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Last week, I was very excited to welcome a great new restaurant with an even greater purpose to Downtown Fresno.
On January 9, Kids Café 2019 officially opened its doors to offer customers a fresh, modern lunch menu at a convenient location for a multitude of downtown workers. My colleague, Sarah, and I braved the potential rain to walk from ValleyPBS to the Café, which is located at 2019 Mariposa Mall, just past the Fresno County Office of Education building and just before Club One casino off Van Ness. It was definitely worth the walk!
Owned and operated by the Fresno County Office of Education, Kids Café 2019 is unique in its mission, as it has a dual purpose:
1. To serve great, health-conscious food.
2. To provide students from Fresno County special education programs with valuable work experience that will help them transition into future jobs and vocational opportunities.
What’s on the Menu
So let’s talk about the food. The menu at Kids Café 2019 consists of:
• Hand-crafted espresso beverages ($3-$4.25) including cappuccinos, lattes, americanos, flat whites, mochas, caramel macchiatos, chai tea lattes, and freezes
• Smoothies ($2-$4 each) including varieties with protein, antioxidants, green tea for energy, and tropical fruit
• Paninis, like the Baja Chicken with pico de gallo, guacamole, and chipotle aioli, and “Jim’s Special” (named after Fresno County Superintendent of Schools, Jim Yovino), which is made with grilled sourdough, chicken, swiss cheese, bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato, and garlic herb mayo
• Deli sandwiches and wraps like the turkey and ham Italian Hoagie piled high with turkey, ham, and salami, or the Waldorf Chicken Salad Wrap featuring local grapes and greens. If you prefer, you can also order a custom built-to-order sandwich as well with up to two meats and two cheeses of your choice. All sandwiches are $8 for a large or $6 for a small and come with house-made potato chips.
• Five different gourmet salads are also featured on the menu, including the multi-color, vitamin-packed Antioxidant Power Salad and the more traditional Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad. Like the sandwiches, salads run $8 for a large or $6 for a small. Daily soups are also offered and can be combined with a small sandwich or salad in a “Pick a Pair” for $8, and chips are included with that lunch as well.
If you have the opportunity to go to the café before the lunch hour, there are several breakfast options, pastries, and steel cut oats available for you, too. A variety of sides, desserts, and snacks fill out the rest of the menu, and like the meal choices, there are both healthier and indulgent options. Kids Café 2019 offers a number of gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian menu options, and will soon be offering online ordering at kidscafe2019.fcoe.org.
During our visit to the Kids Café, Sarah and I both enjoyed our lunches. I ordered the “Pick a Pair” and had a small Pepperoni and Provolone Panini with a cup of Poblano Chowder and, of course, the chips.
Sarah tried Jim’s Special and had the Roasted Vegetable soup. Both of our paninis were tasty, but the soups were the standouts for both of us. I was expecting a very mild flavor from my chowder, but was pleasantly surprised by the great kick of spice it had. I actually can’t wait to go back and order it again!
While we were there, we ran into Superintendent Yovino and his wife, Jennifer Yovino, and they advised we come back for a coffee very soon. Superintendent Yovino confessed he was a bit of a coffee snob, so they really took their time in choosing the café’s machines, coffee, and recipes and he assured us that the drinks were truly high quality.
In summary, the new Kids Café 2019 on Mariposa Mall offers really tasty, affordable, and fresh food, and benefits a really great cause. Whether you work downtown or not, I would strongly encourage you take the time to make your way there soon. You won’t be disappointed, and you’ll be supporting students as they learn skills that can translate to earning a living in the future.