Bethany Clough

Fresno’s favorite appetizers

Tempura green beans at Zen Wok are a favorite of Yelp users. The beans are dipped in a housemade tempura batter, deep fried and served in a stack with Sriracha aioli.
Tempura green beans at Zen Wok are a favorite of Yelp users. The beans are dipped in a housemade tempura batter, deep fried and served in a stack with Sriracha aioli. SPECIAL TO THE BEE

Sometimes, you just gotta indulge.

Appetizers — fried, meaty and cheaper during happy hour — are a good way to do it. We took a look at this yummy part of the menu by asking readers about their favorite appetizers at restaurants in a highly unscientific poll on the FresnoBeehive blog and social media.

Readers responded with everything from veggie-based appetizers at local restaurants to fried goodness at chains.

What’s your favorite appetizer to get at a Fresno-area restaurant?

The Beehive blog asked readers

Here’s a sampling of what Fresno likes to eat.

Santa Maria Steak, Pismo’s, Westwoods


What: Tri-tip that’s been slow cooked for 12 hours over red oak wood and seasoned with a Santa Maria blend of spices that includes coriander, cumin and ancho chiles. It’s topped with fried onions and crumbled bleu cheese and served with sweet barbecue sauce and horseradish.

Why Santa Maria? A resident there is known for “discovering” the triangle-shaped cut of meat that was often ignored.

Why: “The combination of flavors and textures is amazing, and I never get tired of it,” says Nicole Cross, founder of food blog

Where: Chef Justin Shannon’s creation is served at both Pismo’s Coastal Grill, 7937 N. Blackstone Ave., and Westwoods Barbecue & Spice Co., 8042 N. Blackstone Ave., which have the same founder.

Cost: $10-$11.99.

Fried pickles, Mad Duck


What: Dill pickle spears with a light beer batter fried until crispy and served with any dipping sauce the customer wants, including ranch, blue cheese and curry aioli.

Why: They’re the “perfect sour/sweet/savory combo,” says customer Alicia Clark of Clovis. Mad Duck does dozens of orders of the pickles each day.

Fried pickles are popping up on lots of menus lately (Westwoods and Bulldog Burger Bistro do pickle chips). Mad Duck’s fried pickle spears inspire some “fierce debate” because some people still love the old pickle chip version with curry aioli that used to be on the menu.

Where: Mad Duck, 765 W. Herndon Ave., Clovis, and at its soon-to-open Campus Pointe location at Fresno State.

Cost: $5.95.

Truffle fries, Yard House


What: Shoestring French fries with truffle oil, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and a blend of thyme, rosemary and parsley.

Why: Some customers come in just for the truffle fries, says a manager. Truffle fries are popular at other restaurants, too, but here some diners say they want to lick the bowl at Yard House when the fries are gone.

Where: Yard House, 90 El Camino Way in River Park.

Cost: $4.95.

Eggplant Napoleon, Cracked Pepper Bistro


What: Called Mala-insana Napoleon on the menu, this dish is slices of eggplant encrusted with pumpkin seeds and Panko that are fried briefly and stacked with oven-roasted San Marzano tomatoes, housemade pesto with walnuts and goat cheese flavored with truffle oil and thyme. All of it is baked and drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

Why: You wouldn’t think eggplant would be a big seller but it makes up about 70% of appetizers ordered, says chef and owner Vatche Moukhtarian: “It’s crazy how much we sell that.”

Fact: The eggplant appetizer was what inspired Cracked Pepper Bistro to get a fryer. It was the only fried item on the menu at the time.

The name mala insana is Greek for “mad apple,” a once negative term that Cracked Pepper has turned around. The menu even says “eating this possibly leads to madness” — in a good way, notes Moukhtarian.

Where: Cracked Pepper Bistro, 6737 N Palm Ave.

Cost: $13.50.

Tempura green beans, Zen Wok


What: Fresh green beans dipped in a housemade tempura batter, deep fried and served in a towering stack with Sriracha aioli.

Why: The fried green beans are a favorite among Yelp reviewers. Says chef and owner Andy Karsh, “It’s probably our most popular appetizer. You get a nice pile stacked high, with aioli.”

Where: Zen Wok Fusion, 609 E. Olive Ave., and Zen Wok, 6731 N. Palm.

Cost: $7.50

Bethany Clough: 559-441-6431, @BethanyClough