Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

New Tower District restaurant/bar

photo(69)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.

Nickfest 2014 announces full lineup, adds Owen, Tera Melos

nickfestLast 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.

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ROGUE REVIEW: The Honeymoon Period is Officially Over

Rogue Festival Poster 2014 by Tiffany Hurtado

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.

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ROGUE REVIEW: Bootstrap Circus (Band)

Rogue Festival Poster 2014 by Tiffany Hurtado

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.

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What should replace Fulton’s Folly? What could boost the Tower District?

photo(60)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?

7 picks for 7 days: Jan. 10-16

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 closing: What’s your best memory?

photo(60)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

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NYE overload! Concerts, parties, gatherings and more

NYEDon’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.

For a more detailed look at some best bets (as chosen by the Beehive staff) head over to The Fresno Bee.


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El Cochinito Contento to reopen soon

Chris Meat Market, El Cochinito, Buffalo Ranch 017Update: 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.

7 picks for 7 days

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.

Evo Bluestein family folk concert

foggycoverHere’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.

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Bandgeek!: Screaming Queens, Trails and Ways and a Girl in a Coma

1185734_592522900805632_836577651_nUnlike 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!


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Tonight: Jazz Hop


Tonight is Jazz Hop, FYI. I sometimes don’t give it the attention it deserves. So, here’s a quick rundown of where to go tonight.

Chuck Leonard talks about … Chuck Leonard

400870_3732302228335_258650263_nChuck 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.”

That’s how he sold his show “The Central Valley Buzz with Chuck Leonard,” to KAIL, where it will premiere Sept. 16. Leonard will be on from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m Monday through Friday and he is already billing it as the “biggest thing that’s ever been aired on local TV.”

He does this with complete sincerity, which tells you pretty much what you need to know.

Some other stuff:

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This N That “thriftique” opens second store

This & That 027This 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.

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Tower District says goodbye to Charlie of Tom’s Trains


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.

You can read the full story about him here.

But many of you knew him far better than me. What stories would you tell if you were writing this story? What will you remember most about him?

Remembering Eric Catlapp: update No. 2

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.

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Sad news in the Tower District – update

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

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.

New place to shop: Tsu Tsu Boutique

MARK CROSSE/THE FRESNO BEE Osry Tsudama poses at her Tsu Tsu Bou

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.

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Das Bierhaus beer seller opens

Das Bierhaus 019It’s like a Starbucks for craft beer.

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.

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Win tickets to the Fresno Film Festival

Homepage-Fest13-275x380The 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.

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Swanky new wine bar opens in Tower

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.

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Starline Grill may be latest local casualty

Starline Grill appears to be the latest business added to the list of recent closures.

Two employees confirmed today that the Tower District restaurant and bar is closed (not to be confused with Starline the club next door, which is still open).

It’s not clear why yet and the owner hasn’t returned our calls, but we’ll update you if he does.

Starline Grill first opened in 2006 as Lipari’s Italian Grill and quickly morphed into a late-night hangout spot, with the outdoor patio and bar a refuge for smokers.

It joins other recent closures, including Roe, Express and Iron Bird Cafe.

New plant potting shop opens in Tower

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.

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Five Things You Should Do This Weekend

Other than seeing our local “Voice” contestant Rudy Parris in Visalia or ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro at the Tower Theatre.

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?

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