Julie Glenn, owner of House of JuJu in Clovis, accepts her award in the Best Kept Secret category. Her son Justin is wearing the green shirt. Photo by Edward Smith

published on March 6, 2018 - 10:48 AM
Written by Edward Smith

On Monday evening the California Restaurant Association recognized local eateries, brewhouses and food suppliers in 33 categories, as well as honored restaurateur Jon Koobation of Reedley.

A crowd of around 600 attended the annual Best of the Valley Restaurant Awards at the Fresno Convention Center.

“It means so much to be recognized,” said Renee-Nicole Kubin, general manager of Erna’s Elderberry Restaurant, which won for Most Romantic restaurant. “We’re recognized everyday by our guests, but to be recognized by our peers, that means everything.”

Every year, the California Restaurant Association receives nominations from 2,800 members from Madera and Fresno counties in the food community for categories ranging from Best Breakfast to Best Seafood to Best Craft Brewery and Restaurateur of the Year, which went this year to Lorraine Salazar of Sal’s Mexican Restaurants.

Additionally, every year, the association gives away its Lifetime Achievement Award, which in the past two years has gone to Jim Pardini of Pardini’s Catering & Banquets and John Harris of Harris Ranch.

This year, it went to Jon Koobation, who once owned and operated Jon’s Bear Club—now called simply The Bear Club—in Reedley.

Jon is known for his Armenian-style cooking as well as his extensive recipes he catalogued in his cookbook “Cooking with Jon.”

“Having been given this honor just blows me away,” Koobation said. “Frankly, I’m just overwhelmed by it.”

Members of the food industry and local elected officials, including Fresno Mayor Lee Brand, enjoyed catering inspired by Koobation’s recipes. Plates of Chicken George, a chicken breast sautéed with mushrooms and artichoke hearts, as well as lulu kebab, a mixture of ground beef and lamb, were served as part of the 5-course meal.

Best Breakfast
Fresno Breakfast House

Best Fast Food/Drive-Thru

Best Fast Casual Restaurant
Deli Delicious

Best Asian Restaurant
Sakura Chaya Tokyo Cuisine

Best Mexican Restaurant
Sal’s Mexican Restaurant

Best Family Dining
Pismo’s Coastal Grill

Best Fine Dining
The Annex Kitchen

Best Pizza
Mike’s Pizzeria

Best Sushi
Edo-Ya Tokyo Cuisine

Best Winery
Cru Winery

Best Sports Bar
The Mad Duck

Best Hotel/Casino Dining
Table Mountain Casino

Best Italian Restaurant
Parma Ristorante

Best Newcomer

Best Kept Secret
House of JuJu

Friendliest Service
BJ’s Kountry Kitchen

Best Watering Hole
Elbow Room Bar & Grill

Most Romantic Restaurant
Erna’s Elderberry House

Best Steak
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar

Best Banquet
Pardini’s Catering & Banquets

Best Catering
Love & Garlic

Best Hamburger
In-N-Out Burger

Best Sandwich
Deli Delicious

Best Craft Brewery
Mad Duck Craft Brewing Co

Best Country Club Dining
Fort Washington Country Club

Best Indian Restaurant
Brahma Bull Indian Cuisine

Best Bakery
Eddie’s Bakery Cafe

Best Seafood
The Lime Lite

Best Mediterranean Restaurant
George’s Bar & Grill

Best Barbecue Restaurant
Westwoods BBQ & Spice Co

Beverage Purveyor/Supplier of the Year
Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits

Purveyor/Supplier of the Year
Saladino’s Foodservice

Restaurateur of the Year
Lorraine Salazar, Sal’s Mexican Restaurant

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