Head chef Scott Sauer oversees a rotating menu of inventive cuisine catered to discerning Fresnan tongues fluent in gourmet. The dinner menu raises the curtain with an appetizing aria of jalapeno-enhanced sweet-potato fries ($9) or calamari ($10) dotted with roasted sweet peppers. The feta-cheese and poppy-seed dressing of the strawberry and spinach salad ($12) likewise provides a sweet counterpart to savory evening entrees such as the osso bucco–style short ribs ($27), served with braised greens and polenta cake, and the Peruvian potato-crusted salmon ($27). Dining dates, meanwhile, can keep their busy hands doggy-bag-free for a romantic evening of casino implosions and roller-tango with light entrees such as the petite filet mignon ($26) and the crab cakes with house-made tartar sauce ($16). Before capping things off with a dessert of cinnamon-raisin bread pudding ($6) or crispy boysenberry pie ($5), be sure to take a scenic detour among Max's extensive list of wines by the bottle or glass, draft beers, and specialty martinis, including the Pretty Woman ($11), which blends Stolichnaya strawberry, orange juice, and strawberry puree with a champagne float and a lock of Julia Roberts's hair.
A Fresno institution since the flawless presidency of Herbert Hoover, Piemonte's Italian Delicatessen slings sandwiches made with fresh ingredients straight from the Central San Joaquin Valley's copious cornucopia. Deli sandwiches—served on your choice of wheat, sourdough, or French roll—include the Piemonte special ($5.50) with salami, ham, mortadella, and provolone and the Michel Angelo ($7.75) with capicolla, Toscano salami, Genoa salami, nunchucks, and provolone cheese. Adventurous appetites can explore the cooked salami, hot-pepper cheese, oil, and oregano of the Marco Polo ($6), as well as annoy parents who are trying to read poolside. Veggie velociraptors, meanwhile, can sink teeth and talons into the vegetarian's ($5.75) garden of artichoke hearts, mushrooms, lettuce, tomatoes, and wax peppers, and pathological liars can draw bologna-and-cheese power from the Full O'Boloney ($5) as they prepare to fake their way through performing open-heart surgery. You can buy multiples of today's Groupon as gifts, so treat your cutest coworkers to a lunchtime field trip to Piemonte's Italian Delicatessen.
For more than 15 years, By the Sea has been gifting guests with a menu of authentic Mediterranean-style vittles spiced up with a Caribbean flair. Office workers looking for a light lunch break after a hectic morning of dodging wrecking balls can order an elegantly esculent starter from By the Sea’s carte du jour, such as hummos ($5.95), tabbouli (a lemon- and olive-oil-doused dish of finely chopped parsley, tomatoes, onions, and bulgar wheat, $5.95), or four falafels fried in corn oil ($4.95). After a bowl of black-bean soup ($3.50), put your best fork forward into a plate of lemon chicken ($11.95), sautéed in lemons, white wine, olive oil, and cream sauce. Otherwise, daredevil diners can sword swallow shish kebabs of marinated lamb ($13.95) or wrestle a charbroiled Cajun catfish ($11.95) for digestion rights. By the Sea's board of fare covers Mediterranean cultures both extant and extinct, including the Phoenician chicken ($10.95), the Middle Eastern shawerma ($9.95), and the Moroccan kafta ($11.95), a charbroiled stew of minced ground beef and lamb mixed with parsley, onions, and spices. To end your classic Mediterranean meal with less bloodshed than most classic Mediterranean plays, wash down slices of cheesecake ($4) or puddings of rice ($3) with a cup of coffee or tea ($1.50).
A traditional Irish pub with a robust menu, a full bar, and an outdoor beer garden, Groggs wages a tactical twin strike on hunger and thirst. Patrons can test the waters with Dublin hot wings ($7.95), cordon bleu balls ($3.95), or Irish chips ($1.95) before wildly cannonballing into the deep end of a hearty soup. Options such as the meaty bowl, jammed with cheesesteak filling, grilled pastrami, green onions, and cabbage ($10.95), and the bucket o’ chowder—clam chowder served with Irish chips ($8.95)—come in bread bowls. Named after an old Irish crime-fighting duo, the banger and spuds fights the injustice of hunger with two grilled sausages, whole potatoes, and a slab o’ garlic bread ($9.95), and the German bratwursts served on a French baguette celebrate delicious globalization ($8.95).
Sweet River Grill & Bar's eye-catching interior beckons a second glance with its treasure trove of framed mirrors, sepia portraits, vintage advertisements, and a large sled mounted on the wall. Inside the central dining room, burgundy banquettes shine beneath Tiffany-style stained-glass lamps and vaulted ceilings marked with divots where Paul Bunyan famously bumped his head. To pair with these old-fashioned trappings, Sweet River's chefs take a modern slant on classic diner fare with sandwiches stuffed with ahi tuna and thin-sliced turkey and half-pound burgers bearing alfalfa sprouts and fresh avocado. A separate Mexican menu vies for palate popularity with sauce-slathered enchiladas, giant stuffed burritos, and sizzling fajitas with 8 ounces of steak or chicken. After polishing off the last morsel of new york strip, diners can peek into Sweet River's banquet room, where they'll discover a collection of antiques including fire-stoking equipment, vintage neon signs, and Louis Pasteur's very first milk mustache.