December 2, 2022

New downtown Fresno restaurants serving breakfast and lunch

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Owner and chef Marcial Gonzalez, right, holding a plate of chilaquiles, stands with his wife Michelle Gonzalez, left, holding their West Side burger, opened Grandma Jane’s Kitchen, a new restaurant on E Street near downtown city ​​of Fresno’s Chinatown. Photographed on Tuesday October 11, 2022.

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Of course, the big chain restaurants get a lot of attention.

But there are a fair number of readers who love to check out the little mommies and pops in Fresno. Small places where you eat well, where you are much more likely to have a conversation with the owner than to spot a white tablecloth or candles.

Two such locally owned venues recently opened in downtown Fresno, one in Chinatown and the other on Van Ness and Merced Avenues.

Both restaurants are run by chefs who have decided to work for themselves. Both are only open for breakfast and lunch, although one is open on weekends.

But they focus on flavors: American, Greek, Mexican and a little Creole and southern.

Grandma Jane’s Kitchen

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The West Side Burger, served at Grandma Jane’s Kitchen, a new restaurant on E Street near downtown Fresno’s Chinatown. Photographed on Tuesday October 11, 2022. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA [email protected]

The newest opened a few weeks ago on E Street, just south of Tulare Street, in the former Little Hong Kong restaurant.

Grandma Jane’s Kitchen is named after the grandmother of chef Marcial Gonzalez, who owned the restaurant with his wife Michelle. (Everyone calls him “Marshall,” though technically it’s pronounced Mar-see-all, but that’s what his dad says.)

Her grandmother was half African American, half Mexican and grew up making Creole and Southern recipes.

“She spoke Spanish, but with a southern accent,” Gonzalez said.

The menu reflects all this heritage.

A best seller is the jalapeno cheddar grits with hot links and eggs. There are also chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, waffles, pancakes, and breakfast burritos.

Lunch is a limited but rotating menu. You can usually find two favorites on the menu: chicken and waffles and a “very filling” specialty burger.

The chicken and waffles are both sweet and savory – one version with bourbon maple syrup, the other with a cheddar waffle with paysanne sauce.

And the west side burger is still available. It’s a towering burger with banana peppers, pepper jack cheese, grilled hot link cut in the middle, and jalapeno aioli.

Chef Gonzalez was most recently at nearby Tulare Street Bistro (a downtown restaurant that opened during the darkest days of COVID-19 and is still getting rave reviews online). He has also worked at high-end restaurants like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and 12 Prime Steak.

After 27 years in the business, he wanted to work for himself.

“I wanted to do my family’s food and what we eat,” he said. “Food is a little more comfortable.”

And Chinatown, where his family took him as a child, seemed like the right place.

He remembers Grandpa getting his hair cut while Grandma was shopping. His father took him there too.

“He and my uncles used to hang around Chinatown and do the same thing, hang around and chase girls and so on,” he said.

Now he frequents many Chinatown businesses as a buyer for the restaurant, such as Chris Meat Market and Panaderia Vista Hermosa.

He saw the neighborhood change over the years and wanted to be part of it towards renewed vitality.

“It’s my hope that we can bring Chinatown back to where it was before,” he said.

Details: Grandma Jane’s Kitchen is located at 943 E St. and is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekends.

Z’s Place

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Z’ss Place in downtown Fresno offers a menu filled with American, Greek and Mexican dishes. Bethany Clough [email protected]

The other downtown starter restaurant is in the old Packing Shed on Merced Street, next to Bail Square. It’s called Z’ss Place — yes, the letter S is in there twice because the name is an abbreviation of the chef’s last name, Zissou.

It’s Angelo Zissou, whom you’ll probably see in the kitchen (his real name is Evangelos, but everyone calls him Angelo, he says).

“I am 100% Greek,” he said.

That’s why you’ll see a Greek influence on the menu, as well as American and Mexican dishes.

The menu is packed. Open for breakfast and lunch, it offers the standard fare — burgers, sandwiches, salads, and big breakfasts like bacon and eggs, omelets, and hash browns that aren’t soggy.

But there are also falafels and Greek gyros, the thick wrap-like bread containing chicken, fresh tomatoes and Greek sauce, or a mix of beef and lamb.

As for the Mexican side, the carne asada burrito is a popular favorite, Zissou said.

“It works really well,” he said. “I’m surprised. I’m selling so much carne asada.

There are also a few vegetarian options on the menu, including falafel and an avocado sandwich.

Zissou came to Los Angeles and the United States when he was just a 19-year-old “little boy”.

“A few years later, I owned my first restaurant in Los Angeles, then boom, boom boom, one after another,” he said.

This is his ninth restaurant.

“It was the original menu everywhere there – breakfast, burgers, gyro sandwiches, salads – and now we’re adding Mexican food which is very popular in Fresno,” he said.

Zissou moved to the Fresno area after visiting a friend in Oakhurst about seven years ago. He met his future wife on this trip and moved north.

After years of working for other restaurants, sometimes 12 hours a day, he wanted a place where he could have evenings and weekends off.

“I used to have my own business almost my whole life,” he said. “I was looking for something like this. … I find the right place where I can be a human being.

Details: Z’ss Place is at 2119 Merced St. Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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A plate of chilaquiles, served at Grandma Jane’s Kitchen, a new restaurant on E Street near Chinatown in downtown Fresno. Photographed on Tuesday October 11, 2022. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA [email protected]
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The chicken gyro on the menu is an example of Chef Angelo Zissou’s Greek roots at Z’ss Place in downtown Fresno. Bethany Clough [email protected]

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Bethany Clough covers restaurants and retail for The Fresno Bee. A journalist for 20 years, she now works to answer readers’ questions about business openings, closings and other economic news. She has a journalism degree from Syracuse University and her last name is pronounced Cluff.