Bethany Clough

Two new restaurants are offering Fresno favorites tri-tip and Armenian food in downtown

First came the tri-tip sandwiches. Soon, you’ll be able to get an Armenian favorite: a bread boat filled with a warm cheese and egg mixture.

These items are on the menu at two new restaurants opening on the same corner in downtown Fresno. Both are at the northwest corner of Kern and L streets, part of the Hotel Virginia building.

The first, BoxCar Cafe, opened about a month ago, shortly after its predecessor, CHARburger closed in late March. Keep reading for more about BoxCar.

Mediterranean food

The newbie restaurant next door is GG’s Food Factory. It opens at 10 a.m. Thursday, May 9 at 2139 Kern St. It’s in the space that Tree of Life left behind when it moved north to 6640 N. Blackstone Ave.

The food here is Mediterranean, with some Armenian favorites and options for people who just want a hamburger or pizza.

That eggy, cheesy concoction? It’s called adjaruli khachapuri, though you can just say egg boat if that’s easier. It’s technically from Georgia (the country next door to Armenia), but is a common dish in Armenia, said Tigran Hovhannisyan, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Ripsime Oganyan.

He recommends tearing off a bit of that dough and dipping it in the warm gooey mixture.

Also on the menu: Plates of barbecued meat like pork ribs, cubes of lamb and chicken lula kabob served with rice pilaf. You can also get a hamburger and a lamb burger, salads and pizza.

A few other dishes on GG’s menu that you won’t find at many other Fresno restaurants? Lahmajoon (an Armenian flatbread smothered in ground beef) and potato pie (technically called piroshki). It looks like a roll, but it’s stuffed with herbed mashed potatoes and then deep fried for a crunchy bite.

If the name GG’s Food Factory sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen the big red food truck of the same name around town. The same couple runs it and many of the dishes sold on the truck will be available at the restaurant.

They’re putting aside the truck for a while to focus on running the restaurant.

“That’s my dream,” Hovhannisyan said. “I’ve been cooking for a long time.”

He owned a restaurant in Armenia before coming to Fresno in 2000. After starting the food truck, customers started asking for something more.

“They keep asking about a restaurant, because they want a sit-down restaurant,” he said.

For the next month or so, GG’s will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

For downtown diners looking for dinnertime options, don’t fret yet. The couple hopes to get there eventually and be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and for lunch and dinner on Saturdays and Sundays.

But they’re also expecting a baby in about a month and between that and opening a new restaurant, they decided to start small and ramp up.

Quick lunch

The BoxCar Cafe at 901 L St. is a quick place to grab lunch. It opened about a month ago.

Its lunch menu has just six options: A cheeseburger, veggie burger, tri-tip sandwich, grilled chicken club, a “ham stack” sandwich and a sourdough Joe made with bacon, Swiss and American cheese with grilled onions on sourdough bread.

It also serves breakfast quesadillas and breakfast sandwiches, though people are still discovering that it’s open for breakfast, said owner Donna Willis.

The restaurant doesn’t have a prominent sign yet, but look for the restaurant that’s right on the corner of Kern and L streets. It is open from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, with breakfast items served until 10:30 a.m.

If the restaurant name BoxCar sounds familiar, it’s probably because you remember the little cafe painted to look like a boxcar on Hamilton Avenue. Most recently it was called Keith’s BoxCar Cafe & Barbecue, though it closed years ago.

Willis opened the first BoxCar on Hamilton before it went through a succession of owners.

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