Nestled halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco on Hwy 5, lies the sleepy little hamlet of a town, known as Visalia, California. Never heard of it? Then you probably didn’t know that the actor, Kevin Costner, attended high school there, that Tom Johnston, founder, guitarist, and lead vocalist for the Grammy Award winning band The Doobie Brothers, was born there, and that Steve Perry, original lead vocalist of the rock band Journey attended college there.
You also might not know that it’s less than 45 minutes away from the Sequoia National Park, where you can see giant red woods like the one below, named the General Sherman, which by volume, is the largest known living single tree stem on earth.
With a population of around 130,000 people, and a resident median age of around 31, Visalia boasts a youthful, often fashionable, culture and yet still has a very down home feel about it (as down home as you can get in California, that is.)
Below, a young hipster couple ride their bikes down Main Street, carrying their pup on a sleepy Sunday morning – probably in search of breakfast at one of the quaint cafes in town and where they will settle for nothing less than the perfect pour over cup of coffee (made from locally roasted beans, of course.)
One such cafe, Charcuterie or Char for short, located at 211 W Main Street (menu board pictured below), is on my short list of amazing such places to go there. Catherine, the owner and head chef, is making her own noodles, sausage, ice cream – and everything in between. With offerings like Vanilla & Valrhona Chocolate Pearl Cronuts, tiny Thai tea macaroons, Brazilian Coffee Chip ice cream, Spicy Burrata or Khao Soi with Goat Cheese Pizza, and Lamb Bucatini (just to name a few), the array of amazing eats being cranked out of this boutique eatery will in no way disappoint.
My breakfast plate, the Truffle Egg Toast (featured picture of this blog post) was a cooked egg with truffle oil served in a warm, hollowed out brioche roll, topped with cheese (delicious though I can’t recall the name), and served with a side of asparagus seasoned with coarse sea salt. Simply delicious…so good, in fact, there was not a trace of a crumb left behind when I finished. Dining on the patio and basking in the mild California morning air there this past weekend, I felt very much on vacation – as will you when you go there.
My short list of other notable eateries in town (which, in no way is an exhaustive list) is:
Peta Kabob’s new Gastropub location is a brand new, awesome hangout, located on the outskirts of downtown Visalia. It was a gas station at one time, but has been completely redone and is now one of the choice places to meet up for a beer and sample some great mediterean food, and while away an evening with the local crowd.
The PHD, Visalia’s best kept secret, located in the basement of another restaurant in town, named Tazzaria, is literally a secret bar (which by the way also serves amazing food). To find out whether they’re open or closed, there’s actually a stop light hung above the building (sort of hidden in some trees…) which flashes red or green to signify it’s open for business status.
Lastly, I’d be completely remiss in not mentioning Tommy’s, a local upscale eatery which is also located in the downtown area. Tommy’s is just to perfect to say anything bad about, but add to that the fact that they also make the most amazing bread pudding known to mankind, and you’ll agree: You simply MUST go there.
Visalia’s Fox Theatre (below) is also in the downtown area.
Long known by the locals as a great stop over place for national touring bands travelling between L.A. and San Francisco, Visalia’s newly restored Fox Theatre, located at 308 W. Main, in downtown Visalia, is often the place to see big names at discount prices. Of course, given the theatre’s limited seating, they are also likely to sell out the big shows immediately, so when a big name does roll into town, you definitely want to buy your tickets early.
Comedian, Anjelah Johnson, known for her character Bon Qui Qui, is appearing at the Fox on Friday, July 17th (as shown above on above marquee.)