Fresno wanted its Downtown Club back and its wish was granted.
The longtime members-only club that closed amid growing debt and declining membership in February has reopened. Now it's open to the public for lunch every weekday with new owners.
The restaurant, at 2120 Kern St., has a built-in customer base of fans who were sorry to see the Fresno fixture go. The government workers and business folks are coming back, excited to see the restaurant reopened.
Partner and general manager Nick Farid keeps trying to thank them for coming, but no, they insist on thanking him instead for reopening. It's making his job easier.
"I don't have to sell the place," he says. "It sells itself."
Much of the Downtown Club looks exactly the same.
It still has the brick walls and the skylights that flood it with light. The quiet atmosphere ideal for doing business remains, along with the giant printing press once owned by the Fresno Morning Republican newspaper.
You can still get your favorite table. But if you say "I want table 44," you might have to show them which table that is. (Though Farid will gladly point out the handful of tables that are the best for people watching, the tables from which you can see everyone else in the place.)
The meeting rooms are available for lunches and the whole place can be rented for weddings and other events, just like before.
Some of the old staff is back too, including a chef who worked there for about 35 years. And Karl Johnson and his big smile are back as valet and doorman (though his shoeshine business has moved to the Patterson building on Fulton Mall).
So what's changed? The menu — or at least parts of it.
Prices are lower than the old Downtown Club, now mostly between $11 and $14. Some of the old favorites — the steak salad and the club sandwich — are still on the menu. But there are plenty of new options, including the popular grilled chicken fatoush salad and a salmon BLT.
Although you don't have to be a member to dine here, there are corporate memberships that bring some perks for a monthly fee.
The bar isn't open yet, but it will be as soon as the business gets its liquor license.
The new owners think they can make the place work as a more traditional business open to the public. And Farid notes that they've done this before.
Farid is a restaurant consultant who along with his partners took over a struggling Selma restaurant and revived it. Famous Shish Kebab is now owned by the partners, but it has been turned over to a manager. They also started Kebab City in Fowler in a closed restaurant.
The partners discovered the Downtown Club by accident. They were looking at a different space downtown when they saw the "for sale" sign on the Downtown Club building. They called up the real estate agent, knowing nothing about the property. When they heard the back story and saw the space, they jumped at the chance to buy the building and run the restaurant.
The Downtown Club is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Details: (559) 233-2140.
There's also new life next door in the former Kern Street Coffee space.
Mabel's Kitchen, which used to be open a few days a week for lunch in the Tuolumne Hall, is gearing up to open in early November. Owner Susan Valiant will serve light breakfast and lunch, including paninis, bierocks and baked goods, such as giant brownies, from her Dolce Cocina business.
You can keep tabs on her progress at the Mabel's Kitchen/Dolce Cocina Facebook page.
Changes are in store for the Dam Diner in Friant.
The restaurant is closed for the winter, but owner Melissa Garza says it's not closed for good. Due to a neck and back injury and personal reasons, Garza can't run the restaurant day to day. So the business and the land are up for sale.
She is open to leasing the restaurant, too, as long as it remains the Dam Diner.
If she doesn't get a taker by spring, she will find a partner and reopen the diner herself, she says.
After almost a year in business, the Manna Cafe is adding dinner to its menu.
The restaurant, at 10063 N. Maple Ave., near Behymer Avenue, sells a lot of its big breakfast burritos, but now dishes such as chicken-fried steak and a fish of the day are on the menu.
The restaurant recently expanded its hours, so it's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Instead of closing at 3 p.m., it's open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays.
Manna Cafe is all about the comfort food, so that chicken-fried steak comes with mashed red potatoes — skins on — with gravy and a buttered roll that's grilled.
There's a whole list of other dinner-time dishes, too — from fish and chips to steak and shrimp, ranging from $8.99 to $14.99.
Owners Fernando and Catherine Cano are all about the comfort food and "none of that processed stuff," says Fernando.
The restaurant serves its breakfast menu and lunchtime burgers all day, by the way.
If you've been around awhile in the Valley, you might recognize Fernando or Catherine. They used to own the Golden Grape restaurants in Kerman and Madera in the 1980s and '90s, along with the Green Valley Cafe in Tulare.
They sold them and Fernando had a 21-year career as a sheriff's deputy and corrections officer before he felt the restaurant industry pulling him back.
Details are available on Manna Cafe's Facebook page.
If you like combining your food with entertainment, the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust's 25th anniversary event Sunday will feature nine food trucks and vendors.
They'll be serving up tacos, pizza, pies and more as the Cultivators play live music from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
A mini farmers market will feature vendors selling everything from pomegranates to honey. Artisans will be selling crafts, photography and other items.
Visitors are encouraged to take free guided nature walks.
Admission is free. Look for the Coke Hallowell River Center at 11605 Old Friant Road in Fresno.
Details: (559) 248-8480 or riverparkway.org.
Triangle Drive In
The Triangle Drive In's third location is open. The diner known for its jumbo burgers took over the old Fosters Freeze at 753 E. Barstow Ave.
It will hold its grand opening Saturday with live music, a big car show and possibly an Elvis impersonator.
Triangle has locations on Belmont Avenue in Fresno and another in Ivanhoe.
The new location is a lot like the existing ones. It's the same menu and has the same 1950s decor with Coca-Cola memorabilia. This one has even more Coke-themed items, from a longtime customer whose father spent 30 years collecting them around the world.
Details: (559) 224-1950.
The columnist can be reached at (559) 441-6431, email@example.com or @BethanyClough on Twitter. Read her blog on fresnobeehive.com.