11 Fresno Places I Miss From Childhood

Here are some of my favorite spots in Fresno that are no longer around. Basically, the 80s for an NW Fresno kid.

Hopefully, it sparks your own memories, wherever the hell ya grew up.

Blackbeards would be number one on my list except it is somehow still there. Intact. Almost unchanged. Which is awesome and sad at the same time.

MALIBU GRAND PRIX FRESNO

In the same place the Costco parking lot is now, behind the shopping center at the NE corner of Blackstone & Herndon, was Malibu Grand Prix. Letting kids race little Indy-style cars seems like a bad idea, but I never heard of anyone getting seriously hurt at it.

I think I spent more time in the arcade playing Tempest than on the race track. It was always a bit intimidating to me to drive those things … There. I said it. The Malibu cars, made for children, intimidated me. Didn’t know I’d be working out childhood issues today.

“I really could get into this!” is not something I ever said though. For the record.

WOODWARD PARK DRIVE IN

We no longer have a drive-in movie theater in Fresno and it sucks. The last one we had was Woodward, which is now a Home Depot and a Costco – definitely not an upgrade.

I can still remember going to the concession stand in the center, stealing looks at the other movies playing that I was too young to watch, enjoying the perfect Fresno Summer Nights and only half paying attention to the movie we came to see.

Madera still has one in operation, if you want to try and experience that again.

VIDEO GAME CAGE AT BLACKSTONE TOYS R US

This used to be the only place (that I can remember) you could get any game you wanted. Saving up money to get the latest hot game, only to find they were sold out of it, was always a bummer.

Bringing up the paper tag that represented the game, taking it to the cage and having them hand over the actual game, is one of the more satisfying things from childhood I recall. Is that sad?

TOWER RECORDS IN THE KMART SHOPPING CENTER

I got this picture from former Tower Records (OG location) worker, Dale Stewart of Capitol Punishment fame.

Records to the left. Tapes to the right. CDs eventually taking over. Record displays in the center. 45s of the Top Twenty Songs. These are the memories.

FESTIVAL GAME PALACE

It was not easy to try and make a $5 bill last for an afternoon, but I managed somehow. Shout out to Paperboy and the manual hockey game by the snack bar.

Dear God I could watch this all day:

THE GRAPE TRAY

It was next to the original Fresno Cost Plus at the NW corner of Shaw & Fresno. A sandwich shop, deli, and wine store. The reason I remember is it had a unique upstairs eating area unlike any in Fresno. I guess there is something about sitting and looking out over the shop from up high while having a salami & swiss.

The Grape Tray is still around. But it’s now at Palm & Bullard in the Opus One shopping center. And it’s just a wine shop. No cool upstairs or sandwiches. Boring.

I think it’s even in the spot that used to have a tiny record shop I would stop into after school and rarely buy something, much to the owner’s chagrin – wish I could remember the name of it.

FIG GARDEN LIQUOR (Original)

I know it’s still there but when I was a kid, Tom Seaver’s Father-In-Law owned it. He had the best (non-card shop) baseball card selection in town. He would even hand out autographed pictures of Tom Seaver to those of us that seemed like they cared. I got one or two over the years.

ARTHUR’S TOYS ON BLACKSTONE

The place to be even after Toys R Us opened. No other place could I look at custom electric cars to add to my track. It’s now Whitie’s Pets and went in there recently and was able to conjure a tiny bit of the vibe.

This is not me but I had the exact setup. Now I feel like going out and buying one:

HONORABLE MENTIONS

The hobby shop place in Fig Garden Village that sold model airplanes and cars, Bob’s Village Hobby. (Read about owner, Bob Hansen, here). My memories of the place are faint, but it definitely inspired me to hang my model planes from my bedroom ceiling.

The Fig Garden Movie Theater. I so much wish it was still there. If you are too young to remember, it was located roughly where the Deli Delicious and noodle place is, in the back NE corner of Fig Garden Village.

Festival Cinemas. Saw all the important 80s movies there. Empire Strikes Back. Raiders of the Lost Ark. The greats.

I could go on for a while, as I’m sure you could too. Often I wonder what my kid will one day fondly remember about Fresno? It definitely won’t be a Drive-In.

[Arthur’s Toys pic taken from Miguel Diaz’s feed]

Pete’s Restaurant & Brewhouse Is Coming To Fresno

The Northern California brewpub chain, Pete’s Restaurant & Brewhouse, is coming to Fresno at The Marketplace.

That’s the drunk whispers I am hearing. Fresno is adding another brewpub style place to eat and drink and it’s called Pete’s Restaurant & Brewhouse.

I thought Pete’s was going to be on the empty pad along Herndon (near 99), next to the Target and the Panera. Thankfully, Fresnan reader, Redd, pointed out that it will be next to the new movie theater being built during phase two of construction:

It was rumored that Southgate Brewing in Oakhurst was going to open up a second location there but they are planning on building at Avenue 12 & Highway 41.

When Does Pete’s Restaurant & Brewhouse Open?

Summer. Summer of 2019. That’s all I got for now. Things change I suppose. Fall through. Get drunk, stumble around, knock over a few street signs, wake up in the morning and forget it signed a three-year lease. But it seems it will happen.

What Is This Pete’s Brewhouse All About?

I had never heard of this place before but they have 13 freaking locations. They all seem to center around Sacramento but they don’t actually have a Sacramento location.

What Kind Of Food?

It’s brewpub food, people. We all know what that is about. I have not looked at the menu yet but I feel like there will be sliders. Lots of versions of sliders. Okay now, let’s look at the menu and see.

I’m shocked. I didn’t see any sliders. Lots of food. A bit more extensive than the standard restaurant brewery. Sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes too many dishes is a bad thing. At least there will be choices.

What Kind Of Beer?

For a beer geek like me, usually, the most exciting thing to look for is not the beer that the place makes but the guest taps. These are the beers they serve that are not the ones they make.

Usually, the beer that a brewpub makes is very generic. Just kinda OK. So the beer they offer other than theirs becomes the interesting part. Pete’s other locations seem to lean towards craft beer, which is a good sign.

They serve a lot of Norcal area beers so I assume the Fresno location will have locals like Tioga, Full Circle, House of Pendragon, Dust Bowl and maybe by that point Zack’s.

Fresno Is The New Brewpub Capitol.

Even though Fresno is still underserved for actual breweries, we seem to be doing just fine for brewpubs. We already have chains and homegrown.

We have Mad Duck at Campus Pointe. They are even opening a second location at Herndon & Marks that is being built as we read:

Mad Duck Brewery second location

We also have Sequoias (wish we could still call it Butterfield’s) with a Tower District location and an NE Fresno location. There is also the chain, BJ Brewhouse at Fashion Fair.

Brewpub or Brewery? What Is The Difference?

If you’re kind of fuzzy from drinking the night before and were wondering what the difference between a brewpub and a brewery is, I think of it this way:

BREWERY:

  • Focused on making their own beer.
  • Distributes their beer to other places.
  • Packages their beer for stores.
  • Food is not offered or comes second to the beer.

BREWPUB:

  • Food is the main focus.
  • Beer is an afterthought or feels almost like a gimmick to get you in the door.
  • The beer that they brew is safe and generic, does not push the limits of brewing.
  • Very little to no packaging of the beer, little to no distribution.

We have roughly the same amount of brewpubs as we do breweries in Fresno. That is odd and I hope the brewery side passes up the brewpub side soon.

Until then I will still be sampling both because beer research is essential to local blogging. Says me.

Do Not Camp At Busy Fresno Restaurants

The other morning I went to cozy Fresno breakfast spot, Benaddiction. Really great food, good service. The most interesting breakfast menu in Fresno for sure and arguably the best breakfast. You will order too much food, I’m telling you right now.

The problem with Benaddiction is: too damn small.

It’s tiny. Mini pancake tiny. Like, if you opened up a restaurant in your first apartment and there is no bedroom, tiny.

This is not what the post is about.

I’m not here to complain about Benaddiction. They are taking steps to find a bigger space and they are working well with what they have. I’m here to tell “campers” to go the hell home when they are done eating.

Campers are the people that hangout at their table and chitchat even though they are done eating and paying.

I suppose this is fine when the place is not busy and nobody is waiting for a table. But Benaddiction is ALWAYS busy and there is usually a 20 to 40 minute wait for a table.

I Witnessed Camping Myself

When last I was there, we waited 30 minutes for a table. When we sat down there was a table of two women finishing their meal.

By the time we were done with our breakfast and leaving, those same two women were still there talking. Dicks.

Look up and read the room, people. You can talk about what you bought at Target yesterday when you are in the parking lot.

That said, Pro Tip: You can do call-ahead seating at Benadictions using your Yelp app via their Yelp page.

Just don’t abuse your table time, k!?

This Is A Garbage Post

Enough! Last straw, Creepy Truck Guy that picks through my recycling at night. You wanna take stuff out, that’s fine. Just don’t start mixing, dammit!

One trash-day morning before leaving for work, I noticed some of my recycling on the ground instead of in the bin. I stop to pick it up and then notice a whole grip of recycling material had been “transferred” over into my grey garbage bin.

Obviously, scavengers had been on the street last night and made their search through the blue bin easier by tossing recycling into the grey bin, then leaving it there.

This Is Not A Rant About Scavengers.

Normally I don’t have a problem with people picking recycling out of my bin. If you want to work that hard to nab (what I assume is) fifty cents worth of cans and plastic bottles that I’m too lazy to bring to the recycling center, have at it.

But when you start compromising the green or grey bins with items that were intended for the recycling bin? Fuck you.

Really I am just pissed because you just made more work for me. I am going to pick through my own trash and save my cans now. Yep, no soup for you, buddy.

I go through a lot of cans too. The shift to packaging more craft beer in cans is definitely reflected in my blue bin. Big revenue hit there, pal.

(Is it big revenue? I have no idea.)

Will Creepy Truck Guy get this message?

Doubt it. I even started spacing my blue bin WAY away from the other bins in hopes that he will think “Gosh. I must have really upset this person. I will be more thoughtful next time.”

Now I have the most passive-aggressive bins on the street.

The reality is, I will work my way up to about three bags worth of cans, decide that it will be too much hassle to bring them somewhere and just put them in the blue been anyway.

For now though? I am a bin asshole.

Uncle Harry’s Closing Will Not Stop Me Going To Fig Garden Village. Not Yet.

Maybe you heard that Uncle Harry’s Fig Garden Village location has closed. Not because the location wasn’t doing well or because Uncle Harry’s didn’t want to renew their lease. They did.

But the owners of Fig Garden, based in New York, wanted them out in favor of some national high-end paper store (wedding invites and such). Uncle Harry’s was not shy in posting about this in their window:

This Is Not The First Time

A very similar thing happened to the Ripe Tomato (you remember that place?) when Pieology wanted their spot, their local ass was encouraged to leave by the owners.

This has got some people fired up about these big city folk chipping away at the local charm of Fig Garden Village. I’m not real happy with it either.

But I am not at a point where I will protest by not shopping or eating at Fig Garden. Not yet. Hell, Jack’s Urban Eats just got taps, bro!! How can I give up on it now?!

But there is a tipping point somewhere. A line of demarcation. A point at which they push out one too many local shops in favor of a national chain.

Will it be Wassabi’s? The Elbow Room? Hungry Bear? Patio Cafe? Yeah, maybe it would be Patio Cafe. I’m really not sure. But they are starting to piss me off and a lot of other people too.

What would the tipping point be for you? Is there one?

Joshua Tehee (of the Fresno Bee) and I have a discussion about this on this month’s Flowing With Famous podcast. Listen in here.

Finally. A Guide To Help Us Be Like The Palm Avenue Bikers


I have a bike (pictured). It can get dusty. But I have one. It’s just a fixie. Which means I was cool 6 years ago. And now? Well, I have a bike only good for beer & Redbox runs. And I can only stop Flintstones style.

I need a new bike. A road bike. I may even want to be like one of those people with the bike outfits, riding down Palm Ave. But it looks like a whole thing, ya know? Like work or something.

Well thanks to IFHT, there is an entertaining step by step guide to show me and you how we can be like a Palm Ave Biker:

I definitely need a Recovery Beer just watching that.

If you’re ready to start adding road bikes and putting “yourself” on display riding Palm Avenue, make sure to hit up local places like Steven’s, Sunnyside, Fresno Schwinn, Rubber SoulHerb BauerCyle Path, and get riding.