Bethany Clough

Eating Out: Love and burgers at newly opened REV’S in Clovis

Renee and Brian Velasquez ran REV’S. Brian Velasquez is a former Marine and Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef who once worked at Gary Danko.
Renee and Brian Velasquez ran REV’S. Brian Velasquez is a former Marine and Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef who once worked at Gary Danko. Fresno Bee file

A new restaurant with a heck of a back story has opened in Old Town Clovis.

REV’S is at 401 Clovis Ave., near Fourth Street. It’s an upscale-casual (that’s code for nice, but not snooty) place open for lunch and dinner.

The rib-eye burger is the star of the show here, with a half pound of rib eye ground at the restaurant and mixed with applewood-smoked bacon. The $16 burger is served with a side of pickles and potato chips made on site.

In fact, just about everything is made in house here, from the ladyfingers cookies in the tiramisu to the sandwich bread.

You’ll also find chicken tortilla soup, filet mignon and a pastrami sandwich on the menu.

But more on the food in a minute.

What makes this restaurant especially interesting is the people behind it. Husband and wife Brian and Renee Velasquez run REV’S. The restaurant name is her initials — Renee Elaine Velasquez.

Brian is a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef who once worked at the five-star Gary Danko restaurant in San Francisco.

But before that, he was a Marine. The Visalia native served as a radio operator in the first Gulf War.

That’s why when you see him working in the open kitchen, you might catch a glimpse of a Marine Corps tattoo, but also a chef’s knife tattoo and one referencing their 3-month-old son.

The couple is big on family. And they have a big family.

Each has three children from previous relationships — three boys, three girls, Brady Brunch style — in addition to their new baby boy.

See, the couple dated years ago but it didn’t work out. Renee was “the one,” Brian says, the one that got away before both went their separate ways.

Brian was back in Fresno in 2013, harried from running errands and starving, so he stopped for a bite at Red Robin. He ran into Renee and her friend.

The first words out of Renee’s mouth as she shook his hand were, “Are you married?”

He wasn’t.

When he joined them at their table, Renee said to her friend, in front of Brian, “We’re going to get married.”

They got married a week later.

That might seem fast, but they had dated before and they knew they had something.

Fast forward a year and a half and the couple has a newborn baby and is renovating the restaurant together. They ripped out green carpet and low ceilings of what used to be Japanese restaurant Miso.

That sense of family has carried into the restaurant itself.

Children are welcome in the restaurant. Diners can sit at two 10-foot-long family-style tables in front of the open kitchen and watch Brian Velasquez and others work. You might see him cutting up a 4-foot-long halibut, for example, while he explains what he does.

“You get to see the full experience,” he says. “We want people to enjoy and ask questions.”

The last Sunday of every month, REV’S holds a family-style dinner. The next one is from 6-9 p.m. June 28 with 90 tickets for sale. They’ll push the tables together and serve the food in big dishes that are passed around the table.

They plan to roast a whole pig on site.

“People will get to watch the pig be carved and eat family style,” Renee says.

The food is local when possible, and so are the employees.

The Velasquezes wanted to give new local chefs a chance, so they hired several people from the culinary program at the Institute of Technology in Clovis, including two pastry chefs. They also hired a few workers who lost their jobs when Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino closed.

The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and until 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. For details, call (559) 324-7387 or see REV’S Facebook page.

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