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.
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.)
A little shop in the Tower District has a lot going on. The e’rth Shop — formerly E’rth World Imports — at 816 E. Fern Ave. was bought by a new owner about eight months ago who as been transforming it ever since. Owner Victoria Pallares has been steadily replacing the home decor with two things: clothing and art by local street artists.
First, the clothes. The shop sells a lot of vintage T-shirts. Concert T-shirts and vintage sports T-shirts — like the 1980s Lakers shirts — sell especially well. There’s other clothing, including women’s too. A jewelry maker who goes by the name “Alien Girl” sells jewelry made from gemstones, such as turquoise rings and stones as pendants. The store also sells streetwear, including “Boy Fresno” T-shirts from FTK, which used to have a couple of shops in the Valley.
But what sets the store apart is its emphasis on local artists. These aren’t the type of artists you’ll find at upscale galleries. Most fall under the definition of “street artists,” and their modern style of art has a urban and graffiti-inspired feel. You’ll find bright paintings featuring Native Americans, an updated take on Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup images, and a cartoon-like spray can that does all sorts of things. Many artists don’t use their real name, in part because their art is printed on stickers that are slapped on buildings and elsewhere in a modern version of graffiti art.
Here’s something different for Fresno: A Mexican restaurant that is always vegan, has organic and non-genetically modified food whenever possible and has a mostly gluten-free menu. Flacos has opened inside Strummer’s in the Tower District. (If you need a reminder, Strummer’s is the former Starline at 833 E. Fern St. in the Tower District and the restaurant is in the half that used to be called Starline Grill.) Strummer’s is still Strummer’s and has the same bar service and loud music that the bar has always had. (You may remember Flacos tested out serving meals on Fridays back in March. Now it’s a permanent restaurant.)
Some of the dishes at Flacos use a meat substitute, such as the textured soy protein in the taquitos (it tastes like chicken). Other dishes don’t require any meat substitutes, such as the pozole or huarache — an organic corn tortilla with avocado, refried pinto beans (no lard in ‘em), rice, cilantro, onions, cabbage, radish and salsa. (Pictured at right is the banana leaf tamale with avocado salsa.) You can see the full menu online here. Owner Antonio Magaña owns a restaurant with the same name and menu in Berkeley.
After three years of sitting empty, it looks like the Blockbuster video store in the heart of Tower has a new tenant: Babylon Club. But it won’t be the same Babylon people are familiar with. Owner Tim Ferrigan is dropping the live music and stage part of the business and making it a billiards club with a bar. He’ll also change the name to Detention. If all goes as planned, it could still be four to six months before it opens. The business is still going through the conditional-use permit process with the city and has some major work to do in the building before it could open.
Babylon has been closed since late December, when thieves stole a half-inch copper water pipe from the roof. The resulting water damage — “It like it was it was raining inside,” the owner says — left the bar, walls and carpet destroyed. He said insurance would only cover about 25% of the cost of repairs. If he’s going to invest money into the building that he doesn’t own, Ferrigan said he’d rather it be in a place with more foot traffic, a good deal on a rent and a cooperative landlord.
Babylon needed the live music at its tucked-away lower level to survive, he said. But the foot traffic on Olive Avenue will allow the business to be successful without it, he said. Ferrigan bought the business when it was still Avalon and renamed it Babylon about 10 years ago. Oddly enough, he says the previous owner had originally planned to open the business in the Blockbuster spot, but it fell through. Keep reading for a letter that went out to neighbors with more details about his plans.
We all know to donate our good clothing to thrift shops, but what about the stuff that can’t possibly be sold — the stuff that’s stained or ripped? If you’re like me, you guiltily put it in the trash. So my inner environmentalist was happy to learn that Fresno has a recycling program for these types of clothes. I was doing an interview at Neighborhood Thrift at 353 Olive Ave., about their expansion into a new warehouse and it turns out the growth is because of its thriving clothing recycling program. Clothes that can’t be sold are packaged into 1,000-pound bales (you can see a video of the cool machine that does this here) by workers in a job-training program. Pillows, blankets, even puffy comforters are included too. They’re then sold to companies that turn them into carpet padding, insulation for car doors, oil filter and rags used by mechanics.
Neighborhood Recycling picks up unwanted clothing from 42 Valley thrift shops. You may want to call your favorite thrift shop to see if they do this type of recycling.
Update: The folks over at Goodwill have a similar program. Clothing there is recycled, but also sold to other thrift operations and overseas for people to wear. So any Goodwill donation spot can take your unwearable clothing too.
Angelo’s Drive In on Olive Avenue closed Thursday after 60 years in business. The burger joint is on the edge of what is slated to become the path of high-speed rail. The owners do not plan to reopen elsewhere.
You can read all the details about how much money the owners got and why they don’t plan to reopen here. The dismantling of the restaurants happened quickly. By about 3 p.m., while the kitchen was still serving, the big red “Angelo’s” letters were coming down. A crane took down the iconic sign that once stretched above the restaurant. It was sold to a local man who plans to restore it.
But yesterday most folks I talked to just wanted to reminisce about the long-time restaurant. Everyone I talked to yesterday had a different favorite, from the classic hamburger on a French roll to the chili dogs to fries with Thousand Island sauce. The drive in was a little slice of Americana that leaves lots of memories behind. Feel free to share yours in the comments.
Do you remember Cafe Rousseau in the Tower District that closed? It became the short-lived Bistro 566. Now it’s something new, this time with the family behind several DiCicco’s restaurants running the show. Frankie’s 568 opened quietly last Saturday. The Italian restaurant is a way of honoring Frank Vitucci — the father to Joanna Vitucci Lopez who runs three DiCicco’s restaurants and husband to Linda. Frank died in 2012. You can read more about him and the restaurant’s back story here.
Frankie’s 568′s menu is different than DiCicco’s, and includes pasta, steak, chicken Parmigiana and a few pizzas. There’s a “Frankie’s Special” on the menu: A petite filet Mignon, tender lamb ribs and an Italian sausage link. There’s also an appetizer dish Frank loved: Fresh ricotta served on toasted bread. Also, Rousseau’s wallpaper has come down and a mural of a scene in Italy went up.
The attached bar is now a separate business. Owner Pete Mejia ran both restaurant and bar under Bistro 566 and will continue to run the bar, which is now Bourbon & Taps. He also owns Tower Sports Club. The business will soon offer 40 bourbons — everything from Maker’s Mark to small-batch bourbons. By next week the place will have 19 craft beers on tap, including six or seven Tioga-Sequoia beers.
Last week, we announced the date for Nickfest 2014, the annual Tower District concert held in memory of local music enthusiast Nick Henebury. Now we have confirmation of the full line-up, which includes Owen (the solo-project from Chicago indie-rocker Mike Kinsella) and the pedal-core band Tera Melos.
Pedal-core is the term I coined for specifically for the band, which incorporates “experimental rock, ambient electronics and unconventional song structure” to create music that is “characterized by their quickly alternating time signatures, start-stop dynamics, two-handed tapping, extended open-ended bridges and the use of effect pedals and samplers.”
Lots of pedals and samplers.
Check out the festival’s full lineup, plus a video from Tera Melos, on the jump.
Gemma Wilcox has been a Rogue Festival regular since 2009, when she first brought her one-woman show “The Honeymoon Period is Officially Over” to Fresno audiences. It sold-out shows that first year, and she’s been a hit at the Rogue with subsequent shows since then.
The praise is well-deserved.
I’ve somehow missed Wilcox’s shows in my past Rogue journeys, so I made it a point to see her first show Saturday night at Cal Arts-Severance, where the London performer staged the 10th anniversary run of her “Honeymoon” show. I’m so glad I did. This show exceeded all my expectations, and they were high after reading the reviews of her past shows.
If you’re in the mood for live music with a good groove, then check out Bootstrap Circus (Band) at Neighborhood Thrift.
This Mariposa, Calif., band has a distinct sound that draws from the influences of ska, rock, folk, gospel and what I would call surf-rock. The four-piece band — guitar, bass, drums and violin — is melodic, energetic and down-right fun. And the playful wit of frontman Adam Burns doesn’t hurt, either.
This band is polished and has a genuine rapport. They have wonderful stage presence born from their warm connection with each other that draws in the audience. The set includes catchy songs such as “Mad,” about the fear of being locked in mental hospital, “Sunsets and Shooting Stars,” about a robot falling in love with a girl, and “The Rescue,” an instrumental that is the soundtrack to a movie the singer made for his wife (watch below). Between songs, there’s fun interplay between the band members and lots of stories about the music.
As you may recall, Fulton’s Folly Antique Collective in the Tower District closed last month after 32 years. The owner sold the building and the new owner is currently looking for a tenant. Yesterday rumors were flying around Facebook that a Dollar General was going to take over the space. Building owner and local businessman Troy Collins says they’re not true. “I haven’t talked to Dollar General. I haven’t talked to any of their representatives. … I don’t know anything about it.”
Collins is talking to several people interested in the space, mostly restaurant and bar types or other entertainment venues. But it begs the question: What would fit in that building? At 9,500 square feet, it’s a decent-sized space for the Tower District.
Collins is also thinking big about the neighborhood and its potential. “That [building] could be a catalyst to redevelop the Tower District,” he says. “If the right thing goes in there, it could really get things rolling.” He’d like to get an attraction that would be powerful enough to draw people from north Fresno and their spending. So, blog readers, what do you think? What would be a good fit for that space? And what — if anything — can accomplish Collins’ vision of revitalizing the Tower District?
I’m getting back on track with the 7 picks for 7 days feature, a list of fun things to do over the next week. This week’s version — picks for today through next Thursday — offer a variety of entertainment, from acclaimed movies to new TV shows, theater and music.
Fulton’s Folly Antique Collective in the Tower District is closing. The last day for the group of 35 antique vendors is Wednesday, when the store is open from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Lots of good sales going on right now (I was just down there and the place is hopping).
Before we get too morbid about losing this longtime business — it’s 32 years old — I suspect we have not seen the last of Fulton’s Folly or its vendors. Owner Joanne Peterman has sold the building. She says she may find a smaller place to run a similar business, or she may just retire. And even if she doesn’t reopen, many of these antique vendors are bound to pop up elsewhere. I’ll keep you updated on that. (And no word yet on plans for the current building.)
In the meantime, a place full of treasures like this brings up lots of memories. Do you have any? Any special gifts or finds? Feel free to share them in the comments sections. For me, it was the day I was browsing the store and stumbled across a gorgeous 1950s-style yellow, off-the-shoulder dress. It was one of those
Don’t get caught by the “whatcha doing on New Year’s?” question. There is an overload of events planned (big and small, formal and casual, chill and raging). Here’s an extensive (though no doubt incomplete) list.
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.
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.