What new foods and flavors will 2016 bring to Fresno?
It wouldn’t feel like a new year if we didn’t predict some foodie and restaurant trends for the year ahead. Doing these stories is always a little tricky in Fresno because trends tend to hit here a little later than our big city neighbors.
But we are nestled in the heart of the country’s fruit- and veggie-growing region, so what we eat here matters. And with Fresno’s ever-growing restaurant scene, we’re going to get a whole bunch of new places to eat, too.
Here’s what’s changing.
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The kale crash
Kale is out, but other leafy greens are in, says Felix Muzquizexecutive director of the Vineyard Farmers Market at Shaw and Blackstone avenues.
While some people are getting sick of kale, the nutrient-packed veggie has served as something of a gateway green to other dark leafy vegetables for shoppers.
They’re more accepting of other greens.
Felix Muzquiz, Vineyard Farmers Market
Now people are getting into tatsoi (pronounced “tot-soy”) carried by several vendors at the market. With little dark leaves, it’s a sort of Asian spinach that can be prepared in many of the same ways as kale.
Collard greens (especially cooked with ham or bacon), bok choy and long choy – a whiter, longer version of bok choy – are getting popular too.
New shopping centers under construction mean more restaurants opening in them.
12new restaurants are coming to new shopping centers in Fresno and Clovis.
The Square at Campus Pointe at Shaw and Chesnut avenues is already rolling with several existing restaurants. But more are coming, including Farm Fresh Bowls, Yogurtland, TOFAS Mediterranean Grill, a coffee shop and Hino Oishi Hibachi & Japanese. Recently opened are Wok It Out, Tapioca Express and Pieology.
Construction is clicking along at Park Crossing, the new shopping center at Friant Road and Fresno Street. Habit Burger is already open and coming soon are Jersey Mike’s Subs and Dickey’s Barbecue Pit.
Nearby, but in a separate development owned by the River Park folks, Dave & Buster’s is under construction. The restaurant, bar and arcade is slated for a summertime opening.
In Clovis, work on revamping the Trading Post Shopping Center at Clovis and Herndon avenues is underway. When finished it will have a Pieology, and Sprouts Farmers Market is slated to open Feb. 17 (Ross and Skechers will open there too).
Farm to fork
This trend has been going hot and heavy for a while. Customers want to know where their food comes from and want locally grown food, says Manny Carr, chef at Lela’s restaurant in Fresno.
People just really want to know where their food is coming from.
Manny Carr, Lela’s chef
And yet, in Fresno, the farm-to-fork movement has probably gone a little slower than it should because of behind-the-scenes distribution issues. It’s often hard for restaurants to get reliable supplies of local vegetables from small producers. Despite being smack dab in farm country, many of the bigger farms send all their produce to large buyers.
But that’s changing.
Last year saw the launch of Food Commons Fresno, a downtown-based nonprofit that offers community-supported agriculture boxes for consumers, but delivers orders of food from local farms to restaurants, too. The Tuesday and Thursday deliveries bridge the gap between the city’s other farmers markets, Carr notes.
And larger suppliers are getting more responsive to the farm-to-fork movement, notes Jeromie Hansen, co-owner of catering company The Painted Table.
So when Hansen tells a supplier he wants locally grown microgreens, for example, the companies are more open to finding it and receptive to coaching about what The Painted Table is looking for, he says.
All of this matters because it allows restaurateurs to tell customers where their food is coming from, says Carr of Lela’s.