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Fresno's Top 100--Let's make a list!

Hi Fresno hounds! Hubby and I were talking the other day after reading Savuer magazine's 100 list. It is a list of snack foods, dishes, restaurants, products, etc., that the editors of the magazine put together as their favorite 100 things every year. We always enjoy reading it because it gives us ideas of things to buy or try. I was thinking that it would be fun if Fresno hounds made a list of 100 things that are spectacular to eat in Fresno.

Please make your nominations as specific as possible, a particular dish at a particular restaurant is good, or something specific you can buy at a market, or an item that you can get here that is hard to find in other places.

I'll go first...(and these are in no particular order, so #1 is not better than #2)

-The raspberry beignet at Le Parisien: the single best pastry I think I have ever eaten

-Shrimp zarandeado at Don Pepe's: shrimp quickly sauteed in a spicy tomato sauce, so messy and so good!

-Chicken mole burrito at Numero Uno: like no other mole I have ever had, but thick and rich with large chunks of perfectly cooked chicken

-The strawberry stand out on Herndon: can't wait to see their open signs!

-The citrus lady at the Vineyard Farmer's Market: she sells these Page tangerines that are out of this world, so good!

Ok, I'm sure I'll think of some more later, but that is a start! Please add on your favorite things to eat in Fresno!

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  1. This looks like fun!!

    The first two (also in no particular order) that pop into my head because they seem rooted to Fresno are:

    -Sweet potatoe fries (Max's or Slates)
    -Stockholm 75 or Royal (originally from The Daily Planet, they are usually best ordered at a bar in Tower)

    Another (but not final) thought:

    -Santa Fe Basque Hotel & Restaurant

    1. Great idea, gbg, I'll double up on a couple of yours and give a few more:

      -Al Pastor and lengua tacos at Don Pepe's, al pastor torta (add some cilantro, pickled jalapenos, squirt or two of lime, then alternate bites with the rojo and verde salsas). Second the zarandeado.

      -The tomato lady at the Vineyard Farmer's Market, try the ones with the purplish shoulders

      -Chile verde or chicharon's con verde at Zamora's, also both styles of tripas tacos (fried and chewy)

      -Chinese chicken salad at Jim's Chinese on First St. just north of Sam's Deli

      -Banh mi #21 at Paradise Pho (double meat, cilantro and peppers) on First south of Clinton

      -Fish tacos at El Toro at Shields & Cedar (grated cheese and pricey, but gotta have em)

      -Posole at Taco Rapido, Tulare & First

      -Karl's special fancy burrito at Sal's (Fresno & Alluvial)

      -Rock shrimp and brie appetizer at Ripe Tomato

      -Hot and Sour soup at Thai Royal Orchid, or the coconut based soups, or.... hell, anything on the menu.

        1. re: cocktailqueen77

          Damn you're quick cq77, I was just kicking myself wondering how I missed this one.

          1. re: PolarBear

            Thanks!! I have to thank my BF, he came home with takeout from Imperial right after I posted.

        2. Comming out from behind everyone's shoulders for a second...

          1. T&D WILLEY FARMS BLOOMSDALE SPINACH - A luxury ingredient in itself!!! And on of the best reasons to be part of the local CSA.

          2. WESTBROOK WINEFARM, FAIT ACCOMPLI - Located in the Sierra Foothills just 30 minutes away from Fresno is one of the state's greatest wines. Even better - only a few people know it exists so we can still buy it.

          3. LA CABANA in NORTH FORK - 40 minutes away in North Fork lies one of California's greatest ethnic restaurants, ranks up there with La Superia Taqueria in Santa Barbara.

          4. IL GARDINO ORGANICO - The local chef secret is their Spicy Field Green Mix. Makes a green salad Masterpiece.

          5. CRACKED PEPPER BISTRO'S EGGPLANT NAPOLEAN - I hate Eggplant, but will eat this dish all day... don't tell him I wrote this.

          6. WHOLE FOOD'S CHEESE SELECTION - Yes, I know, a corporate grocery. I teach wine classes way to often and one day I strayed off course from WholeFoods to purchase my cheese at a local (?) owned "Gourmet Market" only to find a selection similar to Savemart. Therefore, I have to put WholeFoods in as a City Treasure even though it is TOTALLY AGAINST everything I believe in.

          7. ERNA'S ELDERBBERRY HOUSE - Um, duh. Yeah I know I used to work there, but com'on... What blue collar town can tout that they have a Five Diamond, Five Star Estate only 45 minutes away. As many times as I hear it - "But it is sooo expensive?" I have to reply "So What!!! San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Napa Valley all have many that they support - for example New Orlean (a major foodie city) doesn't even have one!

          8. LUCY'S LAIR - Maybe not the best example of Ethiopean Food, but at least we have an example.

          9. THE VINEYARD FARMER'S MARKET - I have been to numerous farmer's markets all over the country and have always worked for establishments that support local farmers. Felix and the Vineyard Farmer's Market are easily in the top 3 or 4 farmer's markets both fo9r quality and fun.

          10. PITTMAN FARMS - Mary's Free Range ask your butcher for them, there is a real difference for not much more in price.

          11. STRAWBERRY STAND ON HERNDON - I second the motion on that GBG.

          12. NYFD - What can you say... He's a New Yorker and he owns a Deli!

          13. FOIE GRAS - In any restaurant anywhere in town (or State). We are about to loose our Constitutional Rights to eat one of the most amazing luxury ingredients known to man.

          14. FRESNO STATE VANILLA ICE CREAM - It may not be the best to the rest of you, but I am addicted to it.

          I know I could type all day. But I will wait to add on!

          7 Replies
          1. re: cshack_21

            Chris, you make me laugh. But very good list!!!!

            I'll add some:

            (1) the tahin ov hatz (tahini bread) from Occasion Deli. This is an Armenian yeast/sweet bread that is delicious and addicting. Used to be you could only find it in LA (Glendale in particular). Go talk with Rose (Vartouhe) - the owner - and also try the cheese buourek. The deli is located at Fresno and Gettysburg - to the left of Fresno Deli.

            (2) the strawberry stand at Clovis and Shepherd

            (3) pretty much any shrimp dish at Don Pepe's - but like GBG I am partial to the zarandeado

            (4) the croissants at Le Parisien - so good I haven't even made it to anything raspberry yet

            I'm sure I'll think of more.

            1. re: cshack_21

              CShak_21 wrote, "14. FRESNO STATE VANILLA ICE CREAM - It may not be the best to the rest of you, but I am addicted to it."

              Oh, yes. You nailed it on the head with this one...I second the motion.

              1. re: cshack_21

                Had a feeling that was you, Chris, even before I got to your username as I scrolled down the list, like tavmark said, enjoyed the yuks. A couple of your items brought back some questions I've had for some time.

                Pittman Farms, free range chicken I assume, do they also sell eggs? Would love to find a local connection for farm fresh, like your spinach analogy, they make all the difference in the world!

                Foie Gras, again making assumptions, is Whole Food our only source in these here parts?

                Finally, I found duck confit (leg/thigh) a couple of years ago at Whole Foods for making cassoulet (hard to find since). Wasn't all that impressed, my time is too limited (i.e. too lazy) to make my own, any options? TIA


                PS Third the FSU ice cream, would add don't limit your choice to just the vanilla

                1. re: PolarBear

                  PB -

                  I am unaware of Pittman Farms doing Eggs. I think there is an organic egg farmer that has a booth at the Clovis Farmer's Market. I can't remember his name but we bought eggs from him last year. It is tough to find good free range chicken eggs. Duck eggs are a great alternative with a slightly more rich and flavorful yolk. The best scrambled eggs in the world come from duck eggs betten to a froth with sour cream and finishing off with a touch of White Truffle Oil. When making them constantly fold the center of the pan to the outer edges of the pan in a circular pattern trying to cook the eggs without them becoming solid for as long as possible. (oops wrong thread-my brian kept going).

                  Foie Gras - I don't know of any sources at retail. We get ours from Sonoma through the Chef's Helper. Not a lot of grocers are comfortable selling it anymore.

                  Duck Confit - Order duck legs from the meat market and make it yourself. Nothing can compare, I have tried several French imports to no avail. Give a local chef a call to make it for you. Not cheap but definitly worth it if you have a little Bloomsdale Spinach floating around. Would proably cost anywhere from 6 to 7 dollars per leg for high quality done in rendered duck fat confit, don't settle for doing it in vegetable or canola oil and always cure it prior to confit.

                  1. re: cshack_21

                    Great tips, thanks much Chris. I did pick up some duck fat at a market up in SF, so I guess I'll give it a shot at home. Also, thanks for adding La Cabana to the list, it is truly a hidden gem in our area. Lunch there is good, but the dinners are great with the specials changing nightly, iirc.

                    1. re: cshack_21

                      You can purchase Foie Gras at Bentleys. They sell it pre cooked and rolled in cheese cloth, as well as fresh. A few weeks ago, we were lucky enough to get a couple of the Kobe Steaks they had, and topped it with Foie Gras ....mmmmmm

                  2. re: cshack_21

                    Just wanted to mention that I saw Willey's gorgeous Bloomsdale spinach at Kristina's Natural Ranch Market yesterday. It's sold loose in bulk by the pound ($5.99/lb.)

                    Kristina's Natural Ranch
                    761 E Barstow Ave, Fresno, CA

                  3. Great! Look forward to this. My 40th high school reunion is this summer. It would be great to have the list and to meet you all at that time.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      Ah, young grasshopper, as we speak plans are in the works for my 45th from Roosevelt HS this year. This sounds like the ultimate opportunity for the local, loyal and faithful hounds to have their own reunion. Anyone interested email me at dlw38 AT sbcglobal DOT com and we'll try and put together a houndfest. Really looking fwd to meeting an old expat like you Sam, with so much to share regarding the history of our area.



                      1. re: PolarBear

                        I would love to meet Sam! I will send you an email asking to be on that reunion list. Thanks, PB.

                    2. 1. Bear claw at Eddie’s Bakery & Café. I’m a cream cheese Danish man myself, but I skip ‘em go right for the bear claws at Eddie’s. They start off with a wonderful dough: eggy & soft & rich. But the piece de resistance is the almond filling: unlike other bear claws with a heavy marzipan-like filling, Eddie’s filling is light & fluffy with a good dose of almond flavor but not too strong.

                      2. New Yorker pastrami sandwich at Sam’s Italian Deli. This sandwich isn’t a “traditional” pastrami sandwich & it’s not so much about the pastrami meat as it is about what they put with it. Meat, provolone cheese, a pickle wedge, all slathered in a delicious wine & mustard sauce with soft-cooked onion pieces.

                      3. Carnitas taco at Los Toritos taco truck in Selma. The carnitas is not the only good taco at this place, but it’s my favorite. Their red sauce is a bonus, too. Part of the charm of this taco stand is the place itself—on the grounds of a periodic swap-meet; you have to jostle for parking with the tracker-trailer rigs heading over to the truck scales next door; the blue tarp & picnic tables & crock-pot with beans make it feel like a make-shift campsite; the old, used reach-down-into fridge with the salsas & taco toppings—all add up to an eating experience.

                      4. Corn quesadilla at Taco Grande. Quesadilla made with a corn tortilla instead of flour. They melt cheese on the tortilla on the grill, then they add meat, avocado, & salsa fillings. It ends up being more like a taco than a standard quesadilla, but with the cheese melted on the tortilla it adds a whole new level to the normal taco. Authentic? Probably not. Delicious? You bet. And like the hokey pokey: that’s what it’s all about.

                      5. Fiesta Mexicana chipitos/tortilla chips from Fiesta Foods grocery store. These chips are the closest thing I’ve tasted to a store-bought tortilla chip fried from an actual tortilla.

                      6. Breakfast & red salsa at Julio’s Mexican restaurant. Inexpensive, delicious chilaquiles, delicious huevos rancheros, beautiful chile Colorado, did I mention inexpensive?, & a dark, smoky-rich red salsa worth buying in bulk & taking home.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: alanstotle

                        Alan, did you mean Julia's for #6 on your list? (Divisadero & H Sts.)

                        1. re: PolarBear

                          Yes I did. My typing bad. Julia's restaurant. Hmm...yum...wonder if they're open right now?

                      2. Milanesa from Guadalara's, the Mexican version of chicken fried steak. Soooo good!! Now I am craving a taste right now (along with all the other former posts!!).

                        1. Ok, I have a few more. The discussion about the chickens and eggs reminds me:

                          -the eggs at the Clovis Farmer's Market from the lady with the white van, very fresh and so beautiful, some are brown, others light brown, some are even a pale shade of blue

                          -the Clovis Farmer's Market is so much fun just on its own, its a bummer it is only during the summer months, but that is probably what makes it fun. I love eating the fried zucchini and taking a big bag of kettle corn home. It is great to sample the different stone fruits in the summer.

                          -the chicken torta at Taco Grande is my favorite torta in Fresno, the chicken is spicy and stewy, the bread is fresh, and the avocados are always perfect.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: glazebrookgirl

                            Three more....

                            1) Almost anything at La Paella.
                            2) A hamburger or cheeseburger at Irene's
                            3) The salsa at Marian's Mexican Restaurant

                          2. well I don't have enough experinece to list too many since I have very limited experience in Fresno:

                            However, here's what I can say:

                            -- The katamala salad at Cracked Pepper Bistro

                            -- Creamed seafood soup with chorizo at Cracked pepper Bistro

                            -- Garlic mojo de ajo at Don Pepe's

                            --Thai Royal Orchid--especially their seafood but everything I've had has been delicous!

                            -- taco truck offerings

                            1. cshack beat me to it...

                              The Eggplant at the Cracked Pepper Bistro. It's divine. BTW the chef sent a red heart beet out to my daughter and her bf on winter formal night. Sweet!

                              Umeboshi roll at Kijima.

                              Steak special sandwich at More than Pizza

                              1. Menudo at La Placita (Kings Canyon and Maple)

                                Chow fun at New China Cafe

                                Gyros, falafel, or kebab salad at Mediterranean Grill

                                1. -Gyros at House of Kabob-along with the greek salad and pilaf.

                                  -The 3 salsas and mutli-colored corn chips served at Plaza Ventana.

                                  -Sandwiches from Sam's Deli.

                                  1. I LOVE House of Kebab...the garlic sauce rocks...but they have the best burger. I always order the mushroom, onion, and cheese (swiss) then proceed to swath the bun with a thick layer of garlic sauce...OMG, ectasy!!

                                    Homemade bread at Bistro Rustico. Baked with gouda cheese, kalamata olives (and I usually do not like olives), and sundried tomatoes....this bread is amazing!! I can't find bread baked this way anywhere else here in Fresno.

                                    Bread (I am stuck on bread here!!) pudding at Cracked Pepper Bistro. OMG so good!! The last time I was there we were served an huge serving with caramel, I thought I had died and gone to heaven (my BF thought so too, I fought him to the end for every last bite).

                                    1. Ok a few more (trying to get to 100!)

                                      --the mocha at Dutch Brothers Coffee Company (I know, they are a chain, but a small one, and I think their coffee is really good)
                                      --the breakfast burritto at El Cochinito Contento on the handmade flour tortilla with avocado
                                      --the homemade corn tortillas at Zamora's, not only are they homemade, they don't make the tortillas until you order! Also, the fish tacos are amazing.
                                      --the sage butter gnocchi at Cracked Pepper Bistro which were light, creamy and delicious (I also love the eggplant, but that has already been mentioned several times)

                                      1. Sugar Dreams or any other cookie from Hungry Bear Cookies in Fig Garden Village.

                                        1. Slow Food Madera! This is a wonderful asset to the local food scene. The "Tomatoes Big Night Out" at Lone Willow Organic Heirlooms hosted the event at their ranch in Firebaugh. This was unquestionably one of the best evenings of food and conversation I have ever had.

                                          All the local farmers who feed the country and the world. I have been fortunate to become acquainted with a number of small and/or specialized farmers who are so passionate about their crops that it is impossible not to feel grateful to live in the middle of the best farmland in the country. I'm not shy, so I always ask if I can visit the farms and/or purchase produce directly. More often than not, the framers accommodate my requests.

                                          Second, T&D Willey Farms. Wonderful people doing the right thing and truly providing for the community. I've been introduced to so many types of vegetables and even learned to appreciate, and sometimes enjoy, brussels sprouts thanks to my weekly recipe ideas in their newsletter.

                                          Risotto wrapped in prosciutto at Parma. I have not been to Italy so I have no idea if this is authentic, but on a cool evening and a good bottle of red wine this is a dish that I crave. It's not light, but it tastes great to me. Plus, Elena (sp?) may be one of the most gracious hosts and owners I've met. Probably an equal to the Shackelford clan!

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: winelvr

                                            I liked a lot of the things posted above. I am excited to get out and try some of the things and places I have never heard of!

                                            I love food and I have my fav's that I will share with everyone.
                                            No real ranking to this list as well.

                                            Wonderfull house (blackstone and sierra) : sweet and sour chicken is awesome! great price, tons of food and they deliver!

                                            Sendai sushi (cedar and nees) : All you can eat SUSHI!!! 21$ gets you all you can eat. anyone that has eaten sushi knows how expensive it can be, especialy if you have a large appetite like mine. The owner/chef is from Japan and has many years of sushi making under his belt. Good food for amazing price.

                                            Fat Jacks (shaw and willow) : 50's themed burger joint. Good burgers!

                                            Javiers (kings canyon and clovis) : Mexican food joint has been there forever! Amazing prices for some of the best, non belly aching mexican food. Great guacamole and they have a wet tamale that is awesome. I also love their steak a la chicana plate. its basically there steak fajitas.

                                            Diccicos (everywhere) : I had a hard time putting them on here, but, they have some very tasty and huge clazones. That is the ONLY thing I would recommend from there.

                                            Castillos ( ventura and kings canyon ) : This is probably one of the best complete menus for mexican food. I havent had anything from there that I didnt like.

                                            1. re: winelvr

                                              2nd on Tomatoes Big Night Out - for sure the best Slo Food event

                                              Slow Braised lamb Shank at the Vineyard Restaurant in Madera, - if you haven't tried it, you are completly missing out.

                                              Chocolate Passport from Ficklin Vineyards - infused port with really true chocolate flavor - available at the Ficklin tasting room or VINO 100

                                            2. The "citrus lady" - Rebecca from Torey farms,;not only are the Page mandarins amazing but do not miss the Oro Blanco grapefruit that are up in just a couple weeks - absolutely the best ever!
                                              Il Giardino's spicy mix - mentioned in a later post, also another great staple; just some of the wonderful vendors at the Vinyard Farmer's market.

                                              1. Oh, I have to add:
                                                The special fried rice at Thai Palms (Palm and Nees) - best EVER!
                                                And the vegetarian Caribbean rice dish at By The Sea - amazing.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: sarahkate

                                                  Welcome to the board, Sarah. Can you provide a little more detail on what makes these dishes special for you? By the Sea is a great little place, seems to drop below the radar too often, need to go back soon.