Catherine Heaney, owner of Char in Visalia, is bringing her creative cooking style and attention to detail to Fresno with the opening of her new restaurant, CHARburger.
Heaney, whose French-inspired bistro Char has become a Visalia favorite, recently opened the doors to her new concept at 901 L St. in downtown Fresno.
The restaurant sits on the corner of L and Kern streets in what used to be the Downtown Bistro. The interior has been redone with white tile, wood floors and light-color walls, giving it an open, urban feel.
A seasoned traveler, she’s added touches that remind her of her favorite bistros and restaurants. She chose a modern design for the menu board and lighted sign, both custom made in England.
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But unlike Visalia’s Char, whose dishes include such items as egg yolks fried in maple syrup, Fresno’s CHARburger’s food is more mainstream. Well, slightly.
From the outside, the restaurant seems like a basic burger joint with fries, tater tots, salads and milkshakes. But Heaney has created something more. She’s carefully obsessed over details and the use of quality ingredients to create her menu.
For example, her hamburger is a custom blend of three cuts of beef, specially made for her by The Meat Market. She says she’s after that quintessential burger flavor.
“I want it to be tender, savory and good,” Heaney says. “I want you to be able to taste the flavor of the meat.”
She’s also worked with La Boulangerie to create freshly made brioche buns with sesame seeds. The pillowy buns will be the bookends for the burger ingredients, including butter lettuce, tomatoes and red onion. For an added dose of flavor, Heaney will add her special Char sauce, or you can add melty aged cheddar.
She won’t reveal what’s in the sauce, other than to say it has elements of onion, vinegar and tomato products.
“There is nothing freaky in it, just all natural ingredients,” she says with a laugh.
For non-meat-eaters, there is the Halloumi’wich that’s made with a thick piece of halloumi, a white, gooey cheese that fries easily. You can also get your burger wrapped in lettuce if you’re trying to avoid carbs.
For the sides, Heaney has french fries finished with smoked sea salt from the British company Maldon. For $2 more, you can add her handmade aged cheddar sauce.
There are also tater tots served with truffle cheddar sauce and Brussels sprouts drizzled with Fresno chili honey sauce. For dessert, there are 16-ounce milkshakes featuring McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams from Santa Barbara. Her flavors will include vanilla, Nutella and tamarind, Heaney’s personal favorite.
If you’ve not tasted tamarind, Heaney says it’s sort of like a “sour fruit roll up.”
“It is so good,” she says.
One of Heaney’s goals with the new restaurant is to create a place that serves quality comfort food quickly.
“This is food that is simple, thoughtful and fast,” Heaney says. “Most people spend their lunch hours waiting in line. I want them to take a seat and relax.”
Aaron Blair, president of the Downtown Fresno Partnership, said he is excited to welcome Heaney to the area. She was a finalist in the organization’s business plan competition last year.
“Ever since that competition last year, we have been trying to find the right spot for her,” Blair said. “And now that she has found it, we think she will be a great addition to downtown.”
Heaney says she’s been overwhelmed with the sense of community and support she has received from Fresno.
“Before we even opened, people were coming in and asking for menus and welcoming me,” she says. “This is a good place to be.”