Search for Mexican food in Fresno report back: Lorena's
Thanks to the joys of free wireless in the hotel room, I can give you my first report on our search for great Mexican in Fresno while we are still here
After our drive down, we were hungry but in the mood to keep it casual, and I am always in search of the best albondigas in town so our choice was easy: if Polar Bear says that he likes the albondigas at Lorenas best, we knew we had to head there. Thanks to PBs perfect directions, half an hour after checking in we were ordering two Negro Modelos at Lorenas.
As soon as I walked in, I knew I would enjoy the experience. Lorenas is the real deal: tiled walls, red and white sort of sixties soda fountain type décor, if the soda fountain was in Mazatlan (complete with a specials board announcing jugo frescos de naranjo y zanahoria, and various helados). The noticias on TV competed with the juke box, a couple at one table were digging into huge shrimp cocktails and peeled boiled shrimp (Id like to try those!), families filled several other tables. In other words, Lorenas reminded me of the working class restaurants Ive visited in small towns all over Mexico. Im not sure why, but the places in the Mission district in SF, or even in Oakland on Fruitvale, just dont have that same real feel to me. We were the only Anglos in the place. Both English and Spanish were spoken.
The beers came quickly with a slice of lemon and a delicious, perfectly cooked shrimp dipped in a hot sauce, stuck in the bottle mouth. What a great touch. Not surprisingly, the menu has a lot of seafood dishes, including many with shrimp, and even albondigas de camaron. I rarely see seafood meatballs on menus in the bay area, so these tempted me, but I was on a mission to try the (beef) meatball soup. Foolishly, I was worried that just soup wouldnt be enough, so I also asked for an order of three chicken sopes. Should have known it was too much when the server asked me in both English and Spanish: are you sure you want three?. Hubby ordered the shrimp al mojo de ajo.
Fresh chips were quickly brought with salsa and bean dip. The salsa was fresh-tasting and had a bite, the bean dip was nicely smoky. After a short wait, the food came. The sopes had a small tablespoon of very good guacamole on the side, the chicken was generous and tasty; the sope cakes themselves just this side of crunchy with a grilled flavor. Topped with lots of lettuce, shredded carrots and queso fresco. Thumbs up. Hubby was very happy with his camarones: a generous portion of prawns with tails still attached, fresh, sweet and perfectly cooked, swimming in butter and marinated garlic. The shrimp came with good rice and so-do beans, and we were also brought almost a dozen fresh, handmade, delicious tortillas.
But I was here for the albondigas. Sigh: I guess my standards are too high (if they werent perhaps I wouldnt have motivation to search for perfection?), but these just missed the mark. The meatballs themselves were large, tender and well-seasoned, and the broth was filled with very nice and not overly cooked vegetables, including zucchini, carrots, broccoli and peppers. The soup came with side dishes of chopped onion, cilantro, lemon wedges, and a chipotle sauce, and a bowl of that good rice .so far, great, but unfortunately the broth was a miss: waayyy too salty, and it tasted like it was made with canned beef broth.
Total for our dinner, with three beers and enough food for three hungry people was $45 including tax and tip. I would definitely go back, and would love to try the albondigas de camaron sometime...perhaps the broth would be better since seafood seems to be a specialty here. I did notice that soup of some type seemed to be the most popular choice at other tables.
My bottom line: I didnt find the albondigas of my dreams, but I was transported for an hour or so, and for that I thank Polar Bear and the rest of the Fresno hounds!
Tomorrow we intend to go a bit more upscale, and also try some tequilas will report back! Thanks again!
About 3 blocks east on Belmont from 99, across from the park (with directions like Polar Bear's, who needs an address)
Bumping up this old thread.
Anyone run across Tortas Ahogadas anywhere in Fresno or the general vicinity? TIA
[ETA] A google search turned up the following, which seems very strange since the address puts it just on the other side of the north wall of Don Pepe's (SE Blackstone and Gettysburg) with El Pescador just across the street on the NE corner. If there's a place there I need to schedule an appt with the eye doc. Uncovered a rave review on Yelp also.
4592 N Blackstone Ave
Fresno, CA 93726
Wow Susan, you are the quintessential hound. Not only reporting while on the prowl but great descriptions and attention to detail.
So sorry the albondigas broth wasn't up to snuff. My standard had always been the one at Guadalajara but I think the extra condiments at Lorena were what swayed me in their direction, that and those beans that come with the chips and salsa.
Thanks to your timely report back I headed for Lorena's to try the albondigas de camaron today for lunch, only to discover that they're closed on Wednesdays. Saddened but recalling the recent howl from the Big Dog to explore less charted paths, I ended up making a great find at El Cochonito Contento just a half mile or so north outside the Tower District. Discovered that they're known for their seafood and have albondigas AND pozole on the menu. Also, only during Lent they have tortas de camaron on Friday's. I'll report back in a separate thread shortly after.
Those beans really are good, and no worries, I really did like Lorena's. I hope you try the albondigas de camaron soon and report back so that I can live vicariously!...I am really jealous of the diversity of Mexican places you all seem to have in Fresno.
In a way, I wish I hadn't logged on to CH to see this: I really wish I had time to try El Cochonito Contento also! (I mean, with a name like that they almost have to be good, right? :-))
anyway, I was stuck in meetings ALL DAY and hubby, whose CH tendencies tend to fly by the wayside when I am not there, got his sustenence without me at non CH places. (well, besides having leftovers for breakfast :-))Sigh...
tonight we have a co-worker of mine that will be coming along, and she wants upscale and margaritas, and who am I to argue :-), so tonight we are going to try Plaza Ventana. If I don't report back, it will only be because we've already decided that, given the content of my meetings today, I don't have to be the designated driver! :-)
Hope to hit at least one more recco tomorrow. However, with the weather being as it is, we are scheduled to be in Yosemite tomorrow night, and we might want to get an early start on the drive. I have earmarked the mention of the place in Oakhurst, and so may have a report on that as well (we've rented a house in Yosemite and plan to mostly cook at 'home').
and for RW: if the weather were better the paletas might be of more interest, but jeez: where is Spring? The weather report says the high in Yosemite tomorrow will be 39! Oh well, more time to sit in front of the fire and post my Plaza Ventana report!
Thanks again, and until my next Fresno post...
My husband and I are heading up to Yosemite for the weekend, as well. I was interested in your comment about the restuarant in Oakhurst. El Cid? Steph and I have reservations at La Cabana in North Fork for Saturday night. Sounds like a happening foodie place. See link: http://chowhound.com/california/board...
P.S. Hope to see you around. We're hangin at Tenaya Lodge with reservations for brunch at Ahwannee on Sunday.
Yeah, if we were having our normal spring weather I'd recommend taking the scenic route through North Fork and stopping for lunch a La Cabana, checking out the falls on Whiskey Creek, ogling the wild flowers, then a wine or cocktail and snack at Ducey's, then on to your dinner in Oakhurst or Yosemite.
All the roads into Yosemite are clear now but checking the eastern Pacific satellite image there appears to be a fair sized storm on the way. Check the local weather on the evening news, they usually give the snow level projections for the mountain areas.
Make sure you carry chains with you, even if the snow level is predicted to be above 6,000 ft. You can get current Yosemite area road conditions at 209-372-0200.
re: Jeff Avis
ask and ye shall receive: :-)
seriously, though, I am not sure if you are aware, but this is a very old thread. So old, indeed that since I wrote this, while in the region on business, I ended up moving to the very same Central Valley, and despite the handle I now live just up the road in Merced. The sad thing is, even though I am close by, I only very rarely get into the Big City (of Fresno)...so I couldn't even tell you if some of these places are still in business (for that type of info I rely on PolarBear :-))
but thanks for the shout-out anyway!