Bethany Clough

No place to eat dinner downtown? That’s changing. Here are more than 20 places to go

Dinner in downtown Fresno: Restaurants aim for the evening crowd

A revitalized downtown is helping improve restaurant patronage for the dinner crowd.
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A revitalized downtown is helping improve restaurant patronage for the dinner crowd.

Downtown Fresno doesn’t have a reputation as hotbed of dinner-time dining.

But where to eat out downtown — not just at lunch, but after thousands of largely government workers flee for home — is a hot topic of conversation now.

Downtown residents have long demanded more places to eat at night. People working on revitalizing downtown have a vision of restaurant patios packed with diners on evenings and weekends — a vision they say is key to bringing in people from outside downtown. And baseball and soccer fans often are looking for places to eat before a game at Chukchansi Park.

We set out to create a guide to the handful of restaurants that are open in the evening. What we found surprised us. Would you believe there are 24 restaurants downtown open for dinner?

At least four – Gus Kabob, Just The Tip, The Pizza Pit and and Lily’s Cafe – just recently expanded their hours to open for dinner.

Three of the restaurants are Subway locations and two are inside hotels (which are open to the public). Many restaurants downtown are mom-and-pop places that don’t do much marketing, so you may not have realized they are open for dinner. And many restaurants close at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m., so check their hours before you go.

We focused on restaurants in the heart of downtown, though there are certainly other restaurants on the edges of downtown.

Here’s which restaurants are open at night downtown and what you can eat there:

Gus kabob
Gustavo Pineda owns Gus Kabob, a restaurant in the same building as hundreds of IRS employees who are either furloughed or working without pay. Less than a year ago, he expanded hours at the request of customers who work for the IRS. Bethany Clough bclough@fresnobee.com

Gus Kabob, 855 M St.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Food: Mediterranean, with beef, lamb and chicken kebobs, salads and burgers.

What to get: Gus’ screaming spicy chicken is a favorite. It’s chicken breast sauteed with onions and bell peppers, and spicy garlic sauce.

Drinks: Soda and the like.

What else: This is a bare-bones place, but if you’re looking for nice ambiance, eat outside by the koi pond. The restaurant recently started staying open late after IRS workers in the same building requested it.

Crowds pack the relocated Cosmopolitan at the corner of O and Ventura streets in downtown Fresno on Monday, July 18, 2016. Owner Gary Lanfranco shows off some of the old restaurant that made the move. Read why the restaurant moved at fblinks.com/c

Cosmopolitan Tavern & Italian Grill, 625 O St. near the Fresno Convention and Entertainment Center.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch, Mondays through Fridays, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. for dinner, Tuesdays through Saturdays. The bar is open all day starting at 11 a.m.

Food: Italian and American food such as steak, seafood and pasta.

What to get: The Chilean sea bass, general manager Joe Lanfranco says. And the wild mushroom ravioli is “to die for,” he said.

Drinks: Full bar.

What to drink: A cosmopolitan cocktail, of course, which is tweaked by adding a little St. Germain (elderflower liqueur).

What else: If you haven’t been to Cosmo since its previous home was torn down to make way for high-speed rail, you’re in for a surprise. The newly constructed restaurant is cozy yet modern.

This map shows restaurants in the heart of downtown that are open for dinner. Click on the markers for more infomation.

thevanness.jpeg
The Van Ness sandwich at Just the Tip is a French dip style sandwich with melted Swiss cheese, grilled onions and house au jus. The tri-tip is dry rubbed then grill smoked and sliced to order. Served on a basque bakery roll. Just the Tip

Just The Tip, 2017 Mariposa Mall at Fulton Street.

Hours: The restaurant expanded its hours this week for dinner on weeknights. It’s now open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 7 p.m. Saturday.

Food: Barbecue, tri-tip.

What to get: The Van Ness, a tri-tip sandwich served French-dip style with melted Swiss cheese, or The Tulare, a Philly cheesesteak sandwich made with tri-tip, grilled onions and peppers, and smothered in hot cheese sauce.

Drinks: Sodas, etc.

What else: You may remember this restaurant when it was in the skinny, triangle-shaped building on Divisadero. It has moved. While the restaurant name stems from tri-tip and the odd tip of the previous building, yes, the owners are aware there’s another, more salacious connotation to the name.

Kikku Japanese Food
Kikku Japanese Food at 2336 Tulare St. is open from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Bethany Clough bclough@fresnobee.com

Kikku Japanese Food, 2336 Tulare St.

Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Food: Japanese, including rice plates, noodle dishes, salads and sushi.

What to get: The spicy crispy chicken is a favorite, served with a spicy batter and rice with Kikku’s brown sauce.

Drinks: Beer and sake.

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Los Panchos is open until 7 p.m. daily at 1000 Fulton Street in downtown Fresno. John Walker The Fresno Bee

Los Panchos Mexican Restaurant, 1000 N. Fulton St.

Hours: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m daily.

Food: Mexican, including burritos, fajitas, soup, etc.

What to get: The shrimp molcajete. Technically referring to the volcanic-rock bowl it’s served in, molcajete is a stew made here with shrimp, green chilies, onions, blistered chiles and cheese. It also can be ordered with chicken. It can serve one person or two and stays hot until the very end because the bowl holds the heat.

Drinks: Full bar.

What to drink: A margarita, of course. There are more than 50 kinds of tequila to choose from, but the owners recommend a margarita made with Espolón, a tequila from their hometown in Mexico.

What else: The restaurant is getting a new look and a patio that will seat 40 people. Expect an Old Mexico feel with lots of wood and original brick.

sushi
Umi Sushi at 2321 Kern St. is open for lunch and dinner Mondays through Fridays and on Saturdays, from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Bethany Clough bclough@fresnobee.com

Umi Sushi, 2321 Kern St.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch and 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for dinner Monday through Friday. On Saturdays, it’s open 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Food: Sushi, of course, along with salads, noodle soup and rice bowls.

What to get: The California deluxe is a popular option among the cooked rolls. It features crab, avocado, cucumber and unagi (freshwater eel).

Drinks: Beer and wine

What to drink: A worker recommended the Japanese beer, Asahi.

What else: The owners of Umi just bought Roll One For Mi at 1512 E Champlain Dr. in north Fresno.

Lily's Cafe
Lily's Cafe at 2326 Tulare St. in downtown Fresno, recently expanded its hours to 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Bethany Clough bclough@fresnobee.com

Lily’s Cafe, 2326 Tulare St.

Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Food: Mexican food, including breakfast.

What to get: The combination plates are a popular option here. For $8.99 for lunch and $10.99 for dinner you can get rice and beans with any two items, such as a burrito, chile relleno, taco, enchilada, etc.

Drinks: Beer and wine.

What to drink: Corona and Modelo are the top sellers.

BUILDING MUGS 17.JPG
The Club One Casino restaurant is open 24 hours a day, though its bar closes between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. JOHN WALKER jwalker@fresnobee.com

Club One Casino, 1033 Van Ness Ave.

Hours: The restaurant’s full menu is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Food: American and Asian comfort food.

What to get: Burgers, pho and the papaya salad. All three are popular with customers.

Drinks: The full bar is open from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m.

What to drink: A beer from one of the 16 taps, which include local beers.

What else: It’s probably the only place downtown open 24 hours, which makes it easy for post-game meals and drinks. People under 21 can eat if they’re with a parent or guardian, though you need to be 21 or older to play the table games like blackjack and poker.

Patrons at downtown Fresno's HoP PK restaurant, which opened in Novemeber, can wait up to an hour for table service, but they keep returning, establishing the downtown restaurant and pub as a thriving business.

HoP PK, 820 Van Ness Ave., across from the spiral garage.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday (kitchen closes at 10 p.m.).

Food: Mediterranean food that pairs well with beer. The restaurant is a partnership of Visalia restaurant Pita Kabob and Sanger-based House of Pendragon Brewing Co.

What to get: The shawarma fries. These super-popular fries are topped with shawarma meat (beef or chicken cut off a vertical skewer) and grilled onions, serrano peppers, melted cheese, garlic sauce and spicy tahini.

Drinks: It’s all about the beer here. The business is a gastropub designed to showcase House of Pendragon beers. There are a few taps featuring craft beer from other breweries.

What to drink: The Lancelot IPA. It’s a top seller at House of Pendragon’s Clovis and Sanger tasting rooms.

What else: This new restaurant can have some long wait times on busy nights, so if you’re going to an event, plan accordingly.

kockyswings.jpg
Kocky's Bar & Grill, at 1231 Van Ness Ave., stays open late on weeknights and Saturdays. The restaurant touts its large chicken wings. Kocky's

Kocky’s Bar & Grill, 1231 Van Ness Ave.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Friday (kitchen closes at midnight) with a cover charge for the live band starting at 9:30 p.m. On Saturdays, Kocky’s is open from 4 p.m. to midnight (kitchen closes at 10 p.m.).

Food: American cuisine, including burgers and chicken wings. The restaurant serves the whole wing, not just drummettes. There are 14 housemade sauces to choose from.

What to get: Owner Michael Smith likes his wings with lemon pepper, though the buffalo and barbecue sauces are popular, too.

Drinks: Full bar.

What to drink: The watermelon sour. It’s a mixture of watermelon puree, watermelon Pucker, tequila and triple sec, served with three pieces of watermelon candy, the owner says.

What else: Its happy hour is ideal for people catching a drink or snack before a baseball or soccer game. It runs from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and includes drinks for $5 and under, and appetizers for $4 and under.

Donut burger
This doughnut burger made with a glazed doughnut split in half for a bun, a burger patty and two slices of bacon. Joe's Steak House

Joe’s Steakhouse & Grill, 831 Van Ness Ave.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays.

Food: Steak, ribs, sandwiches and soups.

What to try: The baby back ribs and the rib-eye steak are top sellers. Also, during happy hour (3 p.m. to 5 p.m.) during baseball season, Joe’s will serve doughnut burgers. That’s a burger with a glazed doughnut split in half for a bun, with a burger patty and two slices of bacon.

Drinks: Beer and wine.

What to drink: Try drinking local, like a beer from Madera-based Riley’s Brewing Co. or wine from Line 39, a Parlier-based winery.

What else: During baseball season, bring in your parking slip from a downtown garage and you’ll get $5 off your bill.

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The beer garden at Tioga-Sequoia regularly hosts food trucks. Silvia Flores The Fresno Bee

Tioga-Sequoia beer garden, 745 Fulton St., within walking distance of Chukchansi Park.

Hours: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday, noon to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 7 p.m. Sundays.

Food: Yes, this is a beer garden, but food trucks are there every day, usually from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. They range from taco trucks to the Chicken Shack’s food trailer and Casa de Tamales. Check Tioga-Sequoia’s Facebook page to see which trucks will be there. Dine indoors or outside among the heaters and tables with fiery centerpieces.

What to get: You can’t go wrong with tacos and beer.

Drinks: All kinds of beer, from hoppy IPAs to a breakfast stout and wheat beer. For beer geeks, there’s always something on tap that you can’t get anywhere else in town, including seasonal and limited-run beers infused with coconut, vanilla or other flavors.

What to drink: The Half Dome California wheat beer is a top seller. Made with local fruit such as peaches, it’s a good choice for people who don’t normally like beer. For others, the hoppy, piney General Sherman IPA is a “beer lover’s beer,” says brewery president Michael Cruz.

What else: The beer garden is a rallying spot for soccer fans who support the Fresno FC (football club) Foxes. Fire Squad Fresno is a sort of cheerleading team on steroids that marches to Chuckchansi Park before games with drums, horns, chants and colored smoke.

eatnight_03
Shepherd's Inn restaurant and tavern is shown at its location in the Santa Fe Hotel on Santa Fe Street in downtown Fresno on Tuesday, March 27, 2018. CRAIG KOHLRUSS ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

Shepherd’s Inn, 935 Santa Fe Ave., across the street from the train station.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday (Note: The kitchen closes between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, but the bar is open during those hours.)

Food: Mostly Basque, such as lamb and seafood, with some American dishes.

What to get: Get the food Basque-style for a different experience. The six-course meal includes entrees like lamb ribs and garlic fried chicken, and lots of sides that change daily, like soup, pasta or potato salad, and bread and butter. Customers also can order their entrees American style without the sides for a few dollars less.

Drinks: A full bar.

What to drink: Try a whiskey. The bar has more than 100 varieties.

What else: A family-style Sunday brunch starts at 9:30 a.m. It includes options like eggs, bacon, pancakes, wine and cheese, and $3 bloody marys and mimosas.

Pizza Pit
The Pizza Pit at 1920 Tulare St. downtown just recently started staying open until 9 p.m. The Pizza Pit

The Pizza Pit, 1920 Tulare St.

Hours: 11 am. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Food: Pizza, salads and appetizers like mozzarella sticks.

What to get: The combination pizza comes with a slew of toppings, including pepperoni, salami, Canadian bacon, Italian sausage and linguisa.

Drinks: Beer, sodas.

What to drink: If you have four or more people, you can order a 100-ounce Coors party tower of beer that’s delivered to the table. It keeps the beer cold and diners pour their own brew through a spigot.

What else: The Pizza Pit delivers to downtown and the Tower District.

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The beans and greens, cooked Peruvian beans on top of a kale Caesar salad, is a top seller at Raw Fresno. The restaurant inside the Galleria at Civic Center Square is open until 7 p.m. weeknights.

Raw Fresno, 2405 Capitol St., Suite 103. It’s in The Galleria at Civic Center Square. Free parking for customers is in the back of the building.

Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 9 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday (and open late on ArtHop nights).

Food: Local, organic, plant-based food, with options for people who are vegan, on the Whole 30 or paleo diets, gluten free, or avoiding soy and sugar.

What to get: Beans and greens — cooked Peruvian beans on top of a kale Caesar salad — is a top seller.

Drinks: Fermented drinks like kombucha and kefir, smoothies, fresh juices, etc.

What to drink: Golden milk is a top seller. It’s a warm, dairy-free drink made from tahini, dates, hot water, turmeric and cinnamon that is reportedly good for inflamations.

What else: Raw Fresno has a food truck that visits Fresno City College, Enzo’s Table and Kaiser Permanente Fresno’s weekly farmers market. See the Raw Fresno website for details.

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The 1950s-era neon sign in a lantern motif still lures customers to the Tokyo Garden restaurant at 1711 Fulton St. in downtown Fresno. John Walker The Fresno Bee

Tokyo Gardens, 1711 Fulton St.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday for lunch. For dinner, 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. The bar is open late.

Food: Japanese food.

What to get: The rib-eye steak is popular, the owner says.

Drinks: Full bar.

What to drink: A Singapore Sling, made from gin, lime and a splash of cherry brandy.

What else: This is a hopping karaoke venue in the evening.

Quesadilla Gorilla restaurant in Visalia, California has a name that rhymes in more ways than one. Owner Miguel Reyes says there's a story behind the silly name.

Quesadilla Gorilla, 744 P St.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Food: All kinds of quesadillas, from savory to sweet.

What to get: The Evan Boling quesadilla is a yummy one, with cilantro-lime chicken, bacon, jalapenos and cheese. It’s named after the Visalia barber who came up with the Quesadilla Gorilla name.

Drinks: Sodas.

What else: Quesadilla Gorilla also has locations at 608 E. Weldon Ave. in Fresno and 302 W. Main St. in Visalia, and a food truck.

Zest at the Radisson
Zest California Grill & Bar is open inside the Radisson Hotel Conference Center. Dinner is served from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Bethany Clough bclough@fresnobee.com

Zest California Grill & Bar, at Radisson Hotel Fresno Conference Center, 1055 Van Ness Ave.

Hours: Breakfast runs from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on weekdays, until 11 a.m. on weekends. Dinner is from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Food: California cuisine with a Southern flair, this place also does room service for hotel guests.

What to get: The chef recommends the short rib tacos.

Drinks: Full bar.

What to drink: Local beers are popular, including Tioga-Sequoia and Riley’s.

What else: Zest just got a new chef earlier this year, Rob Ringler from Fleming’s Steakhouse. He plans to bring lots of changes to the restaurant. He want to put steak on the menu and other dishes that baseball and soccer fans might like. Also, if you park in the garage directly under the Radisson and dine at Zest, the restaurant will validate your parking.

Taqueria El Guero
Taqueria El Guero is open on Fulton Street seven days a week. Bethany Clough bclough@fresnobee.com

Taqueria El Guero, 1139 Fulton St.

Hours: 8 am. to 6 p.m daily.

Food: Mexican food, with some seafood.

What to get: It’s all about the burritos at this little hole in the wall. They’re big. Seriously, their Yelp page has photos of people measuring the burritos (8 inches by 3.5 inches, if you’re curious).

Drinks: Soda.

The International Cafe at the DoubleTree by Hilton.
The International Cafe is located in the atrium of the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Fresno Convention Center at 2233 Ventura St. It is open to the public and hotel guests. Bethany Clough bclough@fresnobee.com

International Cafe at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Fresno Convention Center, 2233 Ventura St.

Hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Food: American, including steak, pork chops, pasta and seafood.

What to get: The Kobe beef burger topped with blue cheese, bacon and onion straws, or the Creole chicken pasta with cream sauce.

Drinks: Full bar. A separate bar, the Atrium Lounge, is open until 11 p.m.

What to drink: Local beers are popular, but the business recently debuted a cocktail menu that includes martinis.

What else: The restaurant is in the hotel atrium,, with floor upon floor towering over the dining room and a waterfall nearby. The cafe also provides room service for hotel guests.

Rio Acai poke
Poke bowls, clockwise from lower left, Hawaiian poke, spicy poke and kimchi poke, prepared at Rio Acai in Fresno Tuesday, August 16, 2016. Craig Kohlruss The Fresno Bee

Rio Acai Bowls, 1915 Fulton St. in Iron Bird Lofts.

Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 11 am. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Food: Açai bowls (fruit served atop a sorbet made from the acai berry) and poke (bite-size pieces of raw fish). Rappit Up also has vegan wraps and salads for sale.

What to eat: The basic açai bowl is tasty. It can be topped with granola, strawberries, bananas, peanut butter, Nutella and more.

Drinks: Smoothies, bottled drinks and Lanna

What else: The smoothies are made fresh with veggies, protein shakes, etc.

frostyqueen.jpg
Hamburgers like this one from Frosty Queen's Facebook page are available at the restaurant. Frosty Queen

Frosty Queen, 1850 Van Ness Ave.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Food: Burgers, sandwiches, salads and milkshakes.

What to eat: The pastrami combo is popular. That’s a pastrami sandwich, fries and a drink for $9.29.

Drinks: Soda.

Mezcal taqueria
The taqueria at Mezcal Lounge is open for lunch and late nights when the club is open, from 9 pm to close, Thursdays through Saturdays. Bethany Clough bclough@fresnobee.com

Mezcal Taqueria, 1310 Van Ness Ave.

Hours: 9 pm to close, Thursday to Saturday.

Food: It’s a late-night taqueria (which is also open for lunch on weekdays) inside a dance club. It serves tacos, burritos, tortas and nachos.

What to get: The carnitas torta is the popular dish here.

Drinks: Full bar.

What to get: The pelon special, made with Absolut mandarin vodka, peach schnapps, pineapple juice, orange juice and a splash of cranberry juice.

deli delicious
A worker prepares a sandwich at Deli Delicious in Fresno Friday, July 11, 2014. The restaurant at 970 N St. is open until 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Craig Kohlruss The Fresno Bee

Deli Delicious, 970 N St. near Tulare Street.

Hours: From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Food: Sandwiches, salads, fries and and soup.

What to get: The grilled chicken salad, topped with avocado, sprouts, tomato, cucumber and cheese, according to one worker.

Drinks: Soda.

Subway sandwich shop downtown
Subway employees serve customers in a Subway sandwich shop at 855 M. Street in 2014 in this file photo. The shop is seeing fewer customers because IRS workers in the same building have been furloughed or are working without pay. CRAIG KOHLRUSS Fresno Bee file

Subway

Subway has three locations downtown. One is at 855 M. Street, Suite 120, inside the Tower at Convention Center Court. Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Another Subway is at 2011 Fresno St., near the Fresno Street underpass. Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

And the third is at 2425 Merced St., in the same building as a hotel. Hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.

Food: Sandwiches, salads and breakfast served on flatbreads.

What to get: The chain is selling foot-long subs for $4.99, including blackforest ham, meatball marinara, spicy Italian, cold-cut combo and the veggie Delite.

Drinks: Soda.

Bethany Clough: 559-441-6431, @BethanyClough

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