When Neighbors Tap & Cook House opened in 2009, the mission was to be a true neighborhood bar. On the southeast corner of Fowler and Nees, Neighbors was the first to move into the neighborhood.
After some time of being the only nearby dining option for many, Operating Owner Chris Bessinger said that Neighbors is now in a position to really define itself and focus on what it excels at most - that means perfecting the menu and exploring new territory in beer and wine.
While business has grown each subsequent year with an increasing amount of regular customers, Bessinger plans to change a lot. A business must evolve, even when thriving. Craft beer has been a successful and exciting change for Neighbors. It’s something Bessinger himself is passionate about and is thrilled to see regular customers learn more about.
“It’s great,” he said. “You don’t have to drink the same stuff all the time.” Some people were upset to see some of their old favorite beers go, but there arises an opportunity to find a new favorite - one which might not be found anywhere else in town, and which an average customer may never have otherwise tried.
It’s great that there are more places in Clovis now where you can find a good craft beer selection, Bessinger said. Before Yard House opened in Fresno, there wasn’t as much opportunity for bars and restaurants to acquire some more unique beers.
For example, Ballast Point’s Grapefruit Sculpin IPA, of which Bessinger said he had three kegs - half the amount that was available to the Valley. By the time you’re reading this, the Grapefruit Sculpin will be gone, but you can expect many more unique craft beers to rotate in its place.
You can go to Neighbors’ Facebook page to find out what beers are being featured at any given time.
There is a real opportunity to explore with the abundance of local beers that are now available in the area, Bessinger said.
Some people don’t realize or truly take advantage of the fact that living in central California means that they have access to practically a limitless variety of unique craft beers and wines - which, Bessinger said, Neighbors will also soon be exploring with a new, larger and “more eccentric” wine selection, and a new cocktail list.
With this wider drink variety comes a more compact lunch and dinner menu. In the beginning, Neighbors had to be a little something for everyone. This led to a large menu, with some of everything.
“We’re streamlining the menu,” Bessinger said. “We’re really about the food, and we want to focus more on what we do really well. The heart of it is going to live in our burgers, salads and sandwiches, but we also want to continue to do specials, often.”
One recurring special, typically on Saturdays, is a Philly cheesesteak, which has been deemed 100 percent authentic by one of the co-owners, a Philadelphia native. The odd-sounding, but, as Bessinger said, surprisingly delicious ingredient in this cheesesteak is Cheese Whiz. Go ahead, say what you will about it, but just be prepared to eat your words, along with the Cheese Whiz, when you try it.
Bessinger hears fairly often that customers didn’t expect such good food from a bar. He happily exceeds those expectations and continually works on the menu to ensure that the selections are the very best they can be.
A very popular choice on the menu is the Signature Build-Your-Own-Burger, which comes with a list of more than 40 options for buns, meats, sauces and condiments.
I built my own with a Kaiser roll, choice ground sirloin, bleu cheese, garlic aioli, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onion straws, roasted red peppers and Applewood smoked bacon.
I only felt slight regret leaving so many other boxes without a checkmark, but when I took my first bite, there was not a wrong note in the mix.
After the St. Patrick’s Day celebration, which concluded March 17with Irish beer and several traditional Irish dishes, the next big holiday at Neighbors is Oktoberfest, which begins in late September.
In the meantime, you can catch any MLB, NFL or practically any other televised game at Neighbors - just ask any bartender or server and they’ll put on your game.
On Saturday and Sunday Neighbors opens early with a full breakfast menu so you don’t have to miss any football. With everything else from occasional live music to a weekly pub quiz on Monday nights, there’s always something special to do, see and taste at Neighbors.