A sign on the former Tahoe Joe’s restaurant at 2700 W. Shaw Ave. in north Fresno indicates the new restaurant that will replace it, Culichi Town, a chain that specializes in Mexican and Japanese seafood fusion.
Written by David Castellon
Will Fresnans and other Valley residents flock to a restaurant to eat Mexican-style sushi?
The operators of Ontario-based restaurant chain Culichi Town are counting on that, as they purchased the former Tahoe Joe’s restaurant on West Shaw Avenue, which has been vacant more than 13 months.
Recently, a sign with the Culichi Town logo and the words “Coming Soon” replaced the realtor’s sign hawking the 6,100-square-foot space being for sale.
Currently, Culichi town has 11 restaurants; five owned by founder Ramon Guerrero and the rest franchised by his company. Most are in California, along with individual restaurants in Chicago, Las Vegas and Houston.
“We are expanding pretty fast,” with plans to open the Fresno restaurant in about three months and additional ones in Santa Ana, Downey, Sylmar and San Diego this year, said Sonia Huitron, the company’s legal director.
In addition. 21 more Culichi Towns are planned for Nevada, she said.
None of the operating California Culichi Towns are located in the Central Valley, but Huitron said many people here are familiar with the chain because they’ve traveled far out of their way to the restaurants because they like the food and frequently asked why there aren’t any in the Valley.’
Huitron said of Guerrero, “He’s trying to expand in California, and we find that Fresno has a lot of Hispanics, and it’s a good market for us.”
While some people have wondered if the Fresno area needs another Mexican restaurant, Huitron quickly noted, “This is not a Mexican restaurant, because we don’t sell typical Mexican food.”
Guerrero is a native of Culiacán – making him a “Culichi,” which is where restaurant get their name – in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. Foodies know that the area is known for cuisine influence by its many expatriate residents, particularly the melding of Japanese and Mexican influence to make unique dishes.
Huitron said Guerrero grew up working and cooking in his family’s restaurant in Culiacán, where he learned to cook these Japanese- and Mexican- influenced dishes, and after immigrating to the U.S., he started cooking his original dishes in the garage of his Fontana home until he raised enough money to open his first restaurant in Ontario in 2011.
Culichi Town’s largely seafood menu reflects Guerrero’s chef roots of Japanese and Mexican fusion, which includes a sushi filled with chicken, bacon and steak that is fried and topped with Mexican spices, Huitron said.
“You can also find tempura-style seafood with a Mexican twist, which includes salsa negra, our signature sauce. It’s our secret sauce.”