Bethany Clough

7-plus local restaurants headed for Manchester Center’s fancy food court

The Napa Dog with Tioga-Sequoia beer in the background, shown at Rocket Dog Gourmet Brats & Brew. The eatery, located east of Blackstone on Shaw Avenue, offers sausages piled high with toppings, as well as craft beers on tap. It plans to open a second location in a food court at Manchester Center next year.
The Napa Dog with Tioga-Sequoia beer in the background, shown at Rocket Dog Gourmet Brats & Brew. The eatery, located east of Blackstone on Shaw Avenue, offers sausages piled high with toppings, as well as craft beers on tap. It plans to open a second location in a food court at Manchester Center next year.

From chorizo burgers to sake, all kinds of local food and restaurants are coming to Manchester Center next year.

You may have heard the big news last week about the makeover that the mall’s Beverly Hills owners are planning. The Bee’s real estate reporter, BoNhia Lee, wrote about the plans, which include a new exterior look, new stores (which have yet to be named) and lots of restaurants. Even more places to eat have been finalized since last week.

Two of them, The Habit Burger Grill and Chipotle Mexican Grill, plan to open in a new building that will be built near Blackstone Avenue in front of the mall.

Our goal is to do nothing but local tenants.

Moe Bagunu, Manchester Center, about food marketplace

But a slew of others will be in what the mall is calling the marketplace. It’s essentially a food court – though they prefer the term “artisan food community” – full of small local restaurants with local chefs and food truck operators.

It will be in the lower level of the former Gottschalks, making it easy for people to grab dinner and go to a movie at the theater next door. An outdoor plaza for concerts and other events will be built between the two.

“We’re bringing all the best chefs and local trucks,” says Manchester general manager Moe Bagunu. “Our goal is to do nothing but local tenants.”

In addition to the ones mentioned here, two more places are in the pipeline that we’ll tell you about as soon as the deals are finalized.

And, in a delicious twist, the restaurants will serve alcohol, with plans ranging from microbrew on tap to sake.

This marketplace is a long way off, probably opening in late spring of 2017, Bagunu says, though construction has started.

But the cool thing is you don’t have to wait until next year to try these places. All but one have existing restaurants or food trucks in the area and will make Manchester a second location.

Some of them you probably know. Others may be operating under your radar. Here’s the rundown on who you can try out now and where.

Green’s Family Grill Bar-B-Que, 1448 N. Blackstone Ave., Fresno. This is the former Watts Family Grill, the little hole in the wall with the big following south of McKinley Avenue. New owner Landon Green – not part of the Watts family – took over the restaurant awhile ago, as I wrote in a previous column about the place.

Green’s is all about the barbecue, with ribs, chicken and tri-tip, along with chicken and waffles, and peach cobbler for dessert.

Med Wraps Cafe, 4925 N. Blackstone Ave., Fresno. This place is in the former Express Grill spot, tucked away in the southwest corner of Blackstone and Shaw avenues.

Med Wraps sells all kinds of Mediterranean food, including salads, wraps and falafel. The chicken wrap and shawarma – made from slow-roasted lamb, beef or chicken – are the most popular.

We decided to … do the food that we really love with the twist of the flavors we have grown to love.

Dayatra Lee, Southern Twist

Yummyz Street Treats, a Kerman-based food truck that you can find in Fresno at Toys R Us on West Shaw Avenue from 4-9 p.m. Fridays and near the Big Lots on Kings Canyon Road from 3-9 p.m. Sundays. Also, check her Facebook and Twitter for where she’ll be.

Yolanda Gonzalez’s food truck and catering business does beautiful things with fruit. The Mexican and American treats range from strawberries and cream to tacos with mango sauce.

Then there’s the “volcano,” an elaborate concoction of cucumbers stuffed with mango, jicama, dragon fruit, candy and her handmade sweet-and-spicy chamoy sauce.

Rocket Dog Gourmet Brats & Brew, 88 E. Shaw Ave. near Blackstone Avenue, Fresno. We wrote about this restaurant opening last year and it has been going strong ever since.

The restaurant is known for its sausages smothered in different toppings, like its Danger Dog, a bacon-wrapped, deep fried spicy hot link with barbecue sauce, Sriracha chili sauce, cheddar cheese, cilantro and red onion. Rocket Dog also serves salads, sandwiches and beer – and yes, the plan is to serve beer at the new location.

The new kitchen also allows Rocket Dog to do more catering jobs.

Southern Twist. This one will serve burgers with a twist, say, a burger stuffed with macaroni and cheese. It will also sell a chorizo burger with manchego cheese and garlic shrimp served on a sweet potato bun.

Southern Twist doesn’t have a restaurant, but is a partnership between two foodies. Clyde Hurd is a house painter and chef who runs the catering company The Painted Chef. He’s partnering with Dayatra Lee, a former food bank employee who went to culinary school at age 42 and is now a catering coordinator for the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission.

Smokin’ Burrito, a food truck and catering company that serves Mexican-influenced barbecue with a World War II theme.

You may have seen the military green trailer at events like Gazebo Gardens’ food truck night on Thursdays or at Eatin’ on Eaton, the 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. food truck event on Fridays in Eaton Plaza in downtown Fresno.

They will be serving the same slow-cooked pulled pork and other meats that go into their tacos and burritos. They also plan to have beer from microbreweries on tap.

Tomo’s Japanese Restaurant, 1134 E. Champlain Drive, Fresno. This restaurant serves Japanese food, including teriyaki bowls, tuna rolls and soups like udon and ramen.

They’re still working out exactly what will be on the menu at Manchester, but it will include serving beer on tap and sake.

Bethany Clough: 559-441-6431, @BethanyClough