Word on the street: Soul Kitchen

Crystal Myles was a bakery manager at Albertsons for 18 years, so it follows that her new soul food restaurant in Fresno's Chinatown would carry cakes.

But what Myles Family Kitchen at 952 F St. (at Tulare Street) is really noted for is its down-home fare. Her specialty is grits and homemade biscuits and gravy at breakfast and the Business Owner's Lunch: two ribs, a hot link and a side for $7.25.

"We picked this spot because it's the most historic street in Chinatown, and because in the next two to five years Chinatown will be going through revitalization," said Myles, who moved to Fresno from Lancaster in Southern California's high desert, where she retired from Albertsons.

The neighborhood bordered by E, F, Tulare and Kern streets is undergoing a minirevitalization -- and embracing its historic ethnic diversity. Just around the corner from Myles Family Kitchen is a new meat market -- Taqueria Y Carniceria, which is noted for its tacos.

There also is a new sandwich shop, a Mexican bakery, a business that sells balloons and piñatas, a new youth center and plans for a small grocery store, said Kathy Omachi, vice president of Chinatown Revitalization.

"I'm humbled that people are taking a chance on Chinatown," she said.

Myles operates the eatery with husband, Lawrence. She met him in Lancaster and moved to Fresno with him after they married.

The restaurant draws from the neighborhood, downtown business and Fresno's west side. "Everything is from scratch," she said. "I'm bringing back Kentucky and Tennessee.''

Training to survive

A Fresno construction company is playing a major role in keeping U.S. troops alive.

J.I. Garcia Construction Inc. breaks ground Feb. 2 on a $5.3 million, 10-acre mock Iraqi village at a navy base in Ventura County, where soldiers will learn how to avoid and survive roadside bombs.

Such improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, are responsible for the majority of deaths in Iraq.

The village at Point Magu near the Pacific Ocean will consist of buildings, roads, culverts and other potential danger points, said Carlos Castro, construction manager with J.I. Garcia. The job should take nine months.

The contractor specializes in military contracts -- it recently finished building a munitions bunker at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California and is remodeling a health clinic at Lemoore Naval Air Station. But this is its first replica Iraqi village.

"How many times can you be part of building a battlefield?" Castro asked.

A milestone

The first Carl's Jr. opened in Porterville last Tuesday.

The restaurant employs 80 full- and part-time workers and is near the new Lowe's near Highway 190 and Jaye Street.

Regional marketing manager Mark Perry said the restaurant is expected to do well -- and has so far -- because it's an underserved area when it comes to fast-food restaurants.

The company has wanted to open a restaurant in Porterville for at least seven years but only recently found the right location, he said.

The restaurant is company-owned, not owned by a franchisee.

The Carl's Jr. restaurants in the Fresno area are owned by franchisees, Perry said.