Eating Out: Clovis Sonic reopens, new Chili's in Fresno, Melting Pot coming?

The Fresno BeeJuly 7, 2014 

After sitting empty for two years, the Sonic Drive-In on Shaw Avenue in Clovis has reopened.

The restaurant near Walmart reopened last week, transforming from an overgrown, fenced-in eyesore to what looks like a brand new restaurant.

The previous owners closed the Sonic — it's not clear why — and a couple who own 24 other Sonic restaurants in the Valley bought it and fixed it up. Tani and Scott A. McMillan, based in Bakersfield, own most of the Sonic restaurants from there to Modesto.

It took awhile to reach a deal on the Clovis restaurant because the couple likes to own — not lease — the restaurant's land, said Scott A. McMillan.

Now that it has reopened, there are a few interesting things to point out.

You can get Nerds candy in your Slushes now. (Actually, you can get them at any Sonic, but this little sidenote in my interview with Scott A. McMillan was so wacky I had to share it.)

A Slush is a drink at Sonic that is a combination of crushed ice and flavoring — say cherry or blue raspberry — and now you can add the crunchy little candies, too.

"It's awesome," he says. "They don't sink to the bottom. They don't float on the top."

The Sonic on Shaw Avenue also has something other Valley Sonics don't: The menu board that cars pull up to has a video screen that advertises various Sonic products — say, something cool to drink during the hot part of the day. It also confirms customers' orders.

You can expect to see more Sonics open in the Valley. Sonic restaurants in Fresno and Clovis do extremely well, McMillan said, and he and his wife plan to open more in the area.

Next, they will open one in Sanger. The couple is taking over the old Burger King at Academy Avenue and Ninth Street. A Sonic will open there, perhaps before the end of the year.

But the Sanger one is different. The owners are experimenting with indoor seating. It's something Sonics in the wintery northeast do, and something that might work for the Valley's stretches of triple-digit heat.

Chili's

The newly built Chili's on West Shaw Avenue is open. It's the second Chili's in Fresno. It's at 3585 W. Shaw Ave., on the site of the former Bakers Square Restaurant & Bakery.

Tower Cafe

A fire at the Tower Cafe will keep the restaurant closed for several months. A late-night electrical fire June 24 was mostly contained to the restaurant, but cafe owner Bobby Salazar — of the restaurants of the same name — says he'll need to replace equipment and make other repairs.

"We'll just have to redo it all," he says.

The Melting Pot

The Melting Pot, a fondue restaurant with locations in Sacramento and Southern California, says it's looking for a franchisee to open a restaurant in Fresno.

The restaurants feature cheese and chocolate fondue. The company has 135 restaurants from Mexico to Canada and in between.

That doesn't mean we'll get a location here anytime soon. They're looking for someone willing to pony up $977,000 or more and has a net worth of $750,000.

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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