Eating Out: Cafe Rousseau becomes Bistro 566, North India fallout, Train Depot on the move

The Fresno BeeJuly 8, 2013 

Firefighters clean up at the Train Depot restaurant.


Changes are coming to longtime Tower District restaurant Cafe Rousseau as a new owner takes over.

The restaurant will be renamed Bistro 566 — referring to the Olive Avenue address — and is scheduled to open for regular business Sunday.

The restaurant will keep much of its vibrant French country decor, but switch its menu to "new American comfort cuisine."

But this is not diner food, say the people behind the restaurant. Think more along the lines of lobster mac-and-cheese with a three-cheese garlic cream sauce. Individual servings of meat loaf cooked in cupcake tins, and crab cakes will be on the menu. For dessert, they'll be tiramisu or crème brûlée.

And it will all have an emphasis on local produce.

Owner Pete Mejia says prices will be kept affordable, with lunchtime prices topping out around $10.95 and dinner at $20.95 or so.

"You're going to get the original Rousseau, the thing that people loved about it — the quality, the plating ... it's just going to be California cuisine," Mejia said.

He's hired chef Arthur Pisor, a Reedley native who has worked as executive chef at Eagle Castle Winery and JUSTIN Winery, both in Paso Robles.

One thing that will be different is the bar.

When I visited, it was in the middle of an overhaul. But Mejia promises more of a lounge feel, with tables by the windows, and couches, comfy chairs and chandeliers in the rest of the bar.

It will carry 45 to 50 beers, including many craft beers. Happy hour will feature "five for $5," — $5 appetizers, $5 wines and $5 martinis.

You may know Mejia, who is the owner of Tower Sports Club and the former owner of Zapp's Park bar. He has worked at numerous local restaurants over the years.

Customers of Tower Sports will be able to order food from Bistro 566 and have it delivered.

Bistro 566 will hold an open house with menu sampling from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday and open for Sunday brunch the next day.

Blogosphere ablaze about North India closing

Last week's closure of North India Bar & Grill got a lot of folks talking on the blog.

To catch you up, the restaurant closed after five years in business and the building was sold. Between calls settling up accounts with his suppliers, owner Surinder Singh explained that he struggled to strike the right balance when it came to pleasing customers. Some people wanted authentic Indian food. Others found that food too strong or spicy.

Every day people would come into the restaurant saying they never had Indian food before, he said. He spent advertising dollars on radio ads trying to educate the public about the cuisine.

It was a marked difference from the 13 years he ran an Indian restaurant in San Francisco, where people lined up before it opened. He sold that restaurant and opened North India.

Here it's different, he said. People aren't that into Indian food, generally speaking, he said.

"It's more of a chain market than a mom and pop [market]," he said.

Restaurants are a gamble, Singh said, and this one didn't pay off.

Train Depot has a new home

Fans of Train Depot restaurant have been eagerly awaiting news of a reopening and here it is: The new restaurant will open in a month or two at the former Fresno Breakfast House space at 3045 E Ashlan Ave. near First Street.

The restaurant was destroyed in a fire in April. Owner Pat Escovedo originally had planned to reopen in the original spot on First Street just north of McKinley Avenue when the building was rebuilt. But, that's taking too long, she said.

Instead, the restaurant workers are frantically ripping up carpet and getting the new site ready for a reopening.

Escovedo has been collecting train memorabilia to return the restaurant to the dripping-in-train-decor style that it's known for. But, she has limited how many items she is collecting because customers have been telling her they're bringing in items they've found. She's leaving plenty of space for that.

If you're looking for a discount meal, check out Mimi's Cafe this Sunday.

The chain is celebrating its 35th anniversary and its French roots on Bastille Day with several dishes available at 1978 pricing. They include a French dip sandwich for $4.10, eggs Benedict for $3.95 and 45-cent muffins.


The columnist can be reached at (559) 441-6431, or @BethanyClough on Twitter. Read her blog on

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