by Terrance Mc Arthur
Our roving food critic Terrance Mc Arthur continues his search for great food in Sanger and the surrounding communities. Check out more Great Food Search here!
If you have the opportunity to go to Bullfrogs Bar & Grill at Riverland near Kingsburg…jump at the chance! Hop to it. Do it before you croak.
Hidden on the south bank of the Kings River, within leaping distance of Highway 99, this Mid-Century Modern restaurant/bar/entertainment center turns out some unbelievable food. Chef Julian puts his style into everything he serves. Unassuming dishes on the printed menu turn into, “I didn’t know it could taste like THAT” triumphs of the palate.For instance, take the Bacon-Stuffed Jalapeño Poppers ($7.99); what an appetizing appetizer. The venerable “Poppers” are hand-breaded, cheesy, with a grace-note of bacon-ness, like a less-cooked version of Chiles Rellenos, with a wonderful fresh-picked crispness. These aren’t those round, inch-long things you usually get; these peppers are fist-sized, oozing goodness. You can’t “pop” these; be prepared to get out a knife and fork to chop these down to manageable proportions. The almost-seedless heat is subtle, a jack-in-the-box that could explode open at any moment.
The one-page menu features appetizers, sandwiches, burgers and tacos, but nothing goes on the bill of fare that Chef Julian doesn’t approve and test to perfection. The burgers are branded on their buns with a longhorn design, which is cool to look at, but the real joy is in the eating. The Original Bullfrogs Burger ($9.99) is a half-pound of high-quality-tasting grilled beef, with tomato, onion, pickle, lettuce and mayo. Cut it open, and there was the faintest hint of pinkness in the middle, like a beautiful woman’s complexion with just a touch of rouge.
The Spicy Bacon Cheese Burger ($12.99) parlays smoked gouda, candied bacon, roasted jalapeño, avocado, mango chutney, garlic, chipotle mayo, lettuce, tomato, and grilled red onions into a juicy, messy wonder that cries to be inhaled. One member of our party wavered between proclaiming it “One of the top five burgers I’ve ever had” and “This is the best burger I ever ate.” I’m not sure which is right, because he wouldn’t share.
Consider the Grilled Sirloin Steak Deluxe sandwich ($10.99): healthy slices of beef, multiple cheeses, bacon, smoked ham (it’s like looters raided a meat market and decided to cook everything at once), lettuce, red onion, tomato, roasted garlic mayo, and creamy jalapeño ranch dressing. It’s a manly sandwich, moist and flavorful, yet there weren’t globs of fat and my wife loved it.
Fish tacos are fish tacos, right? There’s not much you can do with them, right? Wrong. The Cod Fish Tacos ($9.99) were softly breaded, tender, flaky, and a blend of a myriad of flavors: chipotle mayo, sour crème, guacamole, cabbage, pico de gallo, slaw, and mango radish salsa. This taco’s like a Cinco de Mayo festival by the sea on a plate, and you get three of them!
Many dishes come with sides, but these supporting players could have a starring role in any other eatery. The French fries are full-figured, tender yet crisp, and eminently edible. The onion rings are mammoth, sort-of-a gently al dente texture, and a batter coating that is smooth to the point of being flaky. As for the sweet potato fries, you probably won’t make it all the way through the lightly-spicy mound you receive, but that’s ok; they’ll firm up nicely in the microwave as leftovers the next day.
When all of this food arrived at our table, the only sound that broke the stunned silence was an amazed “OH MY GOODNESS!”
Admire the view of the Kings River, there’s a well-stocked bar, it’s west-and-north of the Ave. 384 exit of Highway 99, and manager Justin is building the place into an entertainment-dining-fun destination ? Bullfrogs at Riverland. (559) 897-5100. Leap! Don’t bother to look first. Like their Facebook page, and check out their website for more info.