took over the old Belana space near Wayside Noodles. It opened quietly last month and chef Goldie Bedi is the new owner.
It’s got quite the multicultural menu. You can still get the leisurely rodizio dinner, where waiters bring skewers of meat to cut at your table for $34. But there’s also the rice dish biryani, filet Mignon, a Portuguese pizza, and a picanha burger. The picanha burger is the same Brazilian steak served in the rodizio dinner, but turned into a burger and topped with mozzarella cheese, grilled mushrooms and bell pepper. There’s a lunch buffet too.
And it’s worth checking out the restaurant just for the decor. A cloudy blue sky has been painted on the ceiling. Colored lights behind the full bar gradually change from fuchsia to green throughout the night. And if you celebrate a birthday here they not only sing for you, they bring out a virtual percussion section with drums and a tambourines. Keep reading to see some pics and the menu (click to enlarge).
Get your drink on, Clovis. BevMo! is coming. The big seller of beer, wine, spirits and everything else you need to have a party is coming to the Clovis Crossing Regional Shopping Center at Herndon and Clovis avenues, confirms Clovis Council Member Nathan Magsig.
And Chick-fil-A is coming to the same corner too, so you can get some chicken to go with your beer.
Both places are several months away from opening. BevMo! will open somewhere between Petco and Walmart (it’s not clear yet if that building under construction right now will house BevMo! or if it will go in a future building). Chick-fil-A will be built closer to Herndon Ave., between McDonald’s and Carl’s Jr. Construction hasn’t started yet on that (that’s the Denny’s that’s being built right now).
The BevMo! is kinda a big deal because until now it just had the one store in Fresno on North Blackstone. A lot of these big retailers like to plunk down one store in Fresno, say they’ve got the Fresno/Clovis market covered and if you think it’s too far to drive from Clovis, well, too bad, so sad. Apparently BevMo! wants your business, Clovis.
In addition to what’s already there, the center will also be getting a kebob restaurant, a Korean barbecue restaurant called Shila, Sally Beauty Supply, Pacific Dental, a nail salon, Wingstop, Kay Jewelers, Yum Yum Yogurt, Jamba Juice, Kirkland’s and a Kay Jewelers.
Some big changes are happening in the restaurant and bar world, so I figured it was time for an update of who’s coming and who’s going (or already gone, as the case may be).
Coming: Capo’s by Giuseppe Gallo’s will open at the former The Venue and Twist space at the Park Place shopping center at Palm and Nees avenues. This is the same Giuseppe Gallo’s Italian restaurant over at Willow and Nees in Clovis. That restaurant is busting at the seams and since it can’t expand where it is, the owners decided to add a second location in northwest Fresno. Capo’s is scheduled to open during the last week of August.
Gone (for now): Fresno Brewing Company closed last week. The coffee and craft beer hangout on the Fulton Mall attracted cyclists, downtown cheerleaders and generally hip people. The owner closed it for “personal reasons,” but a city official wants to reopen it soon serving meals. Read more about that here.
Coming: High Sierra Grill is taking over the space that Bentley’s left empty at Bullard and West avenues in the Pavilion West shopping center. This restaurant is owned by the same people who own the Yosemite Falls Cafe restaurants. The limited menu will serve tri-tip, sandwiches, burgers and salads. Half the restaurant is walk-up-and-order-and-wait-for-a-cashier-to-call-out-your-number quick service. The other half is sit down and be waited on. It’s scheduled to open Aug. 26.
As usual, I’ll keep you updated as the restaurants get closer to opening. You can find lots more local restaurant info in my weekly columns here.
The Triangle Drive In will open its second Fresno location, this one at the former Foster’s Freeze at Barstow Avenue and First Street.
If you’re not in the know, the Triangle Drive In is the 50-year-old burger stand on Belmont, just west of Roeding Park. You can still get a jumbo burger there for $3.55. (And there’s another location in Ivanhoe, too.) The restaurant has a following, with its loyal fans in other parts of the city making the trek to the restaurant about once a month, says manager and owner Zahi Saleh. They’ve been bugging him to open another location closer to them, he says.
The new location at 753 E. Barstow Ave. (which was most recently a Paisanos Pasta and is in the same center near Hoover High that Porky’s used to be in) won’t be up and running for at least another month. One interesting tidbit: It’s not on a triangle-shaped piece of property. The other two are, hence the name, which not everybody notices, Zahi says.
The new restaurant will be called Triangle Burger, has a drive-thru and will have the same retro feel as the original.
Sumtin’ Ta Eat is at its most basic a restaurant, but the new business has so many other labels you could slap on it: Christian lounge, dessert bar, internet cafe, comedy club, a place you can rent for meetings or special events of up to 300 people, a place to have your book club or Bible study or play or live musical performance, and, on Sundays, a place for Christian poetry readings, gospel karaoke and praise dancers worshiping the Lord. Whew!
The business has taken over the spot at 2039 Kern St. at Van Ness that has been home to Karma Ultra Lounge and Fagan’s Irish Pub (and quite a few others things in recent years).
The menu includes fried chicken, pork chops, fried fish and sides such as yams, black-eyed peas and — during its grand opening Wednesday — some darn tasty green beans I got to sample. The menu changes daily and though pigs feet may occasionally appear on the menu, it’s not always soul food, says owner Stephanie Mitchell. She recommends customers keep tabs on the Facebook page to see what’s featured that day. There’s a $7 lunch box special Monday through Thursday.
One unusual tidbit: She got the city to remove some of the parking meters in front of the restaurant. Customers can call in an order, drive up to the white zone in front 15 minutes later and an employee will bring the food out. The customer pays in cash or with plastic using a little attachment to a phone.
And if you’re not Christian, don’t worry, Mitchell says. They play gospel music, but “we don’t just come up and say ‘Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!’” she says.
The 58-year-old Elbow Room may look a little different next time you visit. It’s getting a face lift.
The restaurant is midway through its remodel and will not close for renovations. Instead, workers are rebuilding the bar and redoing the walls at night after the restaurant closes. It will all be done by early August.
One of the biggest changes? They added windows on the east wall. Yes, the dim, retro steak house-style restaurant is letting some light in. But, it’s not that much light. Elbow Room still has that dark, comforting feel owner Mike Shirinian is going for. He spent two years researching the look he wanted, one that appeals to both the hip 50 and 60-something regulars (60 is the new 50, Shirinian says) and 20-somethings who like the retro look.
You’ll soon see mahogany trim and a mahogany bar, a stainless steel wall near the pass-through window with a diamond pattern, and new booths, bar stools and carpet. (Some customers got to sign their names and leave messages on walls before they’re covered up with wainscoting or other material.) The Elbow Room’s trademark cat leaning on a martini glass will make an appearance in neon on the patio.
Some trivia for us youngsters: Even though the business is 58 years old, it hasn’t been in its current location all that time. It started on Palm, near McKinley in what Shirinian says is now a day care. It later moved to where the Lime Light is now and moved to its current spot in 1997.
Photo: Fresno Bee photographer Kurt Hegre.
The Valley has a five-star restaurant — Erna’s Elderberry House in Oakhurst — that’s on par with the Gary Danko restaurant in San Francisco and French Laundry near Napa. But I’m betting quite a few people out here dismiss Erna’s as being well out of their price range.
Starting tonight, the restaurant has a way to try out their award-winning food without breaking the bank. The wine cellar bar at the restaurant is offering a bar menu from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. nightly. Nothing on the menu is over $20 and most items are under $10. It features heavy appetizers, including three cheeseburger sliders, an organic chicken schnitzel, and a grilled cheese sandwich with Gruyere cheese and caramelized onions, among other items.
Casual dress is acceptable. The director of operations said they wanted to create a place where customers could unwind with a nice glass of wine or a cocktail, but in a nicer environment than the typical hole-in-the-wall bar.
The Train Depot restaurant burned in April. It will have a new home soon.
After a fire that destroyed the Train Depot restaurant in April, fans of the restaurant (and there are a lot of them) will be happy to know the restaurant will reopen in a new location. It will take over the former Fresno Breakfast House space on Ashlan Avenue near First Street.
But don’t go there yet. The owners have lots of work to do on the spot and won’t open for another month or two, says owner Pat Escovedo.
She had originally planned to reopen the popular breakfast and lunch spot after their building was rebuilt on First Street just north of McKinley. But with a projected opening date of May 2014, Escovedo said she just couldn’t wait that long. Rather than open somewhere temporarily, she decided to make the 3045 E. Ashlan Ave. spot a permanent home.
She’s been collecting train memorabilia to replace all that was lost in the fire. But she’s not collecting that much, she says, because she knows customers will be bringing in all sorts of items to decorate the restaurant.
The owner of North India Bar & Grill in Clovis has sold the building and closed the restaurant. The restaurant on Shaw Avenue closed Monday — the same day the building sold — and workers were hauling tables and kitchen equipment into moving trucks Tuesday.
Owner Surinder Singh said the 5-year-old restaurant struggled to strike the right balance between people who wanted authentic Indian food and people who thought that authentic food was too strong or spicy.
“People are not into Indian overall, generally speaking,” he said of the Fresno/Clovis area, noting that every day customers would come in saying they’d never had Indian food before. He spent advertising dollars on radio ads that tried to educate people about the food.
Singh said he ran an Indian restaurant in San Francisco for 13 years that had lines waiting for him to open every day before he sold it and opened the restaurant here.
“Here, it’s different,” he says. “It’s more of a chain market than a mom and pop market.”
Grilled Chz opens its second location Wednesday, this one on Shaw Avenue near West, next to the Starbucks. The restaurant is following in the footsteps of Chick-fil-A and every other new restaurant opening in town that had people lining up for food in the wee hours of the morning. Grilled Chz is giving away a free sandwich every day for a year to 20 people. But you’ve got to work for it.
One way you can win free grilled cheese is to line up at the restaurant Tuesday before 11 a.m. (They’ll actually be lining up behind the store. Can’t get between coffee lovers and their Starbucks.) Details here.
The other way you can do without leaving your basement. Like Grilled Chz’s page and then share the photo related to the contest on your own page. If your photo receives the most likes that day, you win. Details here.
For the rest of you who are willing to pay for our grilled cheese, you can check out the restaurant Wednesday when it opens. Or you can check out their existing location at Willow and Nees in Clovis.
Chef Zong Yi Liu and Jennifer Pan, one of the new investors in the business.
Fans of the popular Hunan Chinese Restaurant have been dying to know when the original location at Cedar and Herndon will reopen and now we have an answer: Saturday.
The restaurant has been closed for five months while new investors pumped fresh life into the place. (Hunan 2 at Herndon and Clovis has remained open.) A wall was knocked down in the dining room to expand it and the interior has been completely redone. The kitchen was also expanded and now has all new equipment, making Chef Zong Yi Liu very happy. The changes have allowed him to add new dishes and there’s now 168 entrees and appetizers to choose from. (Don’t worry, the popular butter cream prawns is still on the menu, but now there’s golden sand prawns, a saltier, less sweet version of the dish.)
Hunan also has an unusual new sister business, a furniture and art store. Heaven & Earth opens Saturday too, two doors down from the restaurant. It’s the first store in the U.S. run by the interior design and construction firm that owns it in Taiwan. It’s part store and part museum, with one-of-kind pieces such as the nearly 900-year-old stone goat selling for $95,000. There’s so many historical artifacts in the store that Hunan diners are encouraged to browse the store like museum before or after eating.
Keep scrolling for some pics of the store.