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Eating their way through Fresno
Fresno is a foodie's town.
Granted, Landon Weiszbrod and Deon Gonzales aren't foodies, just two goofy guys who like to eat. But they more than appreciate the culinary diversity of the area — and have a series of video blogs to prove it.
The pair has filmed a series of features — more mini-documentaries than restaurant reviews that spotlight local favorites, while answering burning questions, like “what's the city's best micro-brew?” or “where's the best late-night spot.”
And you're thinking, “there's no late-night dining in Fresno.”
“Baloney! Baloney,” Weiszbrod says, and he actually sounds a little angry, ticking off a quick list of his favorites — Robertitos, Maria's Taco Shop, April Meat Market. He could go on.
If he's mad, it's because the dude's spent a lot of time on after-hours eating.
“I damn near have a PhD in late-night food,” he says.
It's sort of how the project came into being. He and Gonzales were part of an improv comedy group, and everything is funnier after hours, so late nights (2 a.m. or later) are part of the landscape.
After the shows, they'd eat. And eat.
They do like to eat, Weiszbrod says.
“It's like our hobby.”
“And eventually we thought, why don't we tape this,” Gonzales says.
So far they've featured three restaurants, but hope to have something new up every few weeks. Eventually, they'd like to bundle a few of the episodes and present it as a pilot to PBS here in town.
Think, “California's Gold,” only funny ... and with food ... and focused on Fresno.
That's the authentic Fresno, the hole-in-the-wall spots in neighborhoods you might be afraid of, but you go to anyway, because there's nothing like it in the rest of the city — places like April Meat Market, which used to be Chris Meat Market, and still gets a lot of love for having the best carne asada in town, and which the pair deem “the best place to get a taco ... and get shot.”
That's a joke, for those who think violence is funny.
You won't see them at Slates or Five, or slapping down $200 a meal at Ruth's Chris. Not that there's anything wrong with that, Weiszbrod says. It's just not their scene, and those places already have a venue for media exposure.
No, you're more likely to see Weiszbrod and Gonzales getting serious over a 99-cent hotdog, or trying to end the “best pizza” debate.
There are some debates they can end right now.
* The best breakfast spot?
That would be BS Cafe in Clovis, which Weiszbrod describes as a “blue-plate-special” kind of place, where the patrons show up at 6:30 a.m. and it's a late-morning meal. They're old. And they don't take kindly to youngsters, he says. So expect looks. And gravy that is to die for.
* The best donut?
That's the Fresno Donuts on Blackstone and Shields avenues. Judy's Donuts is fine for you business-types, Weiszbrod says. But Fresno Donut is open 24-hours and has ... coffee.
“I'm not even going to say it's good coffee. But I like it.”
Mostly, he likes being reminded of 4 a.m.-cram sessions, of going out and getting two donuts and a coffee for $1.12. The price is probably an exaggeration. Then again, maybe not.
But a great meal is about more than the price, or even the food. It's about the locale, the experience and the people.
Yes, you can get chicken and waffles at Chameleon Cafe (featured in the pair's second video), “but you're getting chicken and waffles from Drew and Charla,” Weiszbrod says. That makes it special.
So, next time you're thinking of hitting up the closest Applebee's Neighborhood Grill and Bar — don't. That's not part of the area's history, its culture. Well, it shouldn't be, anyway.
It doesn't have to be. Instead, take a chance on something unique and authentic, Gonzales says. That is the artistry of the restaurant business, he says.
“That's half of the American dream, doing what you know and putting it out there.”
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