Bethany Clough

The Clovis restaurant scene is hopping: Openings, closings and other shake-ups

Comings, goings, and changes in the Clovis restaurants scene

The Clovis dining scene is awash in change. Empty restaurant spaces are getting snapped up by newcomers.
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The Clovis dining scene is awash in change. Empty restaurant spaces are getting snapped up by newcomers.

The Clovis restaurant scene is hopping.

There are new restaurants coming, a few saying goodbye and some places shaking things up a bit.

Empty restaurant spaces are getting snapped up quickly by newcomers, said Craig Holdener, a vice president at commercial real estate firm Newmark Grubb/Pearson Commercial.

“Restaurant space is sparse. It gets picked up real quick,” he said. “There’s not a lot out there.”

Some of the new restaurants are taking over spaces that haven’t been empty for long, like the former Guadalajara and Mother Mary’s at Willow and Nees avenues.

Others are building new kitchens in existing buildings or in new shopping centers.

Here’s a look at what’s happening.

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1. Butterfish California Poke opened its first Clovis restaurant late last month. At 1850 Herndon Ave., it’s in the new shopping center at Fowler Avenue, next to the Five Guys Burgers & Fries.

Like the original Butterfish at Friant Road and Fresno Street (and another in the works at Palm and Herndon avenues), the restaurant specializes in poke. That’s the Hawaiian-inspired dish of raw, bite-size pieces of tuna or other fish.

The new Butterfish offers some hot appetizers that the existing one doesn’t: Sriracha shrimp, Tokyo fries (sweet potatoes fries with a sweet-and-spicy drizzle) and maitake (tempura mushrooms served with a curry ranch dipping sauce).

In addition to the typical ingredients offered in poke bowls, the Clovis location has slow-cooked, thin-sliced beef and a few other new options.

“There’s quite a few new and different things out there,” said co-owner Rema Koligian. “We’re just trying to test the market and see what resonates with people.”

The new place is a little more colorful than the original too, with bright art and wall treatment that evokes an ocean wave. The restaurant also has a walk-up window where people can pick up food they’ve ordered via the Butterfish app.

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The Napa Dog with Tioga-Sequoia beer in the background, shown at Rocket Dog Gourmet Brats and Brew Thursday, September 10, 2015 in Fresno, Calif. The eatery has opened its first Clovis location, at ERIC PAUL ZAMORA ezamora@fresnobee.com

2. Rocket Dog Gourmet Brats & Brew, 1365 N. Willow Ave. has opened its first restaurant in Clovis. Rocket Dog, known for its craft beer and creative sausages, took over the former Guadalajara restaurant at Willow and Nees avenues.

The restaurant serves sausages piled high with toppings and house-made potato chips. The Napa dog, for example, is a sweet chicken sausage on a grilled baguette with fig-onion jam and crumbled goat cheese.

Rocket Dog also offers sandwiches and salads.

The restaurant has 24 taps stocked with craft beer, about double the number at its original location at on Shaw Avenue near Highway 41.

That same center has two restaurants in the works that probably won’t open for a while.

3. Clovis Pizza Subs Yogurt will open next to Slice of India, probably this summer.

4. 13 Prime Steak has signed a lease for the former Mother Mary’s pizza place, but still has a lot of work ahead of it before opening.

5. The Black Bear Diner that was supposed to open in Clovis? It’s not happening.

The owners of the other Black Bear diners in the Valley had planned to build a new one on Shaw Avenue near Helm Avenue in Clovis. It was an ideal location that would have been surrounded by three hotels, including one still under construction.

But after four years of planning, construction costs have quadrupled and the owners changed their minds, said Amy Rose, the director of operations who owns the Valley franchises with her father, Bob Rose.

This isn’t the end of Black Bear here, though. The owners are sniffing around for a location, especially in Fresno. Stay tuned for more on that.

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At the Fresno Steak ‘n Shake, which opened last March, cook Daniel Aguilar, left, and other employees practice for opening day. JOHN WALKER jwalker@fresnobee.com

6. Steak ‘n Shake: Is it coming to Clovis?

There’s a lot of buzz about what might be happening at the northeast corner of Willow and Alluvial avenues, but not a lot of answers.

Here’s what we know: On Feb. 5, the Clovis City Council approved a request for a general plan amendment that would change the corner’s low-density residential designation to one that would allow a convenience store and two restaurants.

That application identifies Steak ‘n Shake as one of the restaurants, confirmed Orlando Ramirez, a senior planner for the City of Clovis.

But that’s the only piece of evidence linking Steak ‘n Shake to Clovis. A barrage of phone calls to Steak ‘n Shake’s corporate office, other city departments, and firms that represent the applicant produced nothing – not one return phone call.

The Steak ‘n Shake name is not used in a conditional-use permit application and the company has not submitted any plans to the city.

What does all that mean? Steak ‘n Shake could very well be intending to come to Clovis. But there’s a reason they keep quiet early in a process like this. A lot can happen in the months, even years, it can take to develop a corner. And plans can fall through.

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Old Town Donuts opened last week, serving all kinds of doughnuts. Old Town Donuts

7. Old Town Donuts at 30 W. Shaw Ave. opened Saturday. The doughnut shop is in the same center as Elephant Lounge near Minnewawa Avenue.

It has colorfully frosted doughnuts, doughnut holes, bear claws and “jelly drops” – mini-doughnuts with fillings such as lemon.

Aurore Chhun and her husband run the shop, though it’s Chhun who has the background in restaurants. Born in France, her family moved to Cambodia when she was 10. At one point, she and her parents ran a restaurant on a boat, with her mother cooking as her father steered the boat.

But after the boat burned down, she ended up in Clovis, where her husband is from.

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The former Forestiere’s Place, 401 Clovis Ave., bottom floor of the tall building at center, has been a new owner and will become The Bottleneck Bistro. JOHN WALKER jwalker@fresnobee.com

8. Bottleneck Bistro will eventually open in Old Town Clovis. You may have noticed Forestiere’s Place, at 401 Clovis Ave. Suite 106, has closed. It was bought by a new owner, Mark Kazanjian, who will reopen it in the coming weeks or months.

He’s redoing the interior and working on a new menu.

The restaurant will focus on quality wines, craft beer and spirits, with a full bar.

Although the menu will have sandwiches, burgers and salads, it will be a different from typical pub fare, Kazanjian said. It will include short ribs braised in red wine and dried mission figs, beer-battered fried cheese curds, and mac ‘n‘ cheese balls stuffed with cream cheese and bacon.

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Chicago’s Pizza With-A-Twist is planning to open its third restaurant in the area, this one at 497 N. Clovis Ave. near Arsenio’s Mexican Food. Bethany Clough bclough@fresnobee.com

9. Chicago’s Pizza With-A-Twist has signed a lease to open at 497 N. Clovis Ave., the same shopping center that has Arsenio’s Mexican Food, at Herndon and Clovis avenues.

Chicago’s serves traditional pizza (like all-meat and vegetarian fare), but also pizza inspired by Indian food. It’s a bit like taking the dishes you get at Indian restaurants and turning them into toppings atop a typical American pizza. The menu includes the popular butter chicken pizza and Tandoori chicken pizza. Several pizzas have paneer, the Indian cheese sometimes mistaken for tofu.

Chicago’s is a chain with restaurants all over California. It has two locations in Fresno (at Kings Canyon Road and Clovis Avenue, and at Shaw and Marks avenues).

There’s still a lot of work left to be done inside, so it may be a few weeks or months until it opens.

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Cool Hand Luke’s, 955 Shaw Ave., has changed hands and have added lunch and now open at 11 a.m. daily. JOHN WALKER jwalker@fresnobee.com

10. Cool Hand Luke’s Steakhouse/Saloon, at 955 Shaw Ave., has a new owner who has opened the restaurant for lunch every day.

The restaurant pulled some favorites from the dinner menu to offer at lunch, including sandwiches, burgers and salads. It added six new lunch dishes. One – perhaps taking a page from Olive Garden’s popular lunch option – features unlimited soup, salad and sourdough rolls for $8.95.

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Sergio Hinojosa, walking his bike, looks forward to the opening of Triangle Burgers Drive In, 200 W. Shaw Ave. in Clovis. JOHN WALKER jwalker@fresnobee.com

11. Triangle Drive In still plans to open in the former BJ’s Kountry Kitchen at 200 W. Shaw Ave.

The popular old-school diner has three locations in Fresno and is known for its burgers, crinkle-cut fries and milkshakes.

Workers have ripped out the interior of the restaurant and are redoing it. The owner had hoped to open in December, but is now looking at an April debut.

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Jersey Mike’s Subs has closed a Clovis location, but still has five locations in Fresno and Clovis. Jersey Mike’s

12. Jersey Mike’s Subs, which opened in 2015 at the corner of Shaw and Villa avenues, closed Jan. 14. The company says it plans to relocate the restaurant, though just where and when haven’t been determined.

The area still has five Jersey Mike’s: Two in Clovis and three in Fresno.

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Mickey’s Yogurt is selling raw cookie dough that’s safe to eat. Mickey’s Yogurt

13. Mickey’s Yogurt at Shaw and Armstrong avenues still is serving frozen yogurt, but has added something different: raw cookie dough.

We’ve all heard the warnings about raw cookie dough because of the potential for salmonella from raw eggs (and lately, E. coli from flour). So owner Tiffany Howell and business partner Daryl France – who is also her grandmother and Mickey is Howell’s grandfather – came up with a cookie dough recipe that’s safe to eat. There are no eggs in the recipe and it uses treated flour.

Customers can buy the cookie dough by the scoop, similar to scoops of ice cream. One scoop starts at $3.49 and toppings can be added.

Bethany Clough: 559-441-6431, @BethanyClough

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