Nestled between Chukchansi Park and Fulton Mall on Tulare Street, the family-friendly Italian pub-style restaurant opened its doors where Coney Island Restaurant once stood. The owner hopes to ignite downtown Fresno’s nightlife by trading in the truck for a brick-and-mortar downtown property and providing a casual, affordable hangout spot to grab a drink, enjoy some handmade food and watch a game.
“We had so many unsatisfied people who were wanting our pizza,” owner Sean Duquette said. “But they couldn’t get it if they didn’t know where the truck was. Now we have a home.”
With sleek hardwood floors, the elongated rectangle of a restaurant features vintage lighting and a pizza kitchen in view of the tables and bar, which will start serving alcohol once a liquor license goes into effect in the fall. Although the walls are still decorated with murals from the restaurant’s days as Downtown Hofbrau, a German eatery, the rest of the decor is modern, clean and classic.
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The Duquettes made several aesthetic remodels to the restaurant, and said there are plans for both a front and back patio, as well as a second bar in the upstairs mezzanine overlooking the restaurant floor and kitchen. Sean Duquette said he thought it was important to make the place his own, with character, charisma and an atmosphere to match the food.
Before the renovations, the building was home to other restaurants, including the historic Coney Island, which was open for 77 years in Fresno before closing in 2000. Since then, Downtown Hofbrau and Thai Yum Yum were among the restaurants that tried the downtown spot.
Sean Duquette said the time, effort and money put into remaking the restaurant would be enough to drive customers. Grizzly City Pizza & Pub also delivers to downtown and the Tower District, which Sean hopes will anchor the business.
“The business is here,” he said. “You just have to care about your food and care about your business. People want to eat something fresh and handmade, and that’s what we have to offer.”
The food is meant to be affordable, shareable and handmade from locally-grown, organic ingredients, which Sean thinks will drive traffic in the door, regardless of the sometimes short lives of other restaurants downtown.
Grizzly City Pizza & Pub serves sandwiches, sliders, appetizers and salads in addition to its specialty pizzas, like the Thai fusion option, which Micah Duquette, the 11-year-old pizza maker and nephew of the owner, said was his favorite item on the menu. He was excited to see more options added to the menu now that a full-sized kitchen was available to them.
The restaurant is family owned and operated, which adds to the welcoming homemade feel of the cozy downtown pizza joint.
“The best part of this whole thing has been spending time with my family,” Micah Duquette said. He started making pizzas in the food truck when he was 9. “I want to own this place when I grow up.”
The incoming seventh grader isn’t alone in his long-term hopes for Grizzly City Pizza & Pub’s success. Three generations of Duquettes work in the restaurant, and the family spent two years developing recipes, Sean Duquette said.
He and his father, Steve Duquette, look forward to being at the forefront of Grizzly City’s role in the downtown area.
“I’m excited about downtown,” Steve Duquette said. “I hope it becomes a nighttime hangout. I think we’ll see a lot of changes in the years to come around here.”
Although he thinks these changes may be a few years out, Grizzly City is working toward being at the forefront of the growth.
“We’re offering something different than Club Brazil or Club One,” Sean Duquette said. “There isn’t really anything like this quite yet.”
Adding a sports bar-style restaurant to downtown Fresno will give locals another option to spend an evening with family, coworkers of fellow sports fans in a welcoming environment.
Visit Grizzly City Pizza and Pub at 1920 Tulare St. between Chuckchansi Park and Fulton Mall on Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.