Cajun/Creole/Southern Food in Fresno--Reconnonassaince Report
Well...maybe this should be called an non-report since all I have to report is what I didn't find! But there are some finds to share.
First, while reading Chowhound and other internet sites, I've been picking up some names of places that, I got the sense, no longer existed. We (my wife and I) wanted to double-check those rumors. Any info other than what I have here would be appreciated.
MISS ASHLEY'S on Van Ness downtown is gone, and there's no sign of it on the 3000 block of North Maroa. SAVANNAH'S at the Hotel Virginia downtown is also nowhere to be seen, and somewhere I picked up an address on W. Orleans Ave., but it's merely a residential neighborhood. And no sign that we could find of TAMKIO'S SOUL FOOD at Cedar and Clinton.
We did stop at LOUIE KEE'S MARKET (1041 Tulare St. at B St.) because of a recent Fresno Bee article that suggested it carried a number of cajun grocery items. They carry a number of seasoning mixes and Louisiana boxed food items (seafood fry and batters, stove-top side-dishes like jamabalya, gumbo, and bean and rice dishes) from companies such as Zatarain's, Tony Chachere's, and a couple of other name brands. We also found Steen's (and another brand's) syrups, as well as some Louisiana hot links in the meat case. While this selection is more than we can find at our local Vons or Whole Foods, we were somewhat underwealmed.
On a whim, however, we also stopped at CENTRAL FISH CO. (G St. and Kern St. in the old Chinatown) to get some tasty shrimp for a shrimp etouffee. Lo and behold we found the same variety of cajun/creole seasonings and stove-top boxed foods as we saw at Louie Kee's. I would venture to say that Central Fish Co. has a slightly better selection of these items. No sausages, boudins, or andouille, though; Central Fish Co., after all, is a seafood and largely-Japanese grocery store.
While buzzing around the Fresno Chinatown we happened to notice a place called MR. ED'S BAR-B-QUE (1342 Tulare St.). The sign advertised "Louisiana Homestyle Cooking". Unfortunately, according to another hand-made sign on the front gate, Mr. Ed's is closed indefinitely due to his military service. Let's hope he makes it home safely for two reasons: (1) so that he can be home safe-and-sound with his friends and family, and (2) so that he can reopen his restaurant. Anybody know anything about this place?
In the meantime, we'll try Sam's BBQ at Shaw and Marks, and we'll continue to make our pilgimages to San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas to satisfy our cravings for a "lagniappe" of New Orleans.
Tried a little take-out from SAM'S BBQ the other day. I had the jambalaya (corn muffin on the side) for about 9 bucks. Jambalaya had lots of chicken, shrimp, and hot links (including a couple of moist and tasty chicken drumettes). But overall I wasn't very impressed. Jambalaya tasted a bit sour, and the corn muffin was dinky.
Wife had fried chicken basket (6 drumettes and fries) for 7 bucks. Pretty good chicken. Coating was quite flavorful--not spicy but spiced well. Fries were steak-cut-style; okay but nothing super special.
Despite my disappointment with the jambalaya, I think the chicken shows that this place has promise. Jambalaya is the only real cajun item on the menu; they specialize in southern food and BBQ mainly. We'll probably go back to try some of their other menu items and will report back.
We spent a bit of time chatting with some of the folks working there and enjoyed their friendliness.
2785 Shaw Ave., Ste. 107 (corner of Shaw & Marks)
A little more Southern food recon in Fresno. Hey, if you can't eat it when you want to, might as well talk it (a little arm-chair feasting).
Found a reference to an address on N. Diana St. (near the hospital downtown) called "Taste This Soul Food", but found only an apartment complex. If there's a restaurant in there, it's gotta be the most unusual restaurant I've ever seen.
We found a more hopeful spot at Mama Lo's (in Chinatown). Open for limited hours only (Monday thru Friday, 11:00-5:00, cash only), the place looks fun inside and the menu includes fried chicken, fried fish, ribs, and other southern-style entrees, sides, and "deserts" (7-Up pound cake anyone?). We look forward to giving it a try and reporting back when we do.
Mama Lo's Soul Food
952 F St. (across the street from Cuca's downtown)
We must have used the same restaurant locator site, can't recall the name of it at the moment, but they had a listing for a Lao/Hmong place with an address that I was sure was in an apartment residential area, tracked it down just to be sure. A closer look at the info they were putting out and I came to the conclusion they're posting the owner's home mailing addresses. Worst part was the site didn't have a feedback mechanism (at least one that wasn't a major effort to find). Wrote them off as worthless.
Nice recon work, Alan. I believe Savannah's (or was it Miss Ashley's?) was supposed to go in on the corner of Kern and L Sts., just down from the Hotel Virginia, windows were still whited out last time I went by. Only thing I was aware of in the 3000 block of N. Maroa is the relocated Santa Fe Basque.
If the soul food place on Clinton & Cedar was the free standing building on the SE corner it's been demolished and replaced by a non-food related business.
Be sure and report back on Sam's BBQ, been meaning to get by there.
Also, where in SLO can you satisfy the NOLA withdrawals, Bon Temps Cafe?
Bon Temps it is. More Cajun than Creole (at breakfast and lunch, anyway; dinner has more of a Creole influence) but it fits the bill. We were there just a couple of weeks ago. Yum.
We'll be heading for the Bay Area in a few weeks, so we'll probably have to look for a NOLA place there, too--if we can squeeze it in between the pastries, Thai food, Mexican food, Italian food, Chinese food, coffee, ice cream, pasta shopping, hot cocoa, Berkeley Bowl, breakfast, etc.