Bethany Clough

Fresno’s hidden restaurants: 6 unexpected places to dine at churches, airports, more

Kuppa Joy opens location at cCare Cancer Center

Kuppa Joy, with its new location at cCare Cancer Center, is one of many hidden restaurant locations to be found when least expected.
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Kuppa Joy, with its new location at cCare Cancer Center, is one of many hidden restaurant locations to be found when least expected.

Did you ever discover a new restaurant and think, “Why didn’t I know about this place before?”

There are at least six restaurants in Fresno that fit that category; ones you might describe as hidden gems – or at least hidden.

Obviously, we’re playing fast and loose with the definition of hidden. If the restaurants were truly hidden, they wouldn’t have any customers and would be out of business.

But all these restaurants are in unexpected or out-of-the-way places, or somewhere you might not see while driving by.

In an industrial park

Shan e Punjab is a little Indian fast food restaurant inside an Indian grocery store. It’s in an industrial park, and not even in the buildings that face the road. You have to drive into the industrial park to the second row of buildings to find it.

Look for the red signs with arrows on Shaw Avenue, just west of Golden State Boulevard and the railroad tracks.

The business is mostly a grocery store, but it also has a restaurant with a few tables inside. It does plenty of take-out business for lunch and dinner.

The menu features all kinds of Indian dishes, like butter chicken, goat curry, various meatless dishes featuring paneer cheese, and deep-fried appetizers.

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Shan e Punjab is an Indian grocery store with a restaurant inside in an industrial park. Follow the red signs with arrows to find it.

Of course, you can also get naan flatbread and a mango lassi, the refreshing thick drink made from mangoes and yogurt.

The store also has a huge counter full of Indian treats.

Details: Shan e Punjab is at 4741 W. Shaw Ave., Suite 106. Follow the red signs to the middle row of buildings. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

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The Frappe House is a coffee shop on the grounds of a church in northeast Fresno. Bethany Clough The Fresno Bee

At a church

The Frappe House is a coffee shop on the grounds of the CrossCity Christian Church in northeast Fresno near Nees and Willow avenues. With several thousand members of the church, you may think they decided to open a coffee shop just to cater to its members on Sunday mornings.

But nope. The public is not only allowed, they’re encouraged to come to the shop, which is open daily, said The Frappe House general manager Jenn Cummings.

The coffee shop is a nonprofit organization staffed mostly by volunteers. Each quarter, they pick a charity to donate proceeds to after the bills are paid. That has included the Fresno Police Department’s chaplain program and a pregnancy-care center.

The coffee shop is huge.

At 4,000-square feet, it’s bigger than your average Starbucks.

It has pretty much everything a Starbucks does, like wifi and lots of espresso-based drinks like lattes. And you can get a frappe there (pronounced “frap,” it’s just a drink that involves crushed ice and doesn’t necessarily have coffee in it).

It uses coffee from locally owned Two Cities Coffee Roasters.

The coffee shop also serves light breakfast and lunch items like salads and sandwiches, and it’s known for its giant chocolate chip cookies.

Customers are a mix of college students, senior women and 30-somethings to 40-somethings, Cummings said.

“It’s quite a big mix,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like it’s just for the hipster crowd or just for the church crowd.”

Details: The Frappe House is at 2777 E. Nees Ave., near the main church entrance. It’s open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays. On Saturdays, it’s open from 9 a.m. to noon and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. On Sundays, it’s open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. 559-384-1100.

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Little Leaf Bar, next to Little Leaf Tea, is known for its kimchi fries. Donna Mott Special to the Bee

A bar at a tea shop

You may be familiar with Little Leaf Tea, but what about Little Leaf Bar?

The tea shop at Palm and Bullard avenues is easy to find, but there’s also a little bar and restaurant attached to it. Opened about five years ago, it’s a quiet little place that seems to operate under the radar.

It’s got an eclectic menu, with steak, salads and pasta.

You can get “50/50” sliders here, made with half bacon and half ground beef. There’s also a ramen burger with a 50/50 patty and a bun made from grilled ramen noodles.

The kimchi fries are also popular – french fries topped with kimchi (fermented veggies), sriracha mayo, a Korean sauce, Japanese seasoning and green onions.

The full bar has some local beers on tap and cocktails that are tea based. For example, the Angry Bird cocktail is made with green yerba mate tea mix, Long Island tea mix and half an energy drink.

And there’s a “huge whiskey selection,” said owner George Widjaja. “I think I have the most whiskey in town – high-end whiskey.”

Details: Little Leaf Bar is a 6011 N. Palm Ave. Go through the door that’s right next to the tea shop entrance. It’s open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. 559-261-2699.

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Kuppa Joy, located at cCare Cancer Center, serves coffee and tea, and bakery items as well as Rappit Up vegan and vegetarian food, photographed Thursday, July 12, 2019 in Fresno. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA ezamora@fresnobee.com

In a medical office

Kuppa Joy, the Clovis-based coffee shop with several locations around town, has a big following.

In addition to the popular locations in downtown Clovis and across from Fresno High School, there’s one at Herndon and Millbrook avenues. But you can’t see it from the road. There’s not even a sign.

It’s inside cCARE at St. Agnes, the building that houses medical offices for patients with cancer.

Kuppa Joy is in the main waiting area, just inside the front doors to the right. Technically a kiosk, it does almost everything the other cafes do.

That means you can order everything from ice tea to espresso-based drinks, like cappuccinos and lattes. The signature Kuppa Joy drink is on the menu, made with espresso, dark chocolate and milk infused with crème brûlée flavor.

Baked goods like muffins are also available.

Serving people being treated for cancer fits in with the Christian-based business’s motto “Love God. Love people. Love coffee.”

Obviously, the cafe is geared toward people who are there for appointments, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bop in to get your Kuppa Joy fix when you’re in the neighborhood.

Details: Kuppa Joy is inside cCARE at St. Agnes, 7130 N. Millbrook Avenue. It’s open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Coffee shops inside medical facilities aren’t that unusual. There’s a Starbucks on the lower level of Valley Children’s Hospital. The Hip Joint is a little coffee shop and cafe inside Sierra Pacific Orthopedic Center at 1630 E. Herndon Ave.

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Flight Line Cafe serves breakfast and lunch in a restaurant inside Fresno Chandler Executive Airport. Bethany Clough The Fresno Bee

At Chandler Airport

The Flight Line Cafe is inside the Fresno Chandler Executive Airport, the little airport near downtown. If you’re not flying in or out of this airport in a small plane, you might not have a reason to be there.

But the cafe is open to the public for breakfast and lunch. Plus, on the way in you can pass through the historic Kearney Boulevard Gateway and get an eyeful of the delightfully retro airport.

The cafe is nothing fancy. It’s a diner with familiar diner food, a few Chinese dishes thrown in and a big bank of windows where you can watch planes take off and land.

The cafe has a lot of regulars, many who fly in just for a meal. A few bop over from the Sierra Sky Park airport in north Fresno, said Patty Wang, who you’ll find working the front counter.

“Most of them, they have their own airplane. They come here to have breakfast, then take off. They call it a $100 hamburger,” she joked.

The burgers and the chicken salad sandwich are popular, along with kung pao chicken. And Wang’s husband, who mans the kitchen, has been known to whip up whatever a customer asks for, as long as they have the ingredients.

Details: Flight Line Cafe is at Fresno Chandler Executive Airport, 524 Airport Road. It’s open from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. 559-355-4186. (Saturdays are the day to go if you want to see lots of planes.)

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Patricia Valdes, owner of the Jungle Hut Floral Cafe, stands in her jungle-themed shop, which sells food and flowers. Bethany Clough The Fresno Bee

In a flower shop

Jungle Hut Floral Cafe is a floral shop that opened about a year and a half ago on Fulton Street near Fresno Street. It’s on the part of the former pedestrian mall that was reopened to cars in downtown Fresno.

A few months back, the business added food.

Owner and veteran Patricia Valdes wanted to do both. Now, you walk into what is clearly a flower shop, walk past a cooler full of fresh-cut flowers and balloons, and order food at the counter in back.

It’s not a fancy place. Its small menu features mostly sandwiches and hot dogs. The hot dogs come with various toppings, like the pizza dog topped with marinara sauce, mozzarella and pepperoni.

There are a couple of unusual items, like the tropical coleslaw.

“I’m not giving the recipe away, other than (to say) is has pineapple,” Valdes said.

There’s also mango delight: vanilla ice cream with fresh mangoes and whipped cream.

Perhaps the most memorable thing about the business is its jungle theme. The walls are covered in images of monkeys, tigers and sloths. There are bird chirp noises broadcast throughout the shop and TV set to a nature show.

Details: Jungle Hut Floral Cafe is at 1151 Fulton St. It’s open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. 559-375-1105.

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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