Eating Out: Vegan Mexican food now in Fresno

June 23, 2014 

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The newly opened Flacos at Strummer's, a vegan Mexican restaurant, serves banana leaf tamale.

BETHANY CLOUGH — The Fresno Bee

Here's something different for Fresno: a vegan, organic, nongenetically modified Mexican restaurant.

Flacos has opened inside Strummer's — the side that was formerly Starline Grill — at 833 E. Fern St. in the Tower District.

Strummer's is still very much the bar with loud music that it has been for years, but now a Berkeley chef has taken over the menu.

Antonio Magaña has a restaurant with the same name and menu in Berkeley.

Now, Fresno is no Berkeley, so you may be wondering why someone would debut such a hippie concept here. Magaña says it's exactly because there are so few places to get vegan food here that made him pick Fresno.

"The vegan community is very loyal," he says. "They know what they like and they will travel for it."

And if you're not vegan, Magaña invites you to check out the restaurant, too.

"Our mission in Fresno isn't to say, 'Hey Fresno, you need to be vegan,' " he says. "Our mission is to say if you want to try something different, we're here."

The restaurant is always vegan, and organic and non-gmo when possible, including the organic corn masa used to make the corn tortillas. Many items also are gluten-free.

The menu includes some dishes that use a meat substitute, such as the taquitos, which have textured soy protein — it tastes like chicken — rolled in a corn tortilla and fried. (They're discounted to $1.36 each on "Taquito Tuesdays.")

The restaurant serves banana leaf tamales instead of the familiar corn husk ones.

Other dishes simply don't need meat, including the pozole, a Mexican stew, and huarache: a corn tortilla layered with avocado, refried pinto beans — no lard in them — rice, cilantro, onions, cabbage, radish and salsa.

Although Mexican food served in the U.S. tends to be a meat and cheese-drenched affair, Magaña says that many Mexican recipes from his family originally were meatless to begin with.

"It's the fun of getting these old recipes and making them vegan and tasting them," he says. "You're going to say, 'Wow it's great. You're going to feel full."

Flacos is serving 5 p.m. to midnight Tuesdays through Saturdays and 3-9 p.m. on Sundays. You can see the menu online at www.flacos.com.

Downtown dinners

The Downtown Club has started serving dinner.

The restaurant at 2120 Kern St. that reopened last fall has served dinner for special events, along with regular lunch service, but now is permanently open for dinner from 5-8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Happy hour at the bar also runs from 5-8 p.m.

Opening for dinner was always the plan when the new owner took over. Now, the menu — which is still evolving — includes New York steak, salmon, chicken Marsala and pasta. Owner Nick Farid says two people can eat for $49, including two entrees, soup or salad and a bottle of house wine.

Food truck Thursdays

The food truck nights at Gazebo Gardens nursery have expanded to Thursdays.

The event that has food trucks and music among the roses at the Van Ness Boulevard and Shields Avenue nursery started on Saturdays, expanded to Fridays and as of last week expanded once again.

The trucks are there from 5-9 p.m. Thursdays.

Instead of live bands, Thursdays will be open-mic nights. Musicians can sign up from 6-7 p.m. and perform from 7-9 p.m.

"It just seemed like the right thing to do," said Gazebo Gardens owner Scott Miller. "We keep getting positive reviews about the nights we've been doing and a few of the trucks were asking for another night."

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

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