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The Fresno-area restaurant scene is zooming along lately, with lots of new restaurants coming.
But before every big story about a restaurant opening its doors, there’s the legwork this reporter does that leads to a story. That includes making phone calls, flagging down construction workers, confirming rumors, checking planning documents and yes, occasionally peeping through the windows of empty buildings.
Sometimes that legwork produces some juicy tidbits. They may not be stories about big names like Tilted Kilt or Ike’s Love and Sandwiches opening their first restaurant in town, but there’s plenty happening in the food scene in the Fresno area lately.
Geno’s Sandwiches & Salads, the shop near Ashlan and Blackstone avenues – a longtime restaurant with some impressive Yelp.com reviews – is growing.
It has opened a Geno’s To-Go spot. It’s on the southeast corner of Herndon and Cedar in the Cedar Tree Village shopping center. It’s a small space – just 960 square feet, according to leasing documents – and will be mostly for take-out orders, with three tables.
If the excitement on its Facebook post is any indication, it will attract lots of customers.
Details: 6648 N. Cedar Ave. Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
The orange-painted Mexican restaurant on Clovis Avenue is locked up tight and appears closed, with no signs saying otherwise.
But it isn’t gone.
Hacienda Tequila’s is moving just a few doors down the street into the large restaurant space in the Barnyard Shopping Center. The center’s owner, Anthony Lambe, confirmed the restaurant has signed a lease and plans to open in the space that was once home to QN4U BBQ House and Dukes restaurant.
Hacienda Tequila’s owners could not be reached for comment, but the center owner said the family is busy renovating the space.
“They’re making it look like the restaurant they moved out of,” Lambe said. “They’re trying to make it as original as the original restaurant when they first opened. “
The new restaurant will be about twice the size of the previous one, hopefully big enough so that customers don’t have to wait outside the building to get a table.
He said it will be several more weeks until it opens.
Remember the Steak ‘n Shake and Del Taco on East Kings Canyon Road, near Walmart? They opened to lots of fanfare last summer and then closed, and the Steak ‘n Shake closure especially became the subject of hot debate.
Now the buildings have been sold and at least one new restaurant is moving in.
Ono Hawaiian BBQ has signed a lease for the former Del Taco spot, according to Retail California and Coldwell Banker Commercial, which reported the lease to The Bee’s leases section.
You may remember when The Bee told you about Ono Hawaiian BBQ opening its first location in north Fresno in March in Park Crossing, the same shopping center as Sportsman’s Warehouse.
The plate lunch is the popular dish here, usually rice with macaroni salad and your choice of protein, such as chicken, beef or fish. Spam musubi is also a popular appetizer, featuring a grilled slice of Spam served on a block of rice and wrapped in seaweed.
The company did not respond to a request seeking comment about when the newest restaurant might open. And since work hasn’t started yet transforming the building into Ono Hawaiian BBQ, it may be many weeks or even months before it opens.
No word yet on the fate of the former Steak ‘n Shake building.
New grocery store
The former Fresh & Easy at Shaw and West avenues has a new renter: a specialty grocery store.
It will be called Papaya Fresh Market, but beyond that, details are slim.
Steve Rontell, a retail broker with Colliers International who helped lease out the spot, confirmed it had been leased. The building has been essentially empty for about four years.
He said wasn’t at liberty to say what the grocery store will specialize in, “but it’s going to definitely fill a long-needed niche in Fresno, and it will be very high quality and pretty specific as to what they do.”
It could be several months before the store is open.
Details: 2047 W. Shaw Ave.
Madera is about to get another winery – though this one is a little different than the others on the Madera Wine Trail.
Balbas American Winery will open this summer. It’s on property owned by a pair of almond farmers on Root Creek Road, about two miles south of Madera Ranchos.
It’s technically a franchise of Waters Edge Winery, a Rancho Cucamonga-based company that has wineries with bistros in 15 locations nationwide.
While many of those are in urban areas with bustling bistros, Balbas American Winery is a bit different. It won’t have a restaurant, but will have food available for snacking, like almonds grown on the farm and grab-and-go foods like Boar’s Head salami and cheeses.
The owners, Ron Patterson and Barbara Balbas, are building a new wine tasting room. It will be next to an existing large gazebo on 3 or 4 acres of landscaped grounds that are available for weddings or other events.
The Balbas family has been in the wine business since 1777, when Barbara’s relative opened a winery in Spain. The couple has made their own wine, too. But they wanted some help and training in ramping up the business, so they paid a licensing fee to essentially become a franchisee with Waters Edge.
The relationship means they get their products from the same supplier that supplies all Waters Edge locations, along with training and other support.
They won’t grow or crush their own grapes, but instead get the juice grapes and make them into wine from there. At least 50 percent of the juice comes from grapes in the Madera area.
Details: The winery will be at 10186 Root Creek Road, Madera.