When the owners of Crawdaddy's decided to put a little bit of New Orleans' distinctive flair right in the heart of Visalia, they knew it would take more than great cuisine. What makes New Orleans so unforgettable is that it caters to all the senses and makes the smallest outing a special event. To fill that tall order, they took residence in a spacious facility that could be an exciting venue for music, parties, libations, food, and sporting events, all in one electric, lively place.
The second-floor dining room welcomes guests with a menu of fresh seafood such as blackened catfish and bayou butter prawns. A fully stocked bar wets whistles, and balcony seating offers couples a romantic setting under the stars?all 50 of them. Meanwhile, more than a dozen flat-screen TVs light up the crowd in the first floor's sports bar, where a mixologist whips up creative cocktails and TVs whip up the big game. In the dining area of the first floor, Keith and the Crawdads treat diners to lively tunes during the evening, and on the second level the nightclub sends crowds into fits of dance spasms as late-night DJs spin everything from hip-hop to disco six days a week.
At Tommy’s, candlelight casts dark wood wainscoting, burnt-orange walls, and stone floors in a warm glow. The elegant eatery—which has been hailed by Frommer’s as “the most creative restaurant in Visalia"—complements its environs with equally haute cuisine. Chefs serve succulent steaks on cedar planks and drizzle them with southwestern flourishes such as tequila-roasted green chilis, poblano cream sauce, and a single cactus tear. Additionally, Tommy’s stocks its wine cellar with an ample wine selection.
Raul and Maria Gutierrez were raised on fajitas in their native Mexico, where many families raise their own chickens and make tortillas by hand. After honing their culinary skills in several Houston restaurants, the couple chased their dreams to Fresno, where Fajita Fiesta was born. Instead of sprouting from a pinto bean, the eatery sprang from one of the Gutierrez’s favorite dishes: tacos al carbon, a union of handcrafted tortillas, fresh pico de gallo, and charbroiled steak, chicken, or pork. Made fresh every hour, the tortillas serve as a canvas for creativity by exhibiting savories such as grilled shrimp, onions, and poblano peppers. For deep-fried fare such as chimichangas and sopapillas, Raul and Maria use canola oil to minimize saturated fat. Margaritas add a heady kick to the evening's festivities, and horchatas end meals on a sweet cinnamon note, with textures smoother than a freshly shorn saxophone. The kitchen also caters feasts for a variety of events, filling bellies with hearty chicken moles and bite-size eats such as mini taquitos.
At the Break Room, players grab a cue and maneuver past a foosball table and boxing machine to face off at one of 16 9-foot pool tables. Tunes pump from jukeboxes and LCD televisions readily show the sporting event du jour in a space permeated by free WiFi.
Manhattan Steakhouse & Bar serves up an extensive menu of fine steakhouse dinner in elegant environs. An order of escargot in champagne, garlic, and parmesan butter ($10.95) or a breadcrumb-coated, fried brie-cheese wedge ($11.95) revs up stomach engines before main meal events. A vast selection of entrée salads offers an abundance of ground-grown sustenance ($6.95+), alongside hearty eats from land and sea, such as the New York Roquefort, an aged, black Angus topped with crumbled blue cheese ($26.95), or pistachio-crusted halibut ($28.95). With dim lighting and city-skyline décor, the eatery's ritzy mid-century vibe and long, full bar welcome guests to settle in for wine or decadent specialty cocktails, such as the white-chocolate raspberry truffle, a mix of Godet, Chambord, amaretto, and white cacao. Reservations, like wearing chain mail while wrestling a bear, are highly recommended but not required.
For over 20 years, Austin’s Sanger menu has inspired mouths to stop talking about their screenplay and dive into a hearty waffle breakfast with bacon or sausage and an egg ($6.65), Austin’s classic half-pound burger ($7.45), or an ultra-tender pot-roast platter smothered in gravy and roasted iron cauldrons and served with carrots, onions, and mashed potatoes ($10.45). Hopelessly lost University of Texas students, meanwhile, can find solace in Austin’s Downtown Grill and Sports Bar's menu, starting with the black-bean chili cheese fries ($6.99) or the bacon-, cheese-, and spinach-stuffed mushroom caps ($7.99). After appetizers, carnivorous customers can try out a slow-roasted half chicken ($12.99) or a 12-ounce coffee-rubbed rib-eye steak ($17.99) while seated on a large coffee beanbag chair. In Sanger, slake a terrible thirst with domestic and imported beers along with wines from the local Fresno State, Gibson, and Cedar View wineries. The downtown pub, on the other tentacle, boasts 17 beers on tap and in gilded spittoons scattered throughout the spacious interior.