It’s been more than seven weeks since California’s governor ordered restaurants to shut their dining rooms.
Even though restaurants in Fresno and Clovis are open for takeout and delivery, the restrictions are taking a toll. At least one or two places have closed, with one high-end restaurant deciding to close for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.
Yet others are opening back up.
Instead, at least one new restaurant has opened for the first time – takeout only, of course. Others that initially decided to close for the duration are getting back to serving customers in a new way. And restaurants are getting creative, debuting new names and new concepts like food trucks.
Here’s the latest on the restaurant scene – pandemic edition.
Sweet Tomatoes, the chain of buffet restaurants, is closing all its restaurants.
The company confirmed news of the closures in an email Friday, blaming the COVID-19 pandemic.
Buffet restaurants – where people share utensils and often stand closer than six feet from each other – face particular challenges in reopening as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
The Fresno area has one Sweet Tomatoes restaurant at 7114 N. Fresno St. near Kaiser Permanente Medical Center.
The parent company has 97 locations that will close between Sweet Tomatoes and its Souplantation restaurant.
Kebab Express in Fig Garden Village has closed. The little Mediterranean restaurant has emptied out all its tables and chairs and removed its signs.
The owners could not be reached for comment, so we don’t know why exactly the restaurant closed or how much the pandemic played into its decision.
The restaurant, between Jamba Juice and Cowboy Chicken, has been open since 2012.
It will keep its F Street brewery and is doing beer takeout and delivery through that location. It could not continue to pay rent and utilities on two buildings without knowing when they could start bringing money in again at the Tower location, said CEO Arthur Moye.
Tower Sushi on Olive Avenue in the Tower District announced March 29 that it was closing its doors indefinitely.
The restaurant said on its Facebook page that its building was sold to a new owner, and its last day would be May 1. However, because of COVID-19, it said they could not reopen during April.
The 13 Prime Steak restaurant in Clovis will close temporarily starting Monday, May 11, until dine-in service is reinstated. The restaurant at Willow and Nees avenues is known for its cocktails and high-end steaks, some costing upwards of $120.
It’s a concept that didn’t translate to takeout well, despite the restaurant changing its menu to carry more takeout-friendly foods like meatloaf and takeout cocktails.
“We were really counting on the takeout orders to get us through this, but week after week, sales have slowed down enough to not even cover our expenses and we can’t continue to lose money,” said Falina Marihart, chief financial officer, in a news release.
The restaurant will serve a Mother’s Day take-home meal, but will close after, – not offering takeout, delivery or curbside service – until dining rooms receive the green light to reopen.
When the state first ordered dining rooms closed, 13 Prime Steak furloughed 70% of its employees, with just 10 people remaining. The owners paid out sick time and accrued time off, which added up to an extra $8,000 in payroll for the restaurant. They are continuing to pay workers’ health benefits but said that could change.
“We are trying to do everything we can to help our employees by staying open for takeout, but some can make more money on unemployment and morale is at an all-time low,” general manager Jeff Valadez said in the news release.
But for all the dark news about closures, there is positive news too.
At least one restaurant is opening for the first time in this middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
Several restaurants are also reopening for takeout, and a few are coming up with creative new ways to get through the pandemic.
Ono Hawaiian BBQ is opening its second location in Fresno on Monday. The name is pronounced “OH no” and means delicious.
At 5075 E. Kings Canyon Road, the restaurant is one of the two relatively new restaurant buildings in front of Walmart. Ono Hawaiian is taking over the former Del Taco.
Since Ono Hawaiian is opening at a time when restaurant dining rooms must remain closed, it will only do takeout and delivery. Its drive-thru is scheduled to open later this month.
Its menu focuses on the plate lunch, usually a protein, two scoops of white rice, macaroni salad and steamed vegetables. Another favorite? Spam musubi, a grilled slice of Spam served on a block of rice and wrapped in seaweed.
It’s open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Big Wagon Tri-tip and Chicken Too is a new food truck by Pardini’s Catering that started Wednesday.
It’s a mobile kitchen the catering business normally uses to support concessions sales at Fresno State football games. It was sitting idle, so the Pardinis decided to use it as a food truck, selling from Pardini’s parking lot at 2257 W. Shaw Ave.
The simple menu includes a smoked tri-tip sandwich with barbecue sauce, a spicy tri-tip sandwich with chimichurri herb sauce and Fresno chiles, and a fried Mary’s chicken sandwich with spicy mayo and pickles.
Shaved ice, and frozen cocktails like margaritas are available in Mason jars, along with Tito’s hard lemonade.
Hours are from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays (though they will be closed on Mother’s Day).
Richard’s Prime Rib & Seafood restaurant on Belmont reopened for takeout and curbside service Thursday.
The restaurant is now open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and for dinner from 4 to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.
Most of its full menu, which is online, is available for takeout.
The restaurant is offering a barbecue pack with four servings of meat that customers can grill at home, a loaf of garlic buttered sourdough bread, salad, a choice of green beans or vegetable skewers, and baked potatoes or rice pilaf.
The packs vary by price, depending upon which meat customers choose. With four 12-ounce ribeye steaks, for example, the package costs $85, the 10-ounce New York steaks cost $80, 8 ounces of bacon-wrapped filet mignon is $105 and chicken skewers cost $50.
Order by calling 559-266-4077.
School House Restaurant & Tavern closed when the COVID-19 pandemic first started, using the time to do some painting and sprucing up. But now the restaurant in Sanger has reopened for takeout orders and gift card sales.
They include individual dishes like its “Dean’s list” meatloaf, New York steak and tri-tip shish kebab. Family meals are also available. The meatloaf, for example, is served with mashed potatoes, Caesar salad and ciabatta rolls, and feeds four for $75.
Bottles of wine and beer are also available.
To order, call 559-787-3271 and choose option 1.
Viva Be Bowl’d is a little place at Cedar and Herndon avenues that opened last fall and serves everything in bowls. Since it was so new, the owners – who also own Casa Corona next door – decided to shut down at first.
But it reopened Wednesday for takeout and curbside service. Regular hours will be 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Its full menu is online.
You can order one of its signature bowls. Or order a customizable bowl picking your protein, base (rice, lettuce, beans, etc.) and toppings.
Call 559-712-6062 to order.
It’s not a new restaurant, though. It’s actually Chuck E. Cheese.
The kid-centered business can’t host birthday parties right now, so it’s selling its pizza, wings and chocolate chip cookie pizza for takeout via Grubhub.
In case you’re wondering, Pasqually is Pasqually P. Pieplate, a Chuck E. Cheese character who is the chief pizza chef, an aspiring comedian and the drummer in Munch’s Make-Believe Band.