New downtown lunch spots, coffee house

Home / New downtown lunch spots, coffee house

Bethany Clough The Fresno Bee
Originally published 2014-11-05

 

A fun new lunch place has opened on the Fulton Mall and there are a couple other little downtown spots that have been operating under the radar that I want to tell you about. First up is Take 3, the movie-themed burger joint that opened last week at 1230 Fulton Mall, two doors down from Antojitos restaurant and roughly across the mall from Peeve’s Public House.
 
You might want to take a look at the menu on Take 3’s Facebook page before you go, because when you walk in the door you’re going to want to stop and stare. The restaurant is covered in murals of movie characters – everyone from Edward Scissorhands to the dudes from “The Hangover.”
 
The art is by Migi85 Creations, Fresno-based freelance artists Jason Esquivel and Randy Mack. One of the restaurant’s owners, Desirae Washington-Reed, was elementary school pals with Esquivel.
 
And that connection makes perfect sense because this restaurant has roots that stretch deep into Fresno. Desirae and her father, Brian Washington, run Take 3, but when Desirae was little her dad ran Monster Burger on Elm Avenue near California Avenue.
 
Monster Burger was open from 1987 to 1994 and never really recovered after a fire. Washington moved on and became a general contractor, but he missed running a restaurant.
 
“It was in my blood,” he says. “I love the restaurant business.”
 
Some of his customers still remember Washington putting a fried egg on a burger and he still does that at Take 3. A hefty toppings menu also includes sauteéd mushrooms, avocado, pineapple, crumbled blue cheese, bacon, chili, a sliced beef hot dog and more. They’re still building the toppings menu and taking suggestions.
 
Burgers come in one-third pound patties for $4.75 or in double or triple form for more. Fried chicken sandwiches, jumbo hot dogs and milkshakes are also on the menu.
 
Customers can order ahead of time by phone or via the Leapset app on their smartphones.
 
Customers will find the chipper Desirae, 29, working the front counter. This job is a bit of a return to her roots for her, too. The Fresno State grad left her hometown to pursue songwriting and singing in Los Angeles, where she met her hip-hop producer husband. The couple moved to Memphis, Tenn., for a while, but Desirae said she felt Fresno pulling her home when she became pregnant with their first child.
 
“Fresno was always home, even though I’ve traveled to lots of places and lived lots of places,” she says.
Now she and her dad are preparing to open the restaurant and getting ready to welcome Desirae’s second child. Both are looking forward to the planned opening of the Fulton Mall to cars.
 
Brian Washington has been heavily involved in plans for the mall’s future. He says he thinks parking will be easier and he can better market the restaurant to the city as a whole when it’s open.
 
Or, as his daughter puts it: “He literally acts like a committee member when he’s at meetings. He’s besties with (all the downtown supporters) over there at Peeve’s.”
 
Details: Take 3 is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until 8 p.m. on Fridays. More info available on Take 3’s Facebook page or at (559) 489-0490.
 
Indian Heritage and Trendy Pasta
 
Last time I wrote about restaurants on the Fulton Mall, Indian Heritage Restaurant Express and Trendy Pasta Co. had just opened, technically on the little offshoot of Mariposa Mall.
 
Both are closed now. Indian Heritage has a “for lease” sign in the window and its Clovis location is closed, too, according to Yelp.com. The owners could not be reached for comment.
 
Trendy Pasta Co. is closed for now because one of the partners is sick. Co-owner Mike Cook is still running the catering business, but says he couldn’t manage the restaurant solo, so they stopped serving lunch two weeks ago.
 
Will they reopen it?
 
“I’m pretty sure we will,” he says. “I’m not sure it will be that location.”
 
Cafe Aroma
 
Cafe Aroma Coffee House opened downtown in late August and is another example of people making a deliberate effort to revitalize their neighborhood.
 
At 550 N. Fulton St., the coffee shop is part of a foreclosed apartment complex just north of Belmont Avenue that was remodeled into apartments and commercial spaces.
 
It serves all kinds of coffee and tea, lattes and espresso. There’s even a drink called “The Tony,” a cold iced sweet frothed coffee named after a barista from Seattle – they’re not sure of his last name – who helped create the drink menu.
A rotating menu features simple food, including breakfast burritos, sandwiches and muffins. There’s free wifi, too.
The neighborhood doesn’t have as much foot traffic as the other places, so Cafe Aroma holds events to draw people in. There’s minority women mixers, karaoke on the first and third Thursday of the month, with no alcohol out of respect for the AA meeting down the street.
 
And there’s “cultural Sundays” once a month that have included Ethiopian food in the past. Next up is a soul food dinner Nov. 15 with smothered pork chops, fried chicken and greens for $10. Call Sweet Bees Catering for tickets and more info at (559) 289-8048.
 
Cafe Aroma owner owner Julia Dudley-Najieb is also in the process of building out a studio for AMPTV, a production company specializing in African-American news and content, in Fultonia.
 
She, along with developer Terance Frazier of TFS Investments, who remodeled the building, want to revitalize the area.
“We want to cater to the community,” she says. “How can we change the ambiance of the community? How do we go into those blighted areas?”
 
Details: The coffee shop is open from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m Tuesday through Thursday and from 9 a.m to 2:30 p.m. Fridays. Information about events is available on its Facebook page or by calling (559) 353-2660.
 
Big D’s
 
Another downtown restaurant people are discovering is Big D’s Tri-tip, which opened in February in a funky-shaped brick building at 1950 E. Divisadero St., across the street from Community Regional Medical Center.
 
As the name implies, this place is all about tri-tip. The tri-tip is half smoked, half grilled with oak and cherry wood and made with the restaurant’s own secret barbecue sauce, says Darell Walterman.
 
He’s “Big D,” the owner, and left a high-pressure job in produce sales to run the restaurant with his wife, Cheri. Together they serve tri-tip sandwiches, tri-tip tacos, tri-tip Frito boats and pretty much tri-tip anything. There’s also deli sandwiches, including a vegetarian option and a popular pulled pork sandwich.
 
Details: Find them on Facebook or call (559) 268-2443.
 
Contact Bethany Clough: bclough@fresnobee.com, (559) 441-6431 or @BethanyClough on Twitter.

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