by Laura Sidsworth
On my first visit to the Starving Artists Bistro on a fall night it was so crowded that we could only score a sidewalk patio table. There were heaters, but my niece Kat was still chilly. One of the proprietors, Bob Sullivan, noticed this and brought her a blanket which he said they keep clean and on hand for such occasions. She then asked for a hot chocolate…and though not on the menu, Bob had his bartender craft her one.
Bob is one of the finest examples I have ever seen of anyone working in the restaurant industry. Always hustling, but still finding time to greet customers or help out the talent on stage. He truly is a lovable character, quick with jokes, and ready with a smile no matter how hard he is working.
The Starving Artist Bistro is a family-run endeavor, with wife Nykole Sullivan and her mom Terry Hibbs rounding out the team. Both also equally talented and hard-working; the women business partners together for the last nine years. All valley natives, it will be three years this April that they have been working together on the successful venture that is first and foremost a family-oriented restaurant serving ‘New’ American cuisine.
Terry was a K-1st grade teacher in her earlier career, and Nykole has a Bachelors degree in Entrepreneurial Business. “Bob has a background in everything,” said Nykole, and went on to say that she and Bob have worked every aspect of the restaurant business; she herself working seven years in the industry.
“Running a restaurant is not for the faint-hearted because we have worked every job you can: bartender, cook, manager, etcetera. We know what it takes to do the job, and we are not just the bosses, but are willing to get our hands dirty, and back up our employees when help is needed,” continued Nykole.
They finally, just last year, became comfortable with all three leaving the bistro at the same time, so they could actually attend family events together, as a family, leaving the business in the capable hands of their management team. “That’s rare to be able to do within a small family-run business,” she added.
Nourishing the Diners: Restaurant TidBits
* Head chef/kitchen manager: Anthony Renteria (3-4 other cooks rotate duties)
* #1 item popular every week since they have been open: the Short-rib Tacos
* Sunday brunch is served, with unique items such as Short-rib Eggs Benedict and Bananas Foster French Toast. Nykole said “Don’t quote me, but I think our Eggs Benedict is the best in town!”
* Most recipes were developed by Terry and Nykole while working together operating the meal-prep business – Dinner My Way.
* S.A.B. has a full bar, features local beers, has a house beer crafted by Riley’s in Madera that they named ‘a cappella’ pale ale, and encourages their bartenders to hand-craft cocktails, such as the popular blood-orange margaritas.
* An item most photographed by patrons and posted on social media: The Salmon Salad, made with Sashimi-grade wild-caught salmon, so tender, it could be eaten raw. It is purchased daily from the downtown Central Fish Market.
* S.A.B. does a lot of to-go business, with Friday and Saturday pickups being the most popular.
The restaurant can host events on their outdoor patio. Each occasion/reservation managed on a case-by-case basis by Terry, who can organize a small menu if one person or an organization is footing the bill, and will even print out the specialized menu for your party!
As their website states, “The Starving Artist’s Bistro is a place for artists to express their passion. We started S.A.B. to give artists, musicians, and performers a stage and an audience to share their passion with…” so in Part Two, I will cover the kind of fun diners can encounter on a visit, and the kind of place an artist could hone their craft at, and let their talents shine!
The Starving Artist’s Bistro
9447 Fort Washington Road #101
Fresno, Ca. 93730 (559) 433.0133
Tues-Sat 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Sun 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Check out other local Arts & Entertainment articles in our A & E section and watch for part 2 later this month.