Ok. So here is what I tried to accomplish with these first few posts – to cover the basics of the Fresno scene from a musician’s perspective. I know I left a ton of stuff out – like more info about the other venues in town besides Tokyo Garden ( Starline, Club Fred, anything else left these days? ) and the other bands in town besides the three defunct ones I mentioned and Brian Kenney Fresno (there are lots ). So if there is something really important that I forgot to mention and you feel like telling me, or leaving a comment about it, you should.
Hopefully I will come back and spend some more time writing about Fresno later this year.
The last thing I want to cover before I move on is a brief list of some of my favorite spots to take my musician friends to eat while they are in Fresno. There are a few prerequisites for a place to be considered...
1) Relatively close to the 99 or 180 freeways. There is no point in recommending someplace up on Champlain and Perrin, or even Fig Garden Village, as the drive from the freeway for most visitors is too long and confusing.
2) It should be affordable. Not necessarily cheap, but affordable. Under $10 for sure.
3) It should have regular, if not late night, hours and it can’t be a super corporate fast food chain like KFC or Taco Bell. Regional chains are cool.
4) It has to be pretty good.
So, for Fresno I’ll throw 3 of my favorite options. They will probably seem like old hat for most of the Fresno kids who seem to be the ones reading the blog regularly so far, but for people not from our little town, and wandering Fresno late at night, our advice could prove helpful. If you have any other recommendations, please add them in the comments.
Million Elephant – Thai
The thing about Million Elephant that makes it so attractive for a band is that the menu has a ton of options. There are a number of vegetarian options, savory meat dishes and little appetizers that can fit into the budget of almost everyone. It is open late. It is family run. And it is a civilized restaurant on a main drag where you can sit back and enjoy a meal and not feel like someone may attack you or steal your van at any moment.
I noticed that they recently changed their hours, but on weekends I think they are still open until 3am. So a touring band can get off after even a late show and still get a table and dinner at a place that isn’t Denny’s. I would recommend the Phad Si Ew. It is a tasty, spicy and filling noodle dish. Most entrees cost just under $10 and they have a number of seafood and specialty options that are pricier. This is NOT my favorite Thai place in Fresno ( B & K on First reserves that dubious honor ), but their late night hours and consistent service make it an easy recommendation.
The Million Elephant Cafe and Bar
1153 N Fulton St
Fresno, CA 93728
Robertito’s – Mexican
This is not the first place I’d recommend to people with sensitive stomachs or vegetarian members in their band. I would hazard a guess that absolutely nothing you purchase here is strictly vegetarian. But it is one of the better late night taco shops that are located downtown ( that you probably won’t get shot at ). There are two restaurants within a block of each other just off the downtown grid : the Abby location and the Tuolumne location. The above pic is from somebody’s midnight adventure to a Robertito’s in Oceanside – but you get the idea of what the place looks like.
In Fresno, I prefer the Tuolumne location, because it is a walk up sort of thing. You park your van, walk up to the window and order. It affords you that last, “…Let’s get of the van and walk around a little…” break before you hit the road or the hotel. Plus you don’t have to hassle for ordering for the other passengers via a drive-thru window. My favorite item to order, and a Fresno classic, is the California Burrito, which is a combination of steak, potatoes, salsa and cheese wrapped up in a tortilla. So good. Sometimes painful. Well worth it. This place is open late. Maybe 24 hours? I have never seen it closed.
Robertito's Taco Shop
2623 Tuolumne St
Fresno, CA 93721
Al’s Café – Diner
Al’s Café is not open late for dinner unfortunately, but its location makes it the ideal place to grab a breakfast or brunch on the way out of town. It is located just off the 99 freeway on Olive and is home to some of the best hamburger steak, enchiladas and biscuits in the world. You heard me right. This little culinary gem, located in the remains of a Wendy’s, serves a crossover menu of some of the best Mexican food as well as some of those Caucasian favorites like biscuits and gravy.
You can eat veggie here, though vegan would be tough. But if you’re one of those veggies who likes to splurge every once in awhile, this would be the place to cut loose at. Fresno is blessed with a wealth of good Mexican food, and while Al’s isn’t my favorite, everything they prepare has such a down-hone style to it, that it is always delicious and comforting even if it doesn’t taste exactly the same way “mom made it”.
They don’t take cards here and their little ATM machine is a total rip-off. So bring cash.
This would be the perfect band brunch spot if they served alcohol. But they don’t. But even considering that flaw, they’re still a 99 out of 100.
1823 W Olive Ave
Fresno, CA 93728