Eating Out: Try something new for Fresno Restaurant Week

The Fresno BeeJuly 29, 2013 

TACO TRUCK THROWDOWN CHUKCHANSI

Tim Dunbar, a Grizzlies season ticket holder, chows down on a chile verde taco before the game during the Central California Taco Truck Throwdown 2 held at Chukchansi Park on Thursday evening, August 30, 2012 in Fresno.

(ERIC PAUL ZAMORA/THE FRESNO BEE)

Fresno Restaurant Week is happening now through Aug. 9, and I have a challenge for you: Go.

Grab your partner or a group of friends, pick a restaurant you've never been to from the fresnorestaurantweek.com website and go. The restaurants feature fixed-priced menus — you can browse them online — ranging from $10 to $20 for lunch and $20 to $40 for dinner. The lunch option is new this year.

If you're up for even more of a challenge, make it a point to go to a local new-to-you restaurant every month.

Some friends and I have been doing just that since last October and it has been one of the most fun and eye-opening experiences.

It started when friends Barbara Coy-Hogan and Jonathon Hogan found they were getting multiple dinner invitations per month. (Apparently that's how we socialize in our 30s; we ditch the bars and get our friend time in over food instead.)

That was a bit of a strain on the wallet, so they proposed a dinner club, where a group of us would get together once a month for dinner someplace new or different. And since our economy gets a bigger boost when our money goes to a locally owned restaurant, we decided to keep it local.

It's been a blast.

The best part about it is how it's opened our eyes to new places we probably wouldn't have gone to on our own, such as Rudy Jr.'s Chicken Man at Hughes and Weber avenues.

The restaurant has been around for 47 years, but few of us had been there.

The best thing about this place? The husky-voiced waitress who teases you if you don't order chicken and who bluntly asked, "Are you all by yourself?" when the single folks asked to be on their own check.

Though I'd been to Vino & Friends at Champlain Drive and Shepherd Avenue before, I never would have dragged myself across town at 10 a.m. for their brunch unless I was meeting friends. And I would have missed out on the amazing French toast with strawberry zinfandel sauce (and they have mimosas, too).

And last month it was murder-mystery dinner theater at Organic Fresno, where for $25, you get a four-course meal and an evening of entertainment. You also get to see restaurant owner Tara Hamilton double as a comedian with her role in the show.

Sometimes the best part isn't even the food, it's the reconnecting with the friends of friends you don't get to see very often.

If you do this, make a reservation. For us, weeknights worked better because we were less likely to have scheduling conflicts.

Same goes for Fresno Restaurant Week. Trelio was nearly booked up last week.

The promotion is a great way to try out a restaurant that might otherwise be out of your budget, such as Trelio's $40 meal or the $30 meal at Max's Bistro that includes a steak, among other options.

There are 17 other local restaurants participating in Restaurant Week, many with even more affordable options. You might just find your new favorite restaurant.

Details: FresnoRestaurantWeek.com.

Taco Throwdown

Every time I write about a food truck like Dusty Buns, somebody asks "What about the 'real' food trucks?"

They're referring, of course, to the original food truck — the taco truck. Taco truck fans can experience the trucks in all their glory Thursday at Taco Truck Throwdown 3 at Chukchansi Park.

About 15 trucks will participate this year, including an influx of trucks from outlying areas such as Selma, Reedley, Orange Cove and Mendota.

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Former Bee staffer and organizer Mike Oz has recruited his favorite taco truck (which shall remain nameless so as not to sway the vote).

Taco truck culture is rooted in the days when trucks brought food to workers in the fields, but Thursday, it's all about voting for the best taco.

You can start chowing down as early as 5:30 p.m.

Tickets to the 7:05 p.m. game start at $8, with two package-offer deals. The deluxe taco package for $20 includes a ticket to the game, a throwdown T-shirt and four tacos. The "super taco experience" for $28 includes a game ticket, a T-shirt and eight tacos.

It's Tecate Thursday too, which means $2 24-ounce Tecate beers and $1 sodas.

Details: (559) 320-TIXS.

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

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