Do you want the good news or the bad news first?
The good news is there is construction popping up all over town that’s going to hold a slew of new restaurants – some pretty interesting ones, too.
The bad news is two of the area’s well-loved restaurants have closed.
Let’s start with the closures so I can cheer you up after with news of growing local restaurants and funky newcomers.
Thai Fusion Bar & Grill
First, Thai Fusion Bar & Grill at Willow and Herndon avenues in Clovis has closed. It happened pretty fast, with an announcement on its Facebook page Aug. 25 that it would close two days later with a goodbye party.
Why the 10-year-old restaurant closed isn’t exactly clear. The owner’s other restaurant, B&K Asian Kitchen, is still open. It’s in an older neighborhood on First Street near Olive Avenue but gets rave reviews on Yelp.com.
As for Thai Fusion, manager Patrick Kimball says we may not have seen the last of the place. He was cryptic, but hinted that we may be seeing more of the people or food at a new location someday.
Hunan Chinese Restaurant in Clovis has closed.
I can just hear the gasps of surprise emanating from readers across the city, but before you get too worried, note that it’s the newer Hunan that opened in 2012 in the Trading Post shopping center at Herndon and Clovis avenues that has closed.
The original location in Fresno, on the southeast corner of Cedar and Herndon in Fresno, is still open.
The Clovis shopping center with the closed restaurant has a new owner and is undergoing some major changes. More on that in a minute.
And now on to happier news.
In northwest Fresno, construction is going hot and heavy at The Marketplace at El Paseo, the shopping center at Highway 99 and Herndon Avenue.
It’s not work on Olive Garden’s second location yet (that I told you about in May) though that construction should start any day now.
Instead, the buildings will hold a Sleep Train mattress store, AAA and Chronic Tacos, confirmed Chris Shane, managing partner of Gryphon Capital that’s behind the center.
Chronic Tacos is definitely something different for Fresno. I’m tempted to call the Southern California company a Chipotle with an attitude, but that doesn’t do it justice.
What does: The founder of the company has “Taco life” tattooed below his knuckles. The restaurants are decorated in Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) themes with say, a skeleton in a sombrero playing a guitar. At one time, Chronic Taco’s most famous franchisees was Jason “Wee man” Acuña, a professional skater and star of the “Jackass” movies and TV series.
But when it comes to the food, Chronic Tacos is essentially a chain taco joint. Customers get to order their exact ingredients like they do at Chipotle for their tacos, burritos, tortas (sandwiches), taquitos, etc. The sauces and flavors are “much more unique,” Shane says.
There are more sit-down restaurants coming to the shopping center, especially between Target and Herndon, but the deals haven’t been finalized just yet.
“We’ve got a lot stuff cool going on, but I can’t talk about it,” Shane says.
Construction on the Krispy Kreme has finally moved past the moving-dirt-around stage.
The steel frame structure on Blackstone Avenue in front of Target at Bullard Avenue – just north of McDonalds – is probably the most salivated-over building in town because so many people are eagerly awaiting the glazed doughnuts that will come from its kitchen – once it has one.
The owner had anticipated a September opening date, but work is clearly behind schedule as it doesn’t have walls yet.
Now the company that owns this location of Krispy Kreme, WKS Restaurant Group, plans for it to be open by mid-November.
“It will certainly be before Thanksgiving,” says Lisa Hignite, WKS senior operations manager.
The nearly finished building next to it will hold a Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, a Jersey Mike’s Subs and a nail salon. It has space for one other business. Jersey Mike’s is slated to open in late autumn and others will probably open around then too.
Vino Grille & Spirits
Swing back over to the other side of town and there’s more construction underway just north of the Orchard Supply Hardware on Champlain Drive.
One of those buildings is the future home of Vino & Friends, which is in the same center as Orchard. The restaurant is expanding, both in size and in the delectable drinks and eats it will serve, says owner Chuck Van Fleet.
High-end whiskeys, scotch and bourbon will be available, along with cocktails made from them, and more meal options.
Wine will still be a mainstay, of course.
Because of the additions, the business’s name will change to Vino Grille & Spirits. It’s expected to open in January.
A GB3 gym and a dentist’s office are also going into the new center.
Remember the space that Hunan left behind at Clovis and Herndon avenues?
It already has a new renter planning to take it over: Rubio’s, the Mexican seafood place. Fresno has one in River Park and the new Clovis one is scheduled to open in January.
The developer is also breaking ground on what will be two buildings in the shopping center closer to Herndon. One of them will be a Pieology pizzeria.
And one more restaurant that’s not here yet that wants to be, Potbelly Sandwich Shop.
The Chicago-based neighborhood sandwich shop is looking for places to open and franchisees to run restaurants in California, says Rick Fossali, the senior director of domestic franchising. Specifically, the company is looking in Fresno and surrounding cities. This is a long-term plan and, even if all goes swimmingly, we might not see a shop until 2018.
Potbelly serves toasted sandwiches and often has live music.
“During the day you’re going to have a live musician sitting there with a guitar singing some songs,” he says. “It’s a cool environment.”