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Fresno downtown mini-crawl

PolarBear | Aug 19, 200508:33 PM

Decided to see if there had been any progress made where the future soul food place (Savannah's, iirc) is going in on Kern St., just across from the Downtown Club at the end of the block. Windows are still whited out. Unable to find a parking spot made a circle around the new baseball stadium and found one directly in front of Coney Island.

Had a little time on the meter so cruised Fulton mall for a block in both directions off Tulare St. A small cart selling fruit, agua fescas and churros was doing a brisk business at the corner. Near the clock tower was a trailer like you'd see at the fair with people lined up for tacos, corn dogs and the like.

Overtaken by a wave of nostalgia, headed back to Coney Island for a chili cheese dog (@ $2). This place has been around for 83 years, and I'd guess so has the old fella taking care of the grill. Looks like the only thing that's changed in decades are the prices. Chairs look like they may have come from a school fire sale in the early 50's, metal frame, solid wood seats and curved backs. Lot's of folks having coffee and breakfast.

The dog is nothing special, long, skinny and skinless, on a Rainbow type bun with a slice of fake cheese, but the chili and chopped onions pulled it all together and brought back fond memories. I noticed on the board that it's available to go for about $4/pt or $7/qt. In the future I think the plan is to pick up a qt. and grill some Hebrew Nationals or Millers (only decent dogs I can seem to find here) at home on decent rolls with some grated cheddar and red O's.

My original plan was to hit several places and try one item at each. That ended when I crossed the RR tracks on Kern St. and stopped at Chris' Meat Mkt. It wasn't even 11:30 am and the lines were already forming. After about 15 min. I had my cabeza taco ($1) and my torta with jamon y queso ($3.25). The taco was excellent, fresh soft corn tortilla just stuffed with juicy, tender, well seasoned, falling apart cheek (I assume) meat. The torta OTOH, changed my life, seemingly simple in construction, good bread grilled along side the slices of ham and the cheese melted on, then packed with lettuce, vine ripe tomato, and thick elongated slices of pickeled jalapeno. This was the Mexican equivalent to the revelation of what a grilled pork banh mi with extra meat, peppers and cilantro did to my taste buds. Only way to contain it is to leave the wrapper on and peel it back (shades of the In-n-Out double-double protein style). Watching the young dudes prepare all the orders (all to go BTW) is worth the trip to Chris'. Also noticed that I need to brush up on my Spanish since the hand lettered daily specials really look intriguing.

Ordering note: At Chris' don't order a ham and cheese torta, you'll get the standard grilled cheese, say "torta" first, then ham & cheese.

Location note: Chris' is on "the wrong side of the tracks", or what I prefer to call the "golden west side". There are some real jewels in this area (Central Fish market e.g.), though some may not feel comfortable after dark, but it's never stopped us from visiting the Old Basque Hotel and a few other landmarks.

I was disappointed in the Fulton Mall proper area, seemed the sidewalks hadn't been cleaned and there was a general feel of neglect while along Van Ness Ave just a half block to the north and the small side street spurs are being revitalized. Hopefully, we'll see more improvements in the mall area and the old Chinatown.

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