By BARRY EITEL
Even without snow, the residents of Fresno County love the holiday season, spending chillier nights at delicious restaurants that dot the region. Whether you prefer to celebrate with the coziness of nostalgic favorites or want a more glittering and contemporary experience, here’s where you should visit as the year winds down. Any visitor will find much cheer at these local favorites.
Veni Vidi Vici
Veni Vidi Vici is a singular Fresno County restaurant for the holidays, with a kitchen serving up delicious fusions of Asian and Italian cuisine. The dishes, beloved by locals, represent two cultures that shaped California. The grilled juniper berry pork chop, which is slathered in a Thai red chili glaze, is a brilliant example of the combination. With a lively outdoor patio, an impressive artisanal cocktail list and a selection of unpretentious appetizers – steak tacos or grilled Thai rolls, for example – Veni Vidi Vici is redefining the culinary tastes of the Central Coast.
Locals rave about the Alaskan halibut served at Campagnia Restaurant when the fish is in season starting in late spring, but also flock to the eatery for the lip-smacking rack of lamb or grilled pork chops at any time of the year – the latter two dishes are great for staving off the cold of winter. The trendy California cuisine streaming out of the kitchen is the brainchild of award-winning chef Floro Bugnosen, who makes Campagnia a must-visit for any Fresno County foodie vacation. Every Sunday morning, locals wake up and head out for the restaurant’s fantastic jazz brunch buffet to see some of the best musicians in the area and munch on some of the best food served in town.
For those looking for an utterly refined evening out on the town to illuminate the longer nights of winter, The Palms is a sure bet in Fresno County. Featuring an elegant menu brimming with American classics – think steak, sea bass and duck – the restaurant is undeniably beautiful. Chandeliers dazzle inside the dining room, while the exterior, with a gurgling fountain and a Spanish-style patio, is worth visiting by itself.
In all honesty, you probably seek sweater-level coziness during the holiday season, and nothing says coziness like homemade Italian food. Bella Pasta, part of the “restaurant row” in northwest Fresno, serves up vibrant dishes celebrating Italy, from the homemade spaghetti and meatballs to the succulent shrimp scampi. The colorful vintage prints lining the walls of the dining room will brighten up any holiday visit to Fresno.
School House Restaurant and Tavern
Every December, holiday cheer rings out through the School House Restaurant and Tavern, which is housed within an actual country school house built in 1921. The rustic American-style cuisine is celebration enough, but the dining room is always merrily decorated throughout the holiday season. For those seeking more spirit, this eatery features tremendous cocktails, a large trove of beers on tap and an impressive wine list that focuses on local wineries.
Visit Fresno County, California’s year-round playground!