This cozy, 85-seat cafe is one of the best-kept secrets in the local dining scene. It’s made-from-scratch meals and low prices have people coming to the hospital, just to eat at the Grove.
Workers from nearby car dealerships, local police officers and neighbors in the area of Temperance and Herndon avenues have all discovered the Grove.
Last month on Yelp – the online restaurant review site – Liz T. had this to say about the Grove: “I've been coming here for the past couple of weeks since a few of my coworkers raved about it,” she wrote. “Apparently a lot of people come here on their lunch breaks.”
What’s so special about this hospital cafeteria? For starters, they have made-to-order sandwiches with a choice of 12 different breads, a salad bar with nearly 30 toppings, including roasted beets, and personal-size pizzas baked in a gas-fired pizza oven.
There are also milkshakes made with Superior Dairy ice cream, fresh fruit and house-made pickles that will remind you of a New York deli.
“We had one mom who came with an ice chest to buy snacks for her kid’s soccer team,” says Paul Luchi, director of nutrition and dining services at Clovis Community. “We have that kind of response from the community.”
The Idaho-based Thomas Cuisine Management runs Clovis Community’s food services department, including the Grove.
Although Luchi makes it clear that his top priority is to provide quality meals for patients and employees, he’s also proud of the response from the general public.
Ever since the Grove underwent a major renovation four years ago, its reputation has continued to grow.
Steve and Janet Bettencourt of Clovis don’t miss an opportunity to eat at the cafeteria when they make visits to the hospital.
“We could go home, since we just live down the street,” says Janet Bettencourt. “But we really like the food here. I can get a half a sandwich, a side salad and a drink for $5.50.”
Jeff Dinmore, executive chef of nutrition and dining at Clovis Community Medical Center, says the trend in hospital food is to go upscale. Soggy tuna sandwiches have been replaced with marinated steak sandwiches with caramelized onions, roasted red peppers and chipotle lime mayo on ciabatta bread.
Dinmore said that as the health care market becomes increasingly competitive, hospitals are putting a greater emphasis on amenities like private rooms, spalike cuisines and healthier foods.
“It is about quality,” says Dinmore, a veteran chef who was trained at the Culinary Institute of America. “We use clean, simple ingredients to create great food.”
A renewed focus on higher quality food has also created a stronger demand for innovative chefs and cooks who are eager to learn.
Andy Hatcher, the former chef at Guri’s Grub House and Taps, is now the executive chef at Community Regional Medical Center. Hatcher recently won an Iron Chef-type competition among the chefs from Clovis Community, Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital, and CRMC.
Gena Silveira, director of food services for Morrison Healthcare, the operator of Kaiser Permanente Fresno’s employee cafeteria, agrees that the focus on cafeteria food is on quality and using better ingredients. Morrison also runs Community Regional Medical Center’s dining services.
Kaiser became a part of the Partnership for a Healthier America in 2012 and began placing a greater emphasis on eating more fruits and vegetables and less meat.
But that doesn’t mean bland hospital food, either. One of its biggest sellers is the turkey chili that’s served every Wednesday. The chili is so popular it draws people from the hospital’s north Fresno neighborhood near Fresno Street and Alluvial Avenue.
“We have one couple that comes in every week and brings one of those reusable grocery bags to take home several containers,” Silveira said. “They load up on it. They like it that much.”