Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > California >
Jul 18, 2009 10:41 AM

Imperial Garden and other Sunday lunch/brunch options, Fresno?

Hello Fresno and nearby hounds:

I thought I'd be spending time eating in Fresno when I moved to Merced, but haven't gotten down there nearly as often as I would like. However, tomorrow we will be driving through on our way down to LA as part of a week long road trip, and we'd love to make a stop to eat at around 11:30 a.m. We will definitely hit La Reina for a paleta for the road (I assume they are open Sundays?), but are also looking for a delicious brunch or lunch option.

Our goal is to hit west LA by 4:30 at the latest, meaning we'd like a fairly quick stop, ie no more than an hour, and within ten to fifteen minutes of 99 preferred. We'd prefer something we can't get in Merced, and hubby would prefer no Mexican (which basically means we'd love dim sum, which doesn't exist in Merced ,or a very good California style brunch, which is hard to find here). Imperial Garden seems to be the board choice for dim sum in Fresno: will it be hopelessly crowded for a party of two at that hour? Any other dim sum options?

For the world's best huevos rancheros, hubby might let me choose Mexican, but it isn't his favorite, and we will fairly close to some good spots to get them in LA. Likely also to eat Thai food elsewhere on the trip (and Merced does have decent Thai and good Laotian in any case). I am a fan of Hunan, and have thought about that, but would prefer somewhere new (to me). (though If Hunan is my best option, would appreciate suggestions as to which lunch items are best there).

Thanks for your advice! Will report back....

Imperial Garden Restaurant
6640 N Blackstone Ave Ste 108, Fresno, CA 93710

Hunan Restaurant
6716 N Cedar Ave Ste 104, Fresno, CA 93710

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Imperial Garden has an incredibly long wait on Saturdays and Sundays, especially early (11-3). The crowds taper off around 3:30, 4-ish, but there will be a wait, even if you have a reservation (which we did one time, we still waited 35 minutes).

    1 Reply
    1. re: cocktailqueen77

      so they take reservations? I hadn't called them but I read somewhere (on this board?) that they don't.

    2. Haven't gotten back to IG in quite some time, however our strategy (esp. on Sunday) has been to arrive @ 10:45, go in to the counter and put your name on the list, that way you'll be in the first seating. Arriving at 11:30 I'm afraid there would be enough names ahead of you that even if the first wave all got up and left at 12pm, they would fill them immediately. Freeway access to 99 is just around the corner from IG via 41 south. (tfrom Merced take Herndon exit west off 99 to Blackstone)

      Hunan: hot and sour calamari app, chong qing chicken, green onion pancake, any of the sour cabbage dishes, wife loves the prawns and strawberries

      How does you hubby feel about Mexican seafood? Don Pepe does a number of great camarones dishes, just 2.5 miles south of IG, Hwy 41 S access at Shaw a half mile north of there.

      2 Replies
      1. re: PolarBear

        Thanks PB! yes, sounds like IG will need to wait for another trip. I'd try your strategy, but I know hubby and there is no way I can get him to get the car and self packed and ready to leave early enough.

        camarones are usually hubby's favorite when ordering Mexican, though we both are eating much less shrimp these days. Might give him the choice between Don Pepe's and Hunan (suspect he would choose Hunan). Unless you can recommend somewhere nearer the 99 freeway with good American breakfasts?

        1. re: susancinsf

          Haven't been in a couple of years but two that have been around forevere are:

          Klein's Truck Stop & Restaurant 6725 N. Golden State Blvd. (Herndon exit, east on south side, off old 99)


          Al's Cafe - Mexican, burgers, chicken-fried steak
          1823 W. Olive (Olive exit just W of fwy on south side)

          Yosemite Falls cafe is quite popular, never had breakfast there but would expect them to do a decent job. Ashlan exit, just west on north side).

          While Don Pepe's is famous for their shrimp, I usually get an al pastor torta and a lengua taco.

      2. You might want to try Lao and Thai cuisine at B & K Asian Kitchen, they are open at 10 AM Sundays. Here is a discussion Melanie started last year. It is still a quality experience and I know you like those places off the beaten path.

        1. Thanks for all of the suggestions. Predictably, we were late getting started, and so decided we needed to go somewhere closer to the freeway than either Hunan or Don Pepe's. After reading Polar Bear's suggestions, I did a little more digging about Al's, and discovered they have both Mexican and American breakfast and lunch options. Perfect, and just off the 99 besides, so that is where we ended up.

          At around noon, it was packed, with an obviously mostly local clientele: many big family groups enjoying a Sunday outing. One had the feeling many of the families had been enjoying Sunday lunch at Al's for years. Nonetheless, there was a comfortable table free by the window, and we were seated right away.

          Service was fast and friendly, and no fewer than three different persons (our server, another server, and a busboy) came by at sometime during our lunch to check and see if we needed anything. Our food came so promptly that we were in and out in no more than 45 minutes.

          Hubby stuck to the American lunch side of the menu, and had a club sandwich. I didn't taste it but he said it was very good, and I can tell you that it was HUGE. He opted for a green salad instead of the usual offering of fries. (Guess he felt guilty about all that bacon :-)))

          I had huevos rancheros. There was albondigas on the menu, and had it not been 103 or so outside (at noon!) I would have tried them. Based on my research, I knew these were not what I would call traditional huevos rancheros, since they came covered with chile verde (pork stew) rather than salsa. I tend to be a traditionalist when it comes to huevos rancheros, but I had had some outstanding huevos with chile verde in Albuquerque a few weeks ago, and was interested in comparing. I was asked how I wanted my eggs, and I requested over easy.

          Well, these didn't fall into the outstanding category, but they were good. The chile verde actually had a red tomato based sauce, so a bit of a misnomer, but the pieces of meat were huge and tender and the sauce was tasty. Amazingly, given the amount of sauce that smothered the eggs, they were indeed perfectly cooked over easy.

          I was offered a choice of rice and beans or hash browns with my meal (along with a side of tortillas). I chose hash browns. To me, they were a near miss: they looked beautifully crispy, but they were as soft on the inside as mashed potatoes. It was actually rather strange: I am not a hash brown expert, but neither hubby nor I could figure out how the outside could look so perfect and yet hide mush. It was almost like two different potatoes. However, they were good for mopping up bits of egg and sauce, so not a complete loss.

          We both had very good ice tea with our meals, and our glasses were refilled several times.

          Some interesting looking specials on the boards, including house-made tamales, menudo, chicken fried steak...there was also "Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich: made with choice of chicken or beef", which gave hubby, who was raised in PA, a bit of pause...

          Total for our breakfast/lunch with two bottomless ice teas and tax and a generous and well-deserved tip was $26. Neither one of us could finish our meals.

          Location and people watching and good, homestyle food make this a good quick stop on the 99, though perhaps not a destination. I'd definitely return.

          Al's Cafe
          1823 W Olive Ave, Fresno, CA 93728