Great Food Search: I Ate All That At Rogue Festival?

Mar 23, 2019 | 2019 Articles, Terrance V. Mc Arthur, The Great Food Search

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!

The Rogue Festival: the crown performing-arts jewel of Fresno’s Tower District, 9 days (or 10, if you count the Rogue Teaser, which I do) filled with music, dance, theatre, magic, comedy, and other things. I managed to see twenty-five shows this year, dashing from venue to venue to see as much as I could…but a chubby little reviewer’s gotta eat, right? Where can you grab some food when you’re on your way to somewhere else? Is there any place for a quick bite to eat? Let me put it this way—I did not lose weight during Rogue 2019.

There are a lot of places to eat in the Tower, all good, but these are places where I found sustenance from February 28 to March 9. Even though the Rogue Festival is over for the year, you can still eat at these places…and you should!

Pizza from Ritchie's

Pizza from Richie’s

Richie’s Pizza & Hot Dogs—844 E Olive Ave, Fresno—Don’t expect to eat inside. There are usually a few tables on the Olive Avenue sidewalk between Fulton and Wishon, a great place to traffic/people watch and talk with friends. The food is great for grab-and-go. The dogs have super-soft buns, and my go-to is the Pizza Dog ($8), a spicy Italian sausage in a bun that gives it peek-out room at both ends, anointed with homemade pizza sauce, blanketed with mozzarella, and topped with a row of near-salami-size pepperoni slices. Looks delectable, and these looks are not deceiving.

Pizza gets top billing in the name. If you go for pizza-by-the-slice, here comes a massive slab-o-za that overlaps the paper plate on all three corners! It may not be the best you’ve ever eaten, but for after-show noshing on a Friday or Saturday night, it’s pretty good after midnight.


Casa de Tamales

Casa de Tamales–609 E. Olive Avenue, Suite C, Fresno—I’ve been a fan of Liz Sanchez and her lard-free tamales for a long time, and her Casa de Tamales is a stone’s throw from two Rogue venues, the Spectrum Gallery and The Revue. Of course I would have to stop there for a quick tamale or two…right during the Tower Mardi Gras parade. YOWCH! Not the best time to try any food establishment—the patio on Olive Avenue was seriously crowded (There’s parking in the back). I ordered a pair of one of my favorite varieties, Spinach & Artichoke with potatoes, creamy and tasty, with roasted corn. There are meat-based tamales, vegetarian versions, vegan types, and the ever-lovely dessert tamales (the Triple Chocolate Cake tamale can be topped with chocolate sauce and walnuts!).


Tower Blendz

Tower Blendz—802 E. Olive Avenue, Fresno—Across from the Tower Theatre, the space used to be a hipster clothing place, then a frozen yogurt spot. Now, it’s a reading area, a play space for kids, a small-scale performance venue at times, and a great food-stop. I went in for the smoothies, and discovered great salads. The Hawaiian Vaca smoothie ($6, $4.50 for child-size) combines coconut water, pineapple, strawberry, and a coconut sorbet into a sweetly tart whisper of Pacific Island breezes. On the salad side, the Chicken Salad ($6, $3.50 for a cup, $5 for a wrap) included chicken, mixed greens, egg, tomato, mushroom, avocado, and croutons. Even pictures of it make mouths water! On top of that, there are Acai Bowls, and the staff are friendly and patient.


Golden Restaurant

Golden Restaurant—1135 N Fulton Street, Fresno—Most of the time, I was in a hurry, so a sit-down restaurant was not in the cards. One day, however, there was a hole in my schedule, so I went to an old favorite, the Golden Restaurant, right across from Fulton Art and Veni Vidi Vici. Long-deserved price raises have brought some fancy combo plates to the same price as many simpler offerings, so we splurged for our taste buds, not for my pocketbook. The Szechuan Lamb ($10.95, we took the mild sauce option) was melt-in-your-mouth tender, and the sauce was a delectable treat. The Beef with Oyster Sauce ($10.95) elevated some cow who gave its all to new heights. Sherbet is included with the combos. Go ahead, bring your kids, bring your Bay Area Friends, bring yourselves! One of my favorite Rogue performers, Les Kurkendaal-Barrett, is a daily diner when he’s in town for the festival. It’s that good!


Panaderia Natalie

Panaderia Natalie—935 E Olive Avenue, Fresno—It used to be Lauck’s Bakery, THE place for celebratory baked goods. Now, it’s filled with Mexican pastries…and beerocks. Beerocks at a Mexican bakery? Yes! The dough is light and fluffy, and the regular beerocks is one of the best I’ve had—not soggy, just enough spice. Then—Chile Verde beerocks? WOW! Like Mexico invaded the territory of the Volga Germans! Viva la Revolucion!…..and there are Jalapeno Beerocks, too!


Frosted Cakery

Frosted Cakery—1292 N Wishon Avenue, Fresno—I missed getting this place on The Great Food Search for cupcakes, so this is my penance—and a delicious one, too. Down the block from the VISTA Theatre and its classes on voice, performance, and musical instruments, Frosted Cakery raises your blood sugar just by looking in the window. They keep the cupcakes behind glass, or you’d just grab them and run! The Butterscotch Cream was oh-so-dreamy and sparkly, and the Chocolate Cream Cheese takes your mind to Shangri-La—You are at one with your tummy! Hey, I say if you gotta go, go fat and happy!

The Bottom Line—How to choose? How to choose? Okay, if you have time for leisurely eating, go to the Golden. Want something sweet? It’s Frosted for you. Late-night cravings? Richie’s, of course. Want to feel healthy? Have a smoothie and/or salad at Blendz. Tamale time? Go to the Casa. For beerocks, Natalie has what you need.

The thing is, I’ve never had bad food in the Tower District, and there are so many places to eat and feel good about yourself. Besides my Rogue dining spots, there are…Sequoia Brewing Company, Chicken Pie Shop, Me-n-Ed’s Pizza, TowerSushi, Irene’s Café, Deli Delicious, Veni Vidi Vici, Bobby Salazar’s Taqueria, Livingstone’s Restaurant & Pub, Cuca’s Restaurant, Piemonte’s Italian Delicatessen, and Oggi Cosi Si Mangia.

Happy exploring!

Check out more food articles and more of Terrance’s Great Food Search column in our Food Fun section. And check out a KRL staff profile this week on Terrance!

Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Librarian in Fresno County, California. He is also a storyteller, puppeteer, magician, and maker of pine needle baskets. On top of that he writes stories that range from rhymed children’s tales to splatterpunk horror. He’s an odd bird, but he’s nice to have around.


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