Bethany Clough

Eating Out: Cigar Mas Fino adds craft beer; hello to Elliott’s, goodbye to Corner Cafe

Steve McComas enjoys a cigar and a “Not your father’s root beer” from Small Town Brewery at Cigar Mas Fino Wednesday, Sept. 23. The cigar lounge in northeast Fresno recently got the OK to start serving bottles of craft beer.
Steve McComas enjoys a cigar and a “Not your father’s root beer” from Small Town Brewery at Cigar Mas Fino Wednesday, Sept. 23. The cigar lounge in northeast Fresno recently got the OK to start serving bottles of craft beer. bclough@fresnobee.com

You can now drink a craft beer while smoking a cigar in Fresno, and you may want a beer after reading about the longtime restaurants that closed recently.

But there are new places opening too, serving coffee, pizza and Mediterranean food, if beer isn’t your thing.

Here’s the latest on the Fresno food and drink scene.

Cigar Mas Fino

Cigar Mas Fino, a cigar lounge at 1568 E. Nees Ave., has started serving craft beer and wine. The nearly 10-year-old business has 40 types of bottled beer for sale – none on tap – that can be enjoyed with a cigar.

Pairing the flavors of the two – like pairing wine and food – is a growing trend.

Because of smoke-free workplace laws, it’s rare to have both cigars and alcohol consumed in one place. And though many people enjoy them at home in their backyards, weather can make that a sweaty experience or a chilly one, says Sarrah Soza-Valentin, part of the family who owns the business.

Cigar Mas Fino isn’t a bar now, but still a place to buy and smoke cigars with big cushy leather couches to sink into and a counter that’s always surrounded by customers chatting or watching games on TV. Until recently, it only served soda.

It’s got a bit of a “Cheers” vibe. Hang out long enough and you’ll get a nickname, says Moses Soza, the patriarch of the family who owns the business.

He’s “El Jefe” – the boss.

When the bar next door, The Office 1560, was open, cigar smokers looking for a drink could at least get one nearby. That closed a while ago (though recently reopened as Elliott’s Wine & Spirits – more on that in a minute).

Cigar Mas Fino owners slogged through more than a year of paperwork and hurdles – and lots of money – to get both a state liquor license and a city-issued conditional-use permit.

Now the fellas (and yes, women go there, too) around the counter puff away on cigars with bottles of beer in front of them.

A Firestone Wookey Jack black rye IPA pairs well with a Tatuaje Black Label cigar, for example. (Though there is the occasional confusion because both a beer and a cigar are named 805.)

The change has brought yet another craft beer outlet to town.

“We’re getting new faces every day,” Soza-Valentin says. “We’re getting beer lovers who smoke cigars and finally have a place they can drink.”

Elliott’s

Next door, Elliott’s has been open about three weeks.

This is 21 and over bar that serves some food.

Owner Jay Urabe makes the distinction between bar and restaurant because there’s not a lot of straight up bars in northeast Fresno. Sure, plenty of restaurants have full bars, but with kids around you have to behave yourself a little more, he says.

Elliot’s is a local, neighborhood bar.

“It’s a nice little hideaway,” he says.

What’s good here?

According to Urabe and the bartender, the selection of whiskey, Moscow Mules and the Snakebite – Guinness paired with hard cider so that the dark beer floats on top.

Highlights of the small menu include the chicken salad and shrimp ceviche.

Urabe used to own The Dirty Olive. He partnered with Jill McKinley, who recently sold Shooters Bar near Shaw Avenue and Fresno Street. It’s now called The Shanty.

And on the other side of the building Elliott’s is in, a restaurant called Kabob Land is gearing up to open in a month or two.

It will serve Mediterranean food and hookah for customers to smoke in the evenings.

Corner Cafe

The Corner Cafe in Old Town Clovis has closed. Its last day was Sunday, Sept. 20.

The busy lunch spot served burgers, BLTs, hot pastrami sandwiches and other comfort food.

Several factors led to the closure, says Scott Fox who, along with his family, has owned the restaurant for 12 of its 23 years.

A dispute with the landlord involving a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and expensive needed repairs played a role, he says. As did rising expenses, including power bills, food bills, the minimum wage, taxes and insurance.

The owners have both found other jobs and say they’re thankful for the years of support from customers.

“We’re going to miss everybody, but, at the same time, we had to make a choice,” Fox says.

Swiggs

As you may have heard, bar and restaurant Swiggs on Shaw Avenue near Millbrook Avenue closed last weekend after five years.

Owners Michael and Gina Jew say competition – from new places at nearby Campus Pointe and the future Dave & Buster’s – along with the rising cost of business did them in. Everything from the rising costs of food, insurance and the minimum wage increase in January contributed, Michael Jew says.

News of the closure sparked lots of conversation on Facebook about the building at 1440 E. Shaw Ave. It’s apparently been a bit of a revolving door of businesses, home to the Big Yellow House, The Green House, Baja’s, Inkahoots II, 1440, The Jungle, VIP, Club Rio, The Attic, The Bed Room, The Red Room, La Casa Rosa and Santo’s Bar and Grill.

Java Detour

The first Java Detour opened in Fresno a little over a week ago at the Marketplace at El Paseo near Highway 99 and Herndon Avenue.

The San Francisco-based coffee shop serves all kinds of coffee, tea and blended drinks. But it’s the big blended drinks menu that sounds more like a dessert menu that set it apart from other coffee shops, says Jason Hood of Java Detour.

It has drinks like the popular Butterfinger white mocha – no candy bar in it, just a blending of flavors that mimics one – and the Reese’s peanut butter mocha. You can also get a Red Bull frappe.

Java Detour also serves Fiorello’s gelato and some food.

If you like to geek out on architecture and design, check out this tidbit: The building has a double drive-thru with two businesses. Cars start at the same point, but take the right lane for Java Detour, the left for the Robertito’s drive-thru in the same building.

Pieology

Pieology Pizzeria is open at The Square at Campus Pointe near Fresno State.

The restaurant makes 11.5-inch pizzas customized with more than 40 toppings. It’s the third Pieology in Fresno, along with locations at Fig Garden Village and The Marketplace at El Paseo.

Bethany Clough: 559-441-6431, @BethanyClough

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