Bethany Clough

Fresno in 12 foods: These are the ones you have to eat

There is so much good food in this town.

From the cuisine of our diverse cultures to all the fruits and vegetables we grow here that feed the nation, the Fresno area makes some mighty good food.

I set out to create a list of the foods that are quintessentially Fresno, ones you associate with our city, its history, its culture, its restaurant scene.

Readers added some brainpower to this story, weighing in on social media about foods they thought should be on the list.

Some of it is specific to Fresno. I mean really, do other cities get as excited as we do about corn from their local university? Does their local university even grow corn? No.

Some of the foods come from restaurants. Some grows on trees. And some are controversial – no matter how you feel about raisins, they are inextricably linked with Fresno.

And since I don’t want to start the controversy of the century, the 12 foods are presented in no particular order.

What to eat in Fresno

Tacos. This one is a no-brainer as tacos are almost synonymous with Fresno. Some favorite reader spots? La Elegante, El Premio Mayor, Taste Kitchen in Fresno and El Mexicano in Fowler.

Pho. With Fresno’s large southeast Asian community, it’s no surprise that the Vietnamese noodle soup has spilled over into the mainstream. When one longtime restaurant, Pho 75 #2, closed, the backlash was so strong that it ended up reopening.

Tri-tip. Technically a Santa Maria thing, tri-tip gets Fresnans really excited, whether making it at home on the grill or at a restaurant. Some readers’ favorite places to get it: Dog House Grill and Westwoods BBQ & Spice Co.

Fresno State corn. Duh. The market that sells it at Fresno State sold 36,980 ears on the first day of corn season last year. People line up for this corn. One dish using it that has become Fresno famous is the agnolotti pasta at Annex Kitchen, available only when Fresno State corn is in season.

Raisins. Love them or hate them, the wrinkly little fruit is tied up in our identity and our economy. Technically, Selma is the raisin capital of the country, but scads of raisins are produced in Fresno County. Though you can still get old fashioned raisin pie at the Caruthers Fair, the latest trend is flavored raisins like Raisels’ “sour watermelon shock.”

Me-N-Ed’s. One of the few restaurants on this list, the Fresno-based chain has about 45 locations and has been slinging pizza for 60 years. Whether it’s the all meat or the valley veggie, the pizza is something many people who have moved away are sure to get when they’re home.

Fair cinnamon rolls. People here get really excited about the giant cinnamon rolls drowning in icing at The Big Fresno Fair. It appears to be a Fresno-specific passion, for some reason. If you’re craving them when the fair isn’t here, you can always get a giant one at the newly opened Libelula restaurant, The Train Depot or Jus’ Jo’s Country Kitchen.

Chicken pot pie from Grandmarie’s Chicken Pie Shop in the Tower District. These little pot pies covered in gravy are a Fresno favorite. Despite the rumors, the 63-year-old restaurant is still kicking, with its stuck-in-the-past vibe and green vinyl booths part of its charm.

Stockholm Royale. There’s a lot of lore surrounding this cocktail reportedly invented in Fresno’s Tower District. It’s made from vodka, triple sec, sweet and sour, Champagne and a splash of black raspberry liqueur Chambord that gives it its pink color. You can get this drink at many places around town, though Veni Vidi Vici and Livingstone’s will have it for sure.

Bierocks. There’s a ton of ways to spell this food, but only one definition: a round pastry pocket filled with beef and cabbage. It’s Russian, or maybe German, or both. You can find it at The Berrock Shop, Eddie’s Bakery Cafe and on Tuesdays at Mable’s Kitchen.

Figs. Not everyone likes figs, but the people who love them really love them. A fresh fig from the farmers market is as beautiful as it is tasty. And besides, we have a whole neighborhood, Fig Garden, that got its name because it was built on former fig orchards.

In-n-Out. A true California favorite, this restaurant’s drive thrus are always packed with a line of cars. A double double animal style is a popular option, or try something else from it’s not so secret menu.

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.
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