Clovis gets a new restaurant with flair: Figaro's Mexican Southwestern Grill
Six independent restaurants are opening in Clovis, serving everything from shrimp tacos to a Canadian dish involving french fries and cheese curds.
It’s not clear what is driving the mini-boom that’s been happening over the last month or so. It could be an improving economy, a bunch of empty restaurants coming up for rent at the same time, or area restaurateurs viewing Clovis as the next frontier for expansion in the dining world.
Regardless, if you live in Clovis or don’t mind driving there, you just got a lot more options for dinner. Here’s what you need to know.
▪ Where: 1414 Clovis Ave. in the former Todd’s CookHouse Bar-B-Q and QN4U.
Dukes is in a building some people say is cursed because so many restaurants have opened there and then failed.
The people behind Dukes are hoping to smash that thinking with their different take on a restaurant. Their secret: They only open three days a week and give chefs the freedom to change up the menu weekly.
“I had a crush on this building since I was a kid,” owner Justin Dukes, who you may know from his catering company or the former Dukes Downtown.
It seems that people in Clovis really like down-home cooking.
Justin Dukes, Dukes restaurant
The limited hours keep overhead costs down about 60 percent and allow him to continue to cater.
From 4 p.m. to midnight on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, Dukes serves down-home cooking, with a menu that usually includes entrees such as beef, pork, poultry, fish and pasta. The bacon-wrapped meatloaf is a popular dish that shows up a lot. Also on the menu are salads, kids meals and appetizers, including fried Brussels sprouts with bacon and Parmesan cheese. Keep an eye on Dukes’ Facebook page for the weekly menu.
Around 8 or 9 p.m., the live music or DJs show up to play country music and diners are welcome to hit the dance floor.
Juicy backstory to this new restaurant: Sarah Patrinos manages the dining room. She was hired by Dukes and a day later the pair tumbled head-over-heels in love with each other.
After Dukes told Patrinos about 15 times that he didn’t date employees, that rule flew out the window. The couple got engaged a month later.
Details of the restaurant: 559-298-7309.
▪ Where: At Sierra Vista Mall near the theater, 1250 Shaw Ave.
This restaurant comes with a vocabulary lesson. Poutine is a Canadian dish of french fries smothered with cheese curds and gravy. (Though owner Raymond Prime says it’s really poutine sauce, not gravy. He won’t say what’s in it – it’s a secret, he says.)
It’s a dish that’s getting increasingly popular in Canada and the United States.
Poutine is pronounced “poo-teen” and a poutinerie is where you get poutine. People slip up all the time and call it something that rhymes with boutonniere with an extra syllable, but that’s OK, says the owner.
The FRI in FRI Poutinerie is pronounced “fry” (as in french fries, get it?), which also stands for “for real indulgence.”
And they’re not kidding.
The poutine come in three sizes – nice, good and bad. The bad size is definitely more than one person can handle (but “it’s good to be bad,” the owner says with a cheesy smile).
FRI Poutinerie puts its own twist on the dish, offering about dozen specialty versions of it, including topping it with a smoked brisket that they call Montreal smoked meat (it’s imported from Quebec). That meat is also available in a sandwich and as a Reuben sandwich.
Other poutine options include Da Pizza poutine with pepperoni, mushrooms and marinara sauce, Taco Grande” with seasoned beef and salsa and The Dog House, served with hot dogs, pickles, onions, ketchup and mustard.
They’ve also got cold brewed coffee on tap and infused with nitrogen.
FRI Poutinerie is open daily for lunch and dinner starting at 11 a.m. Details: 559-575-8201.
▪ Where: 3140 Fowler Ave., at Ashlan Avenue near Starbucks.
Some people will recognize the name Figaro’s Mexican Southwestern Grill from its restaurants in Visalia, Hanford and Tulare. The first one, in Tulare, opened 12 years ago and the family plans to add more locations.
One day we were just like, Clovis needs more.
Debbi Chacon, Gastro Grill and Chacon’s Catering
Figaro’s has opened its Clovis restaurant and another is scheduled to open in October in Park Crossing, the Fresno shopping center under construction at Friant Road and Fresno Street.
This Mexican restaurant has a southwestern twist in its appearance and its food. The restaurant is also a little healthier than a typical Mexican restaurant, says Yvette Figueroa, director of operations and daughter of the owners.
“We don’t fry anything other than our chips and our taquitos,” she says.
It has several vegetarian options and the restaurant serves gluten-free dressings and marinades, Figueroa says.
The mango salad – one of many salads on the menu – has lots of vegetables, mango salsa and tortilla strips. A shrimp burrito is especially popular, one of 12 kinds of burritos on the menu.
The family shortened Figueroa to Figaro’s for the restaurant thinking it would be easier for customers. Details: (559) 721-7701.
▪ Where: 151 W. Bullard Ave. at Villa Avenue in the former Guadalajara restaurant.
Carrillo’s Mexican Food is a family restaurant run by Norma Carrillo and her three brothers. This stuff runs in their blood: They’ve all been cooking in restaurants for more than 20 years each and their extended family runs several Mexican restaurants.
The family revamped the look of the restaurant, adding bright yellow, red and teal paint. Instead of table numbers, the tables each have an image from Lotería, a Mexican game similar to bingo. Instead of numbers on pingpong balls, Lotería features images on cards such as the moon or a rooster.
As for the food, it’s classic Mexican with the fajitas (beef, chicken or shrimp) proving especially popular.
The restaurant opens at 8 a.m. daily, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.
A few things don’t fall into the traditional category, including asada fries – french fries with carne asada, beans, sour cream, guacamole and salsa.
And there are pancakes, too.
“The little kids, they always ask for pancakes and we feel bad saying no, so we have pancakes,” says Carrillo.
▪ Where: Coming soon to 760 Pollasky Ave. just a smidge south of Old Town Clovis.
The Gastro Grill is a food truck serving pub-style food run by the same people who own Chacon’s Catering. Two businesses apparently weren’t enough of a challenge so they decided to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant, too.
It will likely officially open in November, but for now they’ve got temporary permission to sell from their truck in the parking lot behind the restaurant from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays until Oct. 12.
It has given them a feel for what Clovis diners want.
For example, “We know now that Clovis loves pork belly sliders,” says Debbi Chacon, who runs the business with her husband Reyes, the chef.
Reyes has worked as a chef at some well-known restaurants around Fresno and was the first chef at The Patio Cafe when it opened.
The pair are opening the restaurant with Debbi’s brother Greg and sister-in-law Marci Wilson.
The truck also gives them a chance to introduce themselves to Clovis, where the food truck culture is a little different.
“So many people [drive] up to our truck and they just kinda yell out the window, ‘How much are carne asada tacos?’” Debbi Chacon says.
Gastro Grill doesn’t sell them. The question happened so often they finally put up a sign saying as much with a polite happy face next to it.
The restaurant’s menu will have many favorites off the truck – filet mignon tacos, and drunken shrimp tacos made with Firestone 805 beer, for example – but other dishes, too. Chef Reyes is planning more upscale comfort food and the restaurant will serve Sunday brunch.
▪ Where: Coming soon to 361 Pollasky Ave. in the former Corner Cafe space.
This high-profile location in Old Town is about to become home to a new restaurant, a smoked barbecue sandwich shop expected to open in October.
The owners brought in a “a huge industrial smoker.” The Smokin’ Spur will serve a simple menu of mostly sandwiches, including chicken, pork, beef, ribs and turkey during the holidays, says Kimberly Nunez.
The inside of the restaurant will look a lot different than it used to.
“We’ve revamped the whole thing,” she says. “New seats and tables, paint, everything down to the light switches.”
It will be open for lunch and dinner and serve beer and wine.