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.
OK, so after taking off a couple weeks, I’m back with a new round of 7 picks for 7 days – a list of fun thing to do each day Friday, Nov. 15 through Thursday, Nov. 21. This week’s picks include a hot country band live at the Save Mart Center, a touring Broadway musical at Saroyan Theatre and this month’s silent movie at the Warnors Theatre.
Here’s one that almost slipped past my radar this week:
Longtime Fresno folk favorite Evo Bluestein is hosting a family folk concert (and CD release show), 3 p.m. Sunday at Mia Cuppa Caffe (what used to be the Revue). The album is 2-cd set titled “Foggy Mountain Top.” It’s a collection of 47 American folk songs with Evo accompanying himself on fiddle, banjo, dulcimer, mandolin, autoharp and guitar.
Tickets to the show are $5 (ordering a coffee or two would be nice). The two-cd set is $10.
When I say Evo has been playing in town a long time, I mean it. Check out this video of The Bluestein Family from 1979.
Unlike downtown grocery stores, when it comes to live music this weekend, I’ve got choices. Possibly too many. If you don’t believe me, look at this: It’s another installment of your weekend music roundup. It’s another BANDGEEEEK!
Chuck Leonard is Fresno’s ultimate pseudo-celebrity. He’s not a household name, but that doesn’t stop him from acting like it. It’s part of his charm. Like the time he lobbied to become Fresno’s favorite anchor, then demanded a recount when the vote didn’t go his way.
Or, how he refers to himself in the third person in interviews, even informal ones.
“You know what will put you on the map? Chuck Leonard will put you on the map.”
This N That Too — part boutique and part thrift shop — has opened in that funky brick stand-alone building on Olive Avenue near Palm.
The store carries a mix of clothing and accessories and furniture. There’s repainted tables and chairs, colorful sundresses and all kinds of decor items. A local man makes garden art from old rakes and shovels in the shape of peacocks and other animals. Co-owner Kirk Gallenkamp makes water fountains out of old sinks and planters. His wife and co-owner Kelly Gallenkamp offers in-home decorating services for free. The store sells all second-hand or handmade items, but is a step up from your typical thrift shop.
This N is second location for the owners, who opened This N That Thriftique at 842 N. Fulton St., also in the Tower District, in January. (And the new location on Olive is in the same space that Urban Up-Cycle left when it moved down the street to 564 E. Olive.) Customers of the This N That stores don’t overlap, the Gallenkamps say, so they don’t mind having two locations so close together. The family — the couple and their three teen kids who work at the stores — plans to move into the little house attached to the Olive Avenue store.
They plan to continue the “mimosa Sundays” and wine-tasting nights at the new store. The grand opening is from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. July 13, and will features sales and appetizers. Keep scrolling for some additional pictures of what they sell.
Tom’s Trains owner Charlie Worstell shows off a holiday-themed train in this Bee file photo from 1998 by John Walker.
I’ve only interacted with Charlie Worstell, the owner of Tom’s Trains, a few times, but when I heard that he died earlier this month, I knew I had to do a story about him. He is what makes the Tower District so unique. He was a colorful character — a talkative, cantankerous, goofy, intellectual character.
With his passing June 8 of lung cancer, many people lost a longtime friend. Even if you didn’t know him, you may have seen him holding court and telling stories on the patio at the Revue Cafe. Or you drove past his store on Van Ness Avenue and saw the long-haired guy sitting out front in a chair, reading a book and smoking a cigarette. That was Charlie.
UPDATES 5/30: I’ve added yet another update at the end of this post — this one an elegant, reflective piece by poet Michael Medrano. Plus: Fresno police have interviewed more than 30 people and received more than 25 tips about the slaying but have not identified any suspects or made any arrests, The Bee’s Eddie Jimenez reports.
UPDATE 5/28: I’ve added a moving tribute to Eric Catlapp posted over the weekend by Bryan Harley on his Facebook page. For those who missed the news, several hundred people gathered Sunday evening to remember Catlapp.
ORIGINAL POST: Our thoughts at the Beehive are with the family, friends and colleagues of local filmmaker Eric Catlapp, 32, who died early this morning. The attack on him in the Tower District is one of those senseless acts of violence that has you reaching for something to steady yourself as you contemplate the randomness and brevity of life.
We’re also thinking about the close-knit Tower District. Though not all the city’s cultural events take place there, there’s something special about the neighborhood — a vitality and creative spark — that makes it seem the cultural heart of Fresno. (I’ve always told people from all over Fresno they should treasure the Tower even if they don’t go there very often. Every vibrant bigger city needs the idea of a place like this. Without it, we’re just living in a big strip mall.) We have no doubt the Tower District will band together and overcome this brutal blow.
Tributes to Catlapp are being swapped all over local social media. Here’s an inspiring one posted on the Facebook page of the CMAC (Community Media Access Collaborative):
From the CMAC:
Today we learned that one of our kindest, most productive and helpful members, Eric Catlapp, passed away. Eric was so excited about video production that he recently purchased his own camera equipment and was seldom seen without at least one camera and often more. He was a fixture here at CMAC and could often be found hanging around talking with members about projects and new ideas.
Eric was always willing to help anyone who needed it and worked for hundreds of hours on his own and other members’ projects. He loved CMAC and was devoted to our mission and our members. We will miss him greatly.
Update 3:23 p.m.: The victim has been identified, The Bee reports:
The victim was identified by the Fresno County coroner as Eric Catlapp, 32.
Police say Catlapp was a member of The Hashtag, a 24-hour work center for local professionals in the 1200 block of North Wishon Avenue.
Original post 9:54 a.m.:
Photo by Jim Guy/The Fresno Bee
Sad news to report this morning: Police are investigating a fatal stabbing in the Tower District, which apparently happened on Wishon Row near the Hashtag. Here is a link to The Bee story, which doesn’t have many details at this point but should be updated today with more information.
I’ve seen a lot of longtime Beehive readers express concern, dismay and anger about the events in social media this morning. I too am saddened by this news. There’s no reason for such needless violence and my thoughts are with those affected by this crime. I really hope this doesn’t deter the business owners on this row who have really tried to make something nice for the people of Fresno, or keep people from visiting these businesses.
Owner Osry Tsudama at Tsu Tsu Boutique. Photo by Mark Crosse.
Tsu Tsu Boutique just celebrated its first anniversary, so it’s not exactly new, but I have a feeling some shoppers haven’t discovered this little consignment shop in the Tower District.
The store sells gently used women’s clothing, jewelry and handbags and is at 727 E. Olive Ave., next to Bobby Salazar’s. It’s similar in concept in Plato’s Closet, buying clothes outright from sellers and reselling them at a discount. Unlike Plato’s though, Tsu Tsu (pronounced “su su”) doesn’t focus on teeny boppers and tank tops. Instead, it sells clothing geared toward women their 20s, 30s and older. The clothes are trendy, but not too skin baring.
The boutique does lots of business in high-end jeans. Owner Osry Tsudama found there was a market for selling such jeans after shoppers who spent hundreds of dollars found they just didn’t fit right after the first wash. Brands such as True Religion, J Brand and bebe denim run between $35 and $59 at Tsu Tsu.
The store also sells used Coach handbags and other high-end purses. The jewelry sold at the store is new.
And shoppers will also find Osry’s collection of modified denim shorts. She dyes them, adds swaths of fabric, studs and other embellishments. Keep scrolling for more photos of what the boutique sells.
That’s how manager Saúl Aguilar describes Das Bierhaus, which is finally up and running in the Tower District, across the street from Spectrum Gallery.
“You can come in and drink it here, or you take it home,” he says of the beer sold at the bottle shop.
Das Bierhaus (yes, it means “the beer house” in German) has two coolers full of craft beer. Customers can pop open a cold one there for a $1 corkage fee (the department of alcoholic beverage control requires that) and drink it at one of the tables or bars. Or, they can buy bottles and take them home. A “build your own six pack” lets customers mix and match beers for $9.99.
The business specializes in craft beers and keeps prices low on local beers, including Riley’s and Tioga-Sequoia. Das Bierhaus gets lots of craft beer fans who have discovered something new on tap at places like Spokeasy or Fresno Brewing Company and come to Das Bierhaus looking to buy some to take home.
The bottle shop concept is new to the central San Joaquin Valley, but it’s one that’s becoming popular in larger cities. Because it’s not truly a bar, nor just a retail store (there will be beer on tap in the coming months, by the way) the business got a little tangled up in red tape before opening. But it’s here now and if you want to check it out, my former colleague Mike Oz is having an Ozmosis Happy Hour at the place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. tonight. More photos below.
The 9th Annual Fresno Film Festival kicks off tomorrow night at the Tower Theatre. The festival, presented by Fresno Filmworks, runs the full weekend, with five feature-film presentations, more than a dozen short-film screenings and a number of post-screening discussions and other fun stuff for all you cinephiles.
Our movie critic Rick Bentley screened two of the features (“Paris-Manhattan” and “Blancanieves”) and word around the office is they were stellar. You can read his reviews in tomorrow’s 7 Section.
In the mean time, we have tickets to festival to give out to couple Beehivers (that’s you). Because the festival starts tomorrow, this is a quickie. Leave a comment on this post. Tell us why your love Fresno Filmworks (or haven’t yet been introduced). We’ll pick two winners at random. Contest will close at 4 p.m. today and winners will be notified by email. NOTE: These are actual physical tickets, so winners will need to come down to The Bee’s front lobby by 5 p.m. tomorrow to pick them up.
No repeat entries, please. Check your email tonight to see if you’re the winner. Complete rules are on the jump.
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.
Janet Moos and Jason Kabeary run The Succulent Shack
An unusual shop has opened in the Tower District: A potting bar. No, it’s got nothing to do with marijuana, say the owners. The Succulent Shack focuses on potting plants, specifically small, fleshy succulents.
In the former Twee location at 1302 Wishon Ave., the business lets customers pick out a plant, pick out a pot and do the potting themselves, adding glass or stone top dressing.
There’s pots for sale by local artists and ones the owners make themselves. They also sell the finished product. Their “pot-a-sauruses” — a plastic dinosaurs painted and hollowed out to hold plants — are so popular they sold out.
They sell other items, like the Dirty Bird Birdhouses, birdhouses made from gourds grown by a Tulare County gourd farm. The Succulent Shack hosts potting parties for kids and adults too. Most plants cost $4.50 or less, depending on size, with pots ranging from $1.50 to $25 and potting fees ranging from $1.75 to $3.75.
1. DO SOMETHING HALLOWEEN-ISH
With that unfortunate Halloween-falling-on-a-Wednesday thing, this weekend promises to be full of slutty nurses roaming your neighborhood bar. We’ll be back with a full rundown of Halloween happenings, but here are a few top options. The party at The Standard is pretty big each year. King Sugar‘s Eureka Burger show makes the list off the flier alone — but they’ve got cool ska flavors too. And who doesn’t want to parade their dog around the Tower District?
Two cool things happening this Saturday night that you should start planning for now: this year’s third annual Zombie Pub Crawl in the Tower District and the new-look Sudz in the City, which has to the Fulton Mall and is now more focused on craft beer.
Here’s an interesting project for local theater folks:
J.J. Cobb of Eastern Connecticut State University, who directed a 2007 production of “Othello” at the Woodward Shakespeare Festival, returns to Fresno to put together a Site-Specific Theatre piece about the Tower District.
The grant I received to construct the piece was approved on very short notice, so I’m trying to get the word out as quickly as possible … Site-Specific Theatre is based on the concept that theatre can be constructed to illuminate how a location influences events. Over three weeks, members of the cast will help to devise the piece through site exploration, interviews, research, and movement. Rehearsals are M/W/F 7-10 p.m. Performance will be Monday, July 30th.
1. RE-LIVE THE KRZR DAYS Hard rockin’ Fresno radio station KRZR — which broke the hearts of local headbangers when it flipped formats a couple years ago — is the subject of a documentary that’s premiering Saturday night at Tower Theatre. It’s called “Long Live the Wild Hare,” and it looks at all the hijinks of the era plus puts the station’s legacy in context. Many of the old KRZR jocks will be at the premiere and afterparty. You can read more about the movie here. [Tickets]
For one night, in Fresno’s Tower District, the Jedi and the Sith put aside their differences and gathered for a common cause: a pub crawl! Yes, Friday night — ahem, May the Fourth Be With You — was the inaugural Star Wars Pub Crawl. If you’re like me and you missed it, The Bee’s Craig Kohlruss snapped some pics for your Monday perusal. The event’s beginning included a flash mob and proposal. View the entire gallery of photos here.
If you’ve got more pics to share — and I know you do, because I saw a bunch flying around the Internets — leave a link the comments
1. THE FORCE IS STRONG WITH THIS ONE I’ve been talking about it for a while, but it’s finally here: The Star Wars Pub Crawl in the Tower District to celebrate May 4 (aka May the Fourth Be With You). Ten different bars are in, with signature drinks, games and contests. The whole thing starts at 7:30 p.m. with a gathering of Jedis, Sith, wookies, etc., in the parking lot behind Livingstone’s. Read my column from The Bee for more info. [Info]
Get ready to tour the Tower District, sipping wine, tasting food and interacting with local businesses. Next Thursday, May 10, is the annual Taste & Toast of the Tower.
The event is billed as being like trick-or-treat for adults. We like that. We just hope nobody is handing out Necco Wafers. Here’s a little more from the Tower District’s website:
This is the Tower District’s incredible tasting event featuring four dozen sampling locations and 15 local wineries. Guests stroll throughout the Tower District enjoying tastes of all the exceptional offerings the Tower has to offer on a daily basis. Everything from chicken Caesar salad to cheesecake, Italian sausage to hot dog sliders, penne pasta to pastries, exotic teas to locally roasted coffee will be served up with warm, Tower hospitality. Tickets include a map of all the sampling locations throughout the Tower District. Just follow the map and sample to your heart’s content.
Tickets cost $20 and can be purchased at Tower staples such as Chicken Pie Shop, Sequoia Brewing, Livingstone’s, The Landmark, Irene’s Cafe and the Tower Theatre box office. The event runs 5:30-8:30 p.m.
TONIGHT:Mat Kearney is at Fulton 55. The show was sold out, but a few tickets opened up. No guarantees now. But good for you, Fresno, selling out the show. It’s just the start of a great week of live music. Keep reading.
I think I speak for every beer-drinking player of video games when I say it’s about time Fresno got a barcade. If you need help with that one: bar + arcade. All on the same page now? Sound great? Then make sure Spokeasy Public House is on your radar.
It’s a new bike-themed pub and arcade in the Tower District — at 1472 N. Van Ness Ave., specifically, just a block or so north of Audie’s Olympic. Spokeasy is big on two things: craft beer and retro gaming. Its “grand opening” is Saturday night, but Spokeasy has already been open evenings this week.
Co-owner Michael Unguez, who opened Spokeasy with Ben Kloos, says you can expect to see the bar open at 5 p.m. weekdays and 1 p.m. on the weekends. It closes at about 11 p.m. on weeknights and stays open later on the weekends.
Spokeasy is serving 12 beers right now, but hopes to have more than 50 eventually, Unquez says. Its early game selection includes a sit-down Galaga, Mortal Kombat and skee ball. There’s also bike-themed decor — like handmade wood tables with spokes embedded.