Bethany Clough

Tower District: New restaurants opening, plus updates on Audie’s Olympic, Landmark

More beer comes to the Tower as Full Circle Brewing Co. opens in the former Audie’s Olympic

Full Circle Brewing Co. has opened its next location in the former Audie's Olympic on Van Ness in the Tower District.
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Full Circle Brewing Co. has opened its next location in the former Audie's Olympic on Van Ness in the Tower District.

While it seemed like all of Fresno was focused on Livingstone’s reopening last month, there were quite a few other changes happening in the Tower District.

Now, two more new restaurants are open, along with the former Audie’s Olympic/Club Fred. More businesses are on the way. There’s even an update on Landmark, the Tower District icon that’s been closed for nearly two years.

But we do have to warn you. New businesses in general and for some reason the Tower District in particular can take time to happen. Like slow as a snail with a hangover kind of time. All those permits, inspections and liquor license applications, along with construction, can slow down even the most enthusiastic business owner.

So that’s why we’ve organized this story by when we think the businesses will open. They range from those open now to others that will take months (maybe even lots of months) to open.

Happening now

Full Circle Olympic is the name of the newly opened tap room in the Tower District by Full Circle Brewing Company. The name pays homage to the tap room’s location at 1426 N. Van Ness Ave. in the building that once housed Audie’s Olympic Tavern until it closed in 2016.

Before that it had operated as Club Fred and before that as the Oly. Inside, the space has been cleaned, painted and remodeled. There still will be live music from the venue’s stage, though they removed the blue shag carpet that made Audie’s famous.

Full Circle Olympic will be an extension of the brewery’s downtown operations, with up to 13 taps of Full Circle’s signature beers (Juicy NE IPA and Cluster Fuggle Cream Ale to name two) plus specialty brews. There will also be to-go service for cans and growlers.

Though it’s already hosted several events, including a New Year’s Eve party, the space began its normal business hours Monday and hosts a grand opening party at 6 p.m. Jan. 25.

It will be open from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays.

Newly opened Imperial Pizzazz in the Tower District serves pizza, pasta and nonalcoholic drinks. Bethany Clough

Imperial Pizzazz opened on New Year’s Eve at 1140 N. Van Ness Ave. on the corner of Olive Avenue that used to be home to Cuvée Spirit & Wine Parlor.

The restaurant combines Persian, Italian and American flavors and serves pizza, pasta, salads and nonalcoholic “mocktails.”

“It’s unlike any pizza you’ve had before,” said general manager Donald Fritz. “It uses secret Persian sauces that are yellow and green and when mixed together make a completely different-tasting pizza.”

The pizzas are all rectangular flatbread pizza, and Fritz recommends the steak pizza, served with chopped slices of tri-tip on top.

You can also find sambusas (a deep-fried triangular appetizer stuffed with meat or veggie filling), soup and Turkish coffee on the menu.

The flavors come from Homa Nikokhorsand, who grew up in Iran and whose family urged her to open a restaurant because they loved her cooking. You can spot bits of Iranian influence in the remodeled space. Plus, the name Imperial is a reference to a ruler in Iran decades ago.

Imperial Pizzazz has a bar, with lights that change colors, though it does not have a liquor license for a full bar. Instead, it’s serving nonalcoholic versions of cocktails, like a “nomosa.”

For now, it’s open for dinner from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and from noon to 11 p.m. Sundays. It will eventually expand to offer lunch. Parking is behind the building.

A bowl with a pineapple-coconut sherbet as its base, topped with bananas, strawberries and goji berries. Bethany Clough

Tower Blendz is at 802 E. Olive Ave. in the former Cindy’s Frozen Yogurt and Desserts, the building with paintings of Michael Jackson and other big stars.

Tower Blendz took over in October, and now offers acai and other bowls, smoothies and salads, all of which are customizable.

Acai (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) bowls are an increasingly popular option that start with a base of sorbet made from acai berries. You then add fruit like strawberries and bananas. Blendz goes a step further than other acai places and offers toppings touted for their various health benefits, like goji berries (red berries touted for their vitamins) and hemp seeds.

There are also alternatives to acai as a base like sorbet made with matcha (green tea), food-grade charcoal or flourescent pink pitaya (dragon fruit).

The smoothies are similar to the bowls, but blended into drinkable form. You’ll also find customizable salads, coffee drinks and a few flavors of ice cream.

A grand opening is scheduled for Jan. 19.

One interesting tidbit: The business holds story time for kids at 11 a.m. on Saturdays, followed by an arts and crafts session with parents. There’s also open mic nights at 7 p.m. on the first and third Wednesdays of the month. Owner Antony Ayodele, who also owns the cell phone store a few doors down, said he wants to bring more of a family-friendly atmosphere to Tower.

Tower Blendz is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends.

Deli Delicious in the Tower District isn’t that new, but it did recently expand its hours to cater to the late-night crowd. It is now open until midnight on Thursdays and open until 2:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

Happening soon

India’s Oven has remodeled the former Million Elephant space at 1153 N Fulton St. and plans to open its second restaurant in early 2019. Fresno Bee file

India’s Oven restaurant at the corner of Olive Avenue and Fulton Street could open within about three weeks, said Sunny Sehgal, who owns the restaurant with his father.

The restaurant has remodeled what used to be the former Million Elephant, including its tiny bathrooms, and is in the final inspection stage.

When it’s open, it will have a menu that’s similar to its existing restaurant at Marks and Ashlan avenues, but a little more condensed.

India’s Oven will be open for lunch and dinner. It will have a full bar and be open late, until 2 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Little Fat Dumpling will be opening a second Fresno location at the former Happy Star Chinese space on Palm near Olive in the Tower District. Little Fat Dumpling opened its first location in the Park Crossing shopping center near Woodward Park last summer. CRAIG KOHLRUSS

Little Fat Dumpling is also expected to open in the coming weeks. As The Bee reported last month, the restaurant is the same as the one next to Butterfish on Friant Road near Highway 41.

It’s taking over the former Happy Star restaurant at 1120 N. Palm Ave., just south of Olive Avenue. It will have a slimmed-down version of the north Fresno location’s menu, featuring dumplings, pot stickers and noodles. (Though it’s not clear yet if it will sell the Xiao Long Bao soup dumplings that take all day to make.)

Happening eventually

The Landmark restaurant and bar in the Tower District, on Olive Avenue. JOHN WALKER Fresno Bee file

The Landmark will reopen eventually, its owner said via email last week. At 644 E. Olive Ave., it was bought by a new owner in 2015, and has been closed for well over a year. Signs for Splash nightclub on the windows reference a summer opening, referring to a previous summer.

Owner T.J. Bruce, who owns gay nightclub Splash Video Dance Bar in San Jose, started work inside Landmark after he bought it. But the project was sidetracked for some personal reasons with various permits expiring. He has since reactivated those permits and is again working on the project.

“Hopefully (we’ll) open SPLASH this summer some time,” he said in the email.

The Painted Table, located in the Tower District, seen Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019 in Fresno. The owners plan to open a portion of the catering space into a French-inspired bistro. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA

The Painted Table is the catering company operating out of the space next to Tower Theatre. In a couple of months, it will have a restaurant that’s open to the public, too.

The bar and the area to the right of the front door will become a bistro open Wednesdays through Saturdays with the rest of the space still available to rent for special events.

Details are still being worked out, but the restaurant will be French-inspired with small plates, white marble bistro tables and a quiet atmosphere (basically, imagine what a chef who loves Paris and butter would do).

There will be pot roast available, too, the same famous recipe that the former Daily Planet restaurant used to sell in that same spot, says owner Jeromie Hansen.

“We’re going to leave the naked ladies,” he said, a reference to the mural over the bar that’s been there for years.

A name is still in the works.

The Lincoln is the name of the bar that’s in the works at 609 E. Olive Ave. It’s the same space as Zen Wok Fusion, which closed in April, and has the same owner.

Said Andy Karsh, who still runs Karsh’s Catering out of the kitchen: “We want to be the neighborhood bar. … We’re not playing loud music. It’s a place to come enjoy your friends and get a drink and enjoy some food.”

The name The Lincoln is a reference to the $5 bill (he’s on it) and the affordable theme Karsh is going for. There will be food and drink specials each day for $5.

The change from Zen Wok, a restaurant with a bar, to The Lincoln, a bar that serves food, is deliberate. The two businesses will have different liquor licenses and with a bar, the owner doesn’t have to worry about making sure a certain percentage of sales comes from food.

But that means they need to switch to a different type of liquor license and all the posting of applications, notifications and vetting that comes with it. That change could take up to 60 days.

The former La Arepa, the Venezuelan restaurant at 601 E. Olive Ave., closed in November. But a new tenant has already signed a lease for the space, according to the retail broker handling its lease. The new tenant did not immediately return a message from The Bee, but we will keep you updated.

Joshua Tehee covers breaking news, with a focus on entertainment and a heavy emphasis on the Central Valley music scene. You can see him share the area’s top entertainment options Friday mornings on KMPH’s “Great Day.”

Bethany Clough covers restaurants and retail for The Fresno Bee. A reporter for 20 years, she now works to answer readers’ questions about business openings, closings and other business news. She has a degree in journalism from Syracuse University and her last name is pronounced Cluff.