by Terrance Mc Arthur
Wouldn’t you like to party like it’s Two Thousand Nineteen? Things were so much simpler, then. Now…oh, boy. Imagine what it would be like to run a restaurant during this pandemic. No, you can’t. Yes, you can. No, you can’t. Yes, you…maybe. Owners have to find some way to make things work and keep their employees employed.
This Great Food Search highlights some places that have triumphed over the odds, made things happen, and are amazingly open!CDT Cocina—805 E. Olive Ave., Fresno—559-451-4656—cdtcocina.com—Remember how I used to go on about how good Casa de Tamales was? Well, the landlord wanted to raise the rent 25%, so Liz & Company moved out! She found a new location and a new name. Now, it’s CDT Cocina (CDT stands for Casa de Tamales), and it’s tucked into the brick-studded patio off the parking lot behind the Tower Theatre, across the lot from Sequoia Brewing (Look for the red umbrella). They cater. They have delivery services. You can order and take-out. The three members of my family got three full meals each (and some extra eating) from a 12-tamale family pack. We mixed and matched some of our favorite varieties: Portobello Asparagus Broccoli, Spinach Artichoke, Creamy Chicken Poblano, Shredded Beef, and one of the dessert tamales, Blueberry and Cream Cheese. They are gluten-free, many are vegan, and all of them are delicious. The sides include my wife’s favorite Mexican rice of any she has had, big, fat beans, and an amazing salad! Romaine hearts, spicy corn kernels, shreds of cheese, pumpkin seeds, and a wondrous dressing that cuts the bite to pleasant levels. Casa de Tamales or CDT Cocina, this is the place to go! Off the Grill—1132 Academy Ave, Suite 102, Sanger—559-329-8400—offthegrill.net—They opened less than a month ago in a tiny space that once held a Pizza Hut take-out, across from Sanger’s famous Chuck Wagon. They planned to have tables out front, but the latest lockdown changed that. It’s an extended-family operation, with lots of masked people running back and forth and cooking and packing and taking orders and sending happy people out on their way. It’s fun to watch. It’s also fun to eat the food. The half-pound burgers like the BBA are impressive in fluffy, glistening buns, and imagine caramelized bacon, melted jack cheese, avocado, tomato, shredded lettuce, onion tanglers, a drizzle of BBQ sauce, and mustard, all jostling for space on that plump patty. The pulled pork is drizzled with BBQ sauce, topped with family coleslaw and onion tanglers, and made for two meals (so did the burger). I’d never had Mac ‘n Cheese with caramelized bacon, before…and I want it again! Off the Grill even has Nathan’s Hot Dogs lurking on the menu. The people (who have cooked and served at a number of Valley eateries) are friendly, the food defies belief, and they pack some of the fare in cute, down-home-looking carry-out boxes.
I have another place to promote, but I forgot they were closed on Sundays, but I’ve been there before, so I’m going to tell you about…Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater—1226 N. Wishon Ave., Fresno—559-266-9494—rogerrockas.com—What does a dinner theater do when theaters are closed? Chef Eric DeGroot and staff are doing take-out and delivery! Beef Short Ribs, Chicken Marsala, Manicotti, and Beef Shepherd’s Pie are on the first menu set, and you know it’s going to be good! You can order the meal for 2 or 4 people, and add on a Spinach and Maple-Roasted Butternut Squash Salad. The delivery range is limited to Herndon, Clovis, E. Kings Canyon, and Brawley to ensure quick service, but don’t you want an excuse to visit the Tower District on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday? Why not do some shopping and pick up fine dining to go? Roger Rocka’s UPDATE:
OK! I ordered online from Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, and I now have a very happy family!
We ordered the Braised Beef Short Ribs for Two, and the Beef Shepherd’s Pie for Two (I should have added on a salad, but I forgot.). I drove heck-bent for Sanger, eager to unload all the goodies and eat! Oh, what a haul! The Shepherd’s Pie featured thin-sliced Carrots-of-Unusual-Size and a topping of fluffy potato. The Short Ribs, loaded with flavor, sauced to the max, blew me away. The veggies still retained some life, and the dinner rolls were so light they should have been tethered to the plate. We enjoyed mixing and matching our meals to get a bit of everything. The prices on the menu worked out to $16-$20 per person, and the only way our meal could have been better is if we had a Good Company Players musical to go with it…so we hummed as we ate. That’s how to survive a pandemic!
Just because it’s only a mile from my home, my pick of the month is Off the Grill, but all three of these places serve great food, and they are local businesses that deserve your support. Happy eating and Happy Holidays!