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All American: A Mediterranean restaurant with French name run by Mexican immigrants

Mediterranean restaurant opens on the Fulton Mall in downtown Fresno

Owners are hoping to cash in on the upcoming opening of Fulton Street to traffic.
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Owners are hoping to cash in on the upcoming opening of Fulton Street to traffic.

A Mediterranean restaurant has opened on the Fulton Mall, one of the first new businesses to start in anticipation of the street reopening to cars.

La Maison Kabob opened June 30 in the former Peeve’s Public House at 1243 Fulton Mall.

The owners planned to open quietly and ramp up gradually. There is still a maze of chain link fence and construction happening out front. This portion of the mall won’t open until late summer. They also wanted to decorate the bare walls with a menu board of pictures of their food and maybe some TVs.

Whoops.

“As soon as we opened, boom, people started coming,” said Alex Reyes, who owns the restaurant with Fidel Ortiz. “We were not expecting all these people coming in, but every day, we’ve been getting 50 to 70 people.”

The restaurant is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Those hours could expand once the mall returns to being a street.

Once the street opens, we’re going to have all different kinds of traffic.

Fidel Ortiz, La Maison Kabob

They mostly serve lunch food – kebab plates, shawarma wraps – though breakfast burritos are on the menu. Since the pair was always at the restaurant in the mornings anyway, they decided they may as well be open for breakfast.

What to get: Ortiz says go for the beef kebab, which comes with pita bread, rice pilaf and fattoush salad (which, if you haven’t had it, is a salad of cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes and fried pita strips).

“The meat, it tastes real good,” Ortiz said of the beef kebab. “It’s really juicy.”

The chicken kebab is popular too, and customers keep asking for an extra side of the garlic sauce that’s served on top.

This is the first restaurant that Ortiz and Reyes have owned. Neither are Mediterranean. Both are Mexican immigrants with backgrounds working in restaurants.

“Even though we’re not Mediterranean, in most kitchens – no matter what kind of food – you will see Mexicans in the kitchen,” Ortiz said.

Reyes learned to cook Mediterranean food at several restaurants and taught his longtime buddy Ortiz to make it. They made it for friends and family, who said it was so good they should open a restaurant.

The word “Maison” is French for house and was pulled from the name of one of the now-defunct restaurants that employed Reyes.

It’s a little unusual to have a French term in a Mediterranean restaurant run by Mexicans, but hey, it’s America, says Ortiz.

“In the United States you can put whatever you want,” he said. “You mix sweet with sour and, ‘Oh, it’s a good taste,’” he said.

At least one person warned the pair against opening on the Fulton Mall, saying it was too soon to know if it would be a good spot for a restaurant.

But Reyes said he wanted to try it anyway.

“I want to give it a shot,” he said. “If I make it, I make it. If not, I don’t make it.”

Bethany Clough: 559-441-6431, @BethanyClough

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