Bethany Clough

New restaurants: Downtown Fresno adds a juice bar, fried chicken, sushi and coffee

Ohana Pantry offers a twist on the acai bowl in downtown Fresno

Owner Angelica Garcia creates bowls with dragon fruit, matcha, charcoal and acai, and tops them with fresh fruit, granola and other toppings.
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Owner Angelica Garcia creates bowls with dragon fruit, matcha, charcoal and acai, and tops them with fresh fruit, granola and other toppings.

Fried chicken, juice made from kale and spinach, sushi, locally roasted coffee and charcoal sorbet.

That unusual collection of foods is what four new restaurants are bringing to the ever-evolving downtown Fresno food scene.

The new restaurants join some other existing places making big changes – mainly Mezcal Lounge and the former Valparaiso. Here’s an update on everything new to eat and drink in downtown Fresno.

Ohana Pantry

This little cafe with healthy options opened a little over a month ago. At 1560 Fulton St., it’s in the former Brew Fix spot.

The menu is mainly smoothies, acai bowls, paninis and toast. Not just plain ol’ toast, but “toasted delights,” laden with goodies like peanut butter and banana, or hummus, olive oil, cucumber and avocado.

But it’s the acai bowls that are something different for this town. Yes, there are acai bowls in Fresno – the bowls of sorbet made from the acai berry and usually topped with fruit – offered at restaurants like Río Açai Bowls, Jugo Salad & Juice Bar and Farm Fresh Bowls (and at Nevera Juice Bar mentioned later in this story).

But at Ohana Pantry, acai is just one option for the sorbet base.

The three other sorbet bowls are where things get interesting. The matcha base made from powdered green tea is actually green. The base made from dragon fruit (sometimes called pitaya) is bright pink. The charcoal mixed with coconut cream is the color of pavement, but tastes nothing like pavement. In fact customers like the taste so much it is one of the most popular options.

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Different sorbet bases for bowls, from left, matcha, charcoal, and acai, are topped with fruit, granola and other toppings at Ohana Pantry in downtown Fresno. CRAIG KOHLRUSS ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

The same choices are available in smoothies.

A word about charcoal: Food-grade activated charcoal is usually made by heating coconut shells and hospitals have long used it as an antidote to poisonings or drug overdoses. Charcoal-infused foods are becoming popular, mostly for the gray or black color they give foods like ice cream, making them prime Instagram material. It’s been a regular ingredient at juice bars – touted for awhile as a detoxifier – but there hasn’t been many studies focused on the safety of eating charcoal. It’s probably worth noting, however, that it can affect absorption of medications and nutrients, according to experts, and New York City’s health department has banned the substance at restaurants.

People on special diets and vegans will find some options at Ohana, too. There are meal replacement drinks similar to protein shakes, and vegan avocado grilled “cheese.”

In a meal-prep style service, customers can order bowls 24 hours in advance for pick up or dine in. Customers pick their protein, carbs and veggies (brown rice, steak and broccoli, for example).

Owner Angelica Garcia wanted to offer something more healthy than fast food downtown.

“You can find McDonald’s on every corner. You can find Jack in the Box on every corner,” she said. “You can’t find a healthy spot on every corner.”

Ohana means family in Hawaiian. Garcia isn’t Hawaiian but you will find her family members working at the restaurant, including her mom, Angelita Garcia.

Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays.

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Nevera Juice Bar has opened in downtown Fresno serving fresh-squeezed juice, smoothies, sandwiches and salads. Bethany Clough The Fresno Bee

Nevera Juice Bar

Another restaurant hoping to appeal to health-conscious customers downtown is Nevera Juice Bar. At 2311 Kern St., it’s in the same stretch of businesses as Starbucks.

All sorts of juices are made fresh here using traditional fruit and vegetables, and options like fresh ginger, cactus and kale. On a recent afternoon an employee chucked whole green apples into a whirring juicer. A large cooler with a glass front is packed with fruit and veggies, including watermelons and green leafies.

That’s part of how Nevera got its name. The word is Spanish for fridge, said manager Ivan Palafox, whose family owns the business.

It owns two more locations of the same name in the Los Angeles area.

One of the most popular juice options is the green juice, described as “sweet and earthy” and made with kale, spinach, green apple, parsley, cucumber, kiwi and more.

But there’s more than just juice here.

There are smoothies, including specialty ones high in protein. Customers can choose from milk or milk substitutes and alternatives to sugar sweetener are available, including Splenda, honey and agave.

A small selection of sandwiches and salads are on the menu. There are also bowls of fruit, some topped with chamoy, and acai bowls.

Nevera is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

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Chicken King has opened at 1234 Fulton St. in downtown Fresno.

Chicken King

As the name implies, it’s all about chicken here, with a soul food twist. At 1234 Fulton Street, Chicken King is open for lunch and dinner, including Saturdays.

Fried chicken, chicken and waffles, and chicken wings are on the menu, along with St. Louis ribs, tri-tip, Southern fried fish, Cajun fried prawns and po’boy sandwiches.

And then there are the sides: Collard greens, black-eye peas, yams, mac ‘n cheese, barbecue baked beans, potato salad and cornbread.

Chicken King also offers family meals with eight, 12 or 16 pieces of chicken, plus cornbread and a side.

The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.

Chicken King is the second restaurant specializing in chicken to open on Fulton Street since it reopened to cars. Chicken Shack is another newcomer that’s one-tenth of a mile away at Fulton and Mariposa streets.

Also on that corner is Toshiko Japanese Cuisine, which isn’t open yet but is getter closer. It will be the second location for the restaurant, which serves sushi, ramen and other Japanese food in Hanford.

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Israel-Elijah “Izzy” Lopez makes a pour-over coffee at USBean Brew Station inside Bitwise Stadium South.

USBean

USBean Brew Station is a play on the name of the USB device, which is fitting as the coffee shop is inside Bitwise Stadium South, a building full of tech companies.

Its predecessor, Valparaiso Cafe, left the building, its owner taking the business mobile to sell at events.

At USBean, you won’t find a lot of froufrou blended drinks. Instead the focus is on the basics. Coffee is available brewed via drip or pour over, or as cold brew. Espresso, lattes, cappuccinos and all the traditional coffee drinks are on the menu, too.

The coffee is made with locally roasted beans from Lanna Coffee Co. and Fulton Street Coffee. The tea is from Raizana Tea Co., a sister company to Fulton Street that’s also based downtown.

Another interesting thing about USBean? The man serving the coffee. Israel-Elijah “Izzy” Lopez is passionate about coffee, recalling that cafe con leche (coffee with milk) is one of his earliest childhood memories. He talks about a mentor who instilled a “passion and fire” in him for pulling the perfect espresso.

He’s a Fresno native who grew up here and learned the coffee trade in New York City before deciding to return home.

USBean is open from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.

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Mezcal Lounge is remodeling its taqueria and will reopen it as a sushi restaurant called On A Roll Sushi. The restaurant will continue to serve Mexican food during nightclub hours. Bethany Clough The Fresno Bee

Mezcal

Mezcal, the nightclub at 1310 Van Ness Ave. that operates a taqueria during the day, is switching things up. The taqueria is closed for now as the place is being remodeled to become a sushi place.

On A Roll Sushi should open within the next few weeks, said manager Maria Garcia.

It will be open for lunch and dinner, possibly from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and then perhaps 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The restaurant will continue to serve Mexican food when the nightclub is open on weekends.

Bethany Clough: 559-441-6431, @BethanyClough
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