Fresno, CA

The hidden Fresno food scene.

Mark-John Clifford
TacosSaving You Dinero

Drive around late at night in Fresno neighborhoods, and you'll see a number of Mom & Pop pop-ups for food. It's primarily tacos and all the fixings that go with them, but these aren't food trucks.

These outposts are in front of homes, sometimes in the garage or on the front lawn. They have tables and chairs at some and others; it's order and go.

We're not going to discuss the legality of many of these since it isn't something that I can talk about with expertise. There are health laws, and most of these home pop-ups are workers who also have a food truck and know the laws or some are home chefs who follow the guidelines for the home food cottage laws.

Either way, the food you get at these spots is authentic homemade recipes. This isn't your favorite family Mexican recipe. This is the real deal.

They don't makeup gallons upon gallons of meat and veggies, from what I have seen. It's basically enough to feed a family, and when the food is gone, so aren't the pop-ups.

First Time

One night Patti and I drove around Fresno and Clovis to get a count on these pop-ups, and it was amazing.
A Typical Set-upMark-John Clifford, Author

We’re planning on doing a video documentary style to tell their story and help them attract more business. We'll see whether they go along with the idea, but I'm working on getting a grant to enable Patti and me to video these outposts and bring them awareness to the late-night eating crowd.

The food is fantastic, but what really lures you in besides the lights, tables, and chairs all set up is that fantastic aroma of homemade Mexican food. As I said above, this isn't your favorite Mexican family restaurant in the city. This is the real thing.

I haven't experienced this in Mexico, but I've heard stories from friends about families in Mexico doing the same thing to help support the family. It's a great way to bring in some support for the family and bring the community together.

Driving by a few of these places, we noticed lines of people at a makeshift counter lined up waiting to order. The tables and chairs at most of the spots we drove by were full, and we noticed people waiting for a seat on the sidelines.

On the night of our drive, we didn't stop to eat. We had just finished a late-night dinner at Friday's and were driving home when we saw the first pop-up. After that, we drove through the neighborhoods around our home just to see how many pop-ups were open.

It was 12:30 am, and if I remember correctly, we counted ten opened and packed.

When you drove by, you would think the family was just having a late-night meal, but when you looked closer, you could see this was the local Mom & Pop late night front yard or garage eatery for the neighborhood.

Over the next few weeks, I asked some of the local food truck operators about these pop-ups and their legality and food quality.

There were two explanations from most of the operators. The general first comment was some are legal, and others aren't, but the authorities seem to let things happen and not close them down or write them up. 


One operator didn't favor these front yard/garage Mom & Pop pop-ups. His take was they were taking away from his business, but when I asked if his food truck was open at midnight, he said no. 

That's why these places are open late and don't get bothered by the authorities most of the time. Besides, what are they doing wrong?

Is the food good? I've heard from people who have stopped by some of the ones we saw, and everyone I talked to bragged about the food. One person bragged about how fresh everything was, and the service was excellent.

Most operators weren't concerned about the competition, but a few did raise some concerns but weren't doing anything about it. 

As one operator stated, " they open after I close, and they feed the late-night partying crowd that is out to three or four in the morning."

I recommend checking out our neighborhood or surrounding neighborhoods to give these Mom & Pop spots a try and let us know in the comments the ones you try so we can check them out when we start the video project.

It would help us plan the spots we should cover first, and then we'll move on from there.

I'm sure there's a story to each place, and I would like to cover as many stories as possible.

As always...

Disfrute de su Comida

Mark & Patti

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Patti, my wife, and I write about life here in Fresno, California, and the Central Valley. We especially enjoy writing reviews about restaurants we've dined at, along with the food that is served. From time to time, we also write about and share recipes that we are fond of and hope you'll try them and let us know your thoughts. We are not traditional food critics. We don't have to worry about restaurants making unique dishes for us. We're just the average customer going in to dine, and then we write reviews.

Fresno, CA

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