By Tomas Kassahun | Reporter
Two years ago, Reyes Chacon and his wife Debbi launched a food truck business in Fresno.
With specialties such as Filet Mignon Tacos, Pork Belly Sliders and Pub Style Blue Burger Sliders, the Chacons made Gastro Grill one of Fresno’s favorite food truck destinations.
Now, the couple is ready to add another branch to Gastro Grill. This next step has led them to Old Town Clovis, where they will soon starting serving their usual specialties in a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
When the idea for the restaurant first came up, Reyes and Debbi were looking to add a business partner, so they approached Debbi’s brother Greg and his wife Marci Wilson.
“We didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it,” Greg Wilson said. “It was something we really wanted to be involved in.”
Located on the corner of Eighth and Pollasky avenues, Gastro Grill will officially open in Old Town Clovis on Tuesday, Jan. 17. Chacon said the restaurant brings life to that area of Old Town Clovis.
“I stumbled across this place just driving back home. It was empty and ugly at that point,” Chacon said. “We’re at the south end of Old Town. It was isolated on this end. A lot of residents are happy somebody is in here doing something.”
Chacon graduated from Le Cordon Blue in San Francisco in 1992. He then returned to Fresno, where he worked at several popular restaurants, including The Patio Cafe.
“You have to watch Reyes back there creating these dinners for the customers,” Wilson said. “This is fresh food, fresh produce, only the best meat. We’re only serving high quality local food. When you watch him prepare it, it adds a whole new perspective to what the customer gets. It’s not a simple process. It’s very intricate and it’s very artistic. I just don’t think there are a lot of people who are capable of doing that in this town.”
The open concept at Gastro Grill allows customers to watch Chacon and the staff as they work in the kitchen.
“Anybody can peek and see our chefs, all the way back to the person washing the dishes,” Wilson said. “It allows individuals to know what they’re going to get. They can feel comfortable about the cleanness of the restaurant.”
The restaurant also features two TVs hanging on the wall. However, the restaurant is not meant to be a sports bar.
“The TVs are there if there is a sport on. Somebody can be watching that, but in general [customers] will hear music,” Wilson said. “The only way we would run a game through our speaker is if there’s some special event like the Super Bowl.”
The restaurant is intended to bring more of a relaxed family atmosphere.
“In an upscale environment, it’s still a family diner,” Chacon said. “It has been designed to be friendly to everybody, children and all. We want people to come in and feel comfortable and not break the bank.”
The menu is also designed to satisfy all types of customers, including those who prefer vegetarian, vegan, or gluten free choices. Chacon, however, doesn’t believe in having separated sections on the menu.
“We didn’t section off an area on the menu for vegans. It’s mixed with everything else,” he said. “You go to a restaurant and you find out, over here they have a vegetarian menu or they have a child’s menu in the corner, so you’ve already set those people apart on the menu. That’s not going to happen here. I’m not going to have a child’s menu. I want you as a parent to tell me what you want me to create for your child.”
The name for Gastro Grill comes from the word gastronomy, meaning the art or science of good eating. Chacon compares the art of cooking with the art of construction, a job which he held for a few years when taking a break from the restaurant business.
“Doing construction was a lot of fun,” he said. “I like working with my mind and hands. That’s the same thing as the talent for cooking. You have to be an artist on either one of them.”
Wilson said the customers at Gastro Grill are people who are open to trying to different flavors.
“They’re not so much interested in the same food in the same place. They’re not interested in a typical chain restaurant. They want to try something new,” Wilson said. “They know what beer they want with it. They know what wine they want it. They understand it. They’re culturally more gifted than the typical consumer.”