The new Petite Rue Cafe is a little bit of France and a lot of Fresno.
The restaurant opened quietly in March at 6755 N. Palm Ave., at Herndon avenue, in the same shopping center as Club Habanos.
The first thing you notice when you walk in the door is the decor: Bold red walls, French art and patterned fabric on the banquettes. The cozy French decor is a little reminiscent of the former Cafe Rousseau restaurant in the Tower District — and there's a reason for that.
Owner Susan Stone used to own Cafe Rousseau before it was sold and turned into an Italian restaurant and bourbon bar.
At Rue, some of the faces might look familiar because a couple of Rousseau's chefs work there.
The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. It serves French and American food.
Lunch options include a "croque Monsieur" sandwich with ham, swiss cheese and dijon mustard, and a Reuben sandwich made with pastrami instead of corned beef.
Entrées include cordon bleu, made with an organic Mary's chicken from Sanger, grilled lamb chops and a grilled New York steak. Pasta, appetizers and soups with a French flair are on the menu, too, including a tomato bisque with a puff pastry on top.
Rue has a brown bag to-go lunch for $5.50 that includes one of five sandwiches and chips or fruit.
Chef Paul Palomino, who once ran the Palomino's restaurant, is doing consulting for Rue. Bread comes from Max's Bakery and baguettes are made by La Boulangerie.
Rue, by the way, is French for street. The decor is French, too. There's a bull's head statue, a pig in a chef's hat and lots of red, white and blue — the colors of the French flag. Just as I'm thinking it takes talent to blend red and blue and not look like a firecracker company on the Fourth of July, it turns out there's an explanation for that, too.
Owner Stone has a degree in interior design. She has owned antique stores over the years in Oregon, and grew up with a mom who ran antique stores. The know-how has allowed her to transform the space, which for years was a storage room for clothing store BB Pepper.
Food played a big role in Stone's background.
"I had an Italian grandmother and a German grandmother and they had to out-do one another on food," she says.
As a youngster, cooking was often her chore, chosen because she would rather work in the kitchen than clean out a garage packed with antiques or pull weeds.
Stone also was a personal chef in Southern California, living and working on the property of various bosses, including the president of Pep Boys and Ross Bagdasarian Jr., who revived the "Alvin & the Chipmunks" movies. The job gave her a chance to meet some celebrities who came for dinner, but Fresno kept tugging her back.
"The people are so nice in Fresno," she says. "I keep coming back."
Details are available on the business's Facebook page or by calling (559) 435-0110.
Cracked Pepper Bistro
One of Fresno's finest restaurants is moving. The Cracked Pepper Bistro will leave the spot it's had for eight years at Shaw Avenue and Fresno Street this summer. It will move to Palm and Herndon avenues.
The move is still a ways off — they're shooting for July — but Cracked Pepper eventually will take over part of the spot that was once home to Samba, in the same shopping center as Rue and Club Habanos.
Owner and chef Vatche Moukhtarian said several issues are driving the move: not enough parking at its current location, the need for a bigger kitchen and the need for more wine storage.
The restaurant won't take over the entire Samba space, however, just about 4,000 square square feet. The dining room will remain about the same size as the current restaurant and will have similar decor, Moukhtarian says.
I'll keep you updated on the restaurant's move when it happens.
The columnist can be reached at (559) 441-6431 or email@example.com.