Fresno Pizza, Mad Duck, and Dusty Buns

Fresno Pizza

Fresno is in desperate need of a locally owned pizza place that does the following: has a wood-fired brick oven, makes their own dough that doesn’t taste like cardboard (Me-N-Eds), and uses fresh, simple ingredients. Actually I should rephrase that; Fresno needs one more besides Mattie’s Wood Fired Pizza. Now that they have a brick and mortar location downtown, someone is getting it right. Prior to them rolling in with their mobile pizza oven, no one in town was even coming close to having a decent wood fired pizza. Me-N-Eds (not wood-fired) has forever been a Fresno staple but it’s about time we face reality. It’s nothing more than a commercially made, half cardboard box and half raw dough pizza, that gives me cramps. You can choose to disagree if you like but I’m just over it. Fresno deserves better pizza.

The Mad Duck Neighborhood Grill & Taphouse

Many times I’ve walked directly passed the Mad Duck. Call me judgmental, but the smoker crowd on the patio was keeping me away, especially after having our first child. I figured it wasn’t really a place to take Toddler Bites but recently I just decided to forget all that. I’ll be the first to admit that I was wrong. Once you get passed the hipsters smoking tobacco pipes on the patio, as if they’re paying homage to my Italian grandfather, the interior offers a handful of booths and high chairs. I guess shame on me.

In the last month, we’ve been twice. The service has been friendly and the food is serviceable. The beer selection on draft, while a little small, is well thought out and locally sourced. The bun they’re using for the burger is top notch. It’s chewy, sweet and stands up to juice and grease with no problem. I would like to see the patty fill in the bun a little more though. Overall it’s a good place to go for a game, a brew and a burger.

Dusty Buns Bistro

Nearly everyone in Fresno has heard of Dusty Buns. Sometimes I’ll get a blank stare but most people at least know of them. They’ve gotten tons of press from foodies, “bunners” (their loyalists), the local media and even Sacramento. Definitely they’ve earned it. They’re promoting organic food, the success of Fresno in general, and have been busting their buns (pun intended), all the while raising a family in a horrible economy. Kudos to them.

But…. I think it’s about time we realize the bun does have it’s limitations. It’s simply not suitable for every type of sandwich. A case in point is the burger I was served the other day. I actually ordered three. They all had the same texture; a gooey bun that’s a cross between an under-cooked buttermilk biscuit and a Logan’s dinner roll, soggy greens, and a beef patty that was cooked at such a low temperature on the flattop that it looked steamed like a dumpling. The whole thing was just a soggy mess. Perhaps a more dense and toasted bun, along with a bit more crunch from either the patty or the condiments, would fix the issue. Don’t get me wrong, when I’m 80 and all my teeth have fallen out, this is going to be a hit. But until then I’ll have to pass.

Perhaps my criticism is a bit harsh and maybe I’m not qualified to judge a Le Cordon Bleu trained chef, but after eating at Dusty Buns several times now, I just haven’t fallen in love like most. I want more from Dusty Buns than a few sandwich options, the same bistro fries (now 4 dollars?), and a soup de jour (which tasted like grass clippings). I want more from a bistro that’s received so much attention. I want an actual dinner plate with a fantastic side dish and an amazing sauce that makes me want to use the bun as a utensil to sop up every last drop.

The Mad Duck Neighborhood Grill and Taphouse on Urbanspoon

Dusty Buns Bistro on Urbanspoon

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9 Responses to Fresno Pizza, Mad Duck, and Dusty Buns

  1. Jennifer says:

    finally someone with the guts to criticize the darlings… look.. I like them…I think they have the cutest kid around, and if they can do well, then kudos… I’ve liked a lot of their food…but you’ve hit the nail on the head.. many of the sandwiches are simply structurally unsound and too chunky. And do we have to put fennel and onions in EVERYTHING? And yes, the bistro fries are a bit tired. If I had to rely on nothing but pictures…well… some of it isn’t very appetizing looking.

  2. ed says:

    actually, dusty buns has received reviews that all always favorable. but, not to simply nitpick your comment, i do think that many fresno based reviewers on yelp, blogs, etc don’t always do a good job of reviewing. sometimes, people are afraid to bash anything local. or, their reviews are overly simplistic “this food was bad,” and comments of that sort. that doesn’t really give us any idea of what was bad about the food, service, etc.

    overall, i’ll still stand by much of what is served at dusty buns. of course, they’ll have some misses, but i also think they’re open to critique, and make changes as they see fit (like lowering prices on sandwiches recently).

  3. edluv says:

    when i was in there last they only had the slider size for $5, but were 2 for $9. it seemed like that was their new price structure but maybe i misunderstood. when you bought the burger, what was the cost?

  4. edluv says:

    i’ve been thinking more about the bun. it seems like the bun holds up better depending on the sandwich. i haven’t had problems with bun disintegration on le grilled cheese or the eggman, but with the original dusty bun it definitely becomes a mess. the duck confit slider didn’t seem to break up too much.

    • fresnobites says:

      This is exactly my point. It’s good for some things but not everything. To me the bun would do best with a deep fried chicken breast or even just hold off on a lot of the dressings. It just doesn’t absorb well and gets to be the consistency of bread thrown to the ducks at Woodward.

  5. Ham_Sammy says:

    I totally agree with you on pizza. I tweeted the other day I cannot believe a city of this size doesn’t have a good local pizza place. Chicago Fire Pizza in Roseville is the absolute bomb and does a great business. I love Matties but we need a solid wood fired pizza place. I think the problem is Fresnan’s (or maybe this is just my bias) want “cheap” pizza. Good pizza isn’t cheap. Good ingredients, hand made sauces and dough cost money. But it’s worth it.
    If you’re every in Roseville/Sacramento check out Chicago Fire. They are great.

  6. Robert D says:

    Here’s my take on what you wrote:

    Pizza – I love it. All kinds (yes, I’ll eat el cheapo Lil Ceasars). Me-N-Eds was always a staple for me. grew up on it and I love(d) it. But over the last few years, I have had a problem with my local Me-N-Eds in our neighborhood. Late all the time (beyond their typical 45-Minutes to an 1-hour). Lack of ingredients (cheese, sauce, or any other topping). Customer service is horrendous! They are now banned, unless someone can order from them and prove differently. Chicago Connection – Oh how I miss you. Loved…LOVED your pizza. I have yet to find a great pizza since you left.

    Mad Duck – They are okay. Understandably so, they tend to their regulars quite well. Unfortunately, your average visitor is treated just that way, average. Having a drink re-filled seemed like quite the task last time I visited. Their food is decent. I have no problem with it whatsoever. But if I were asked to recommend a place, they probably would not come to mind.

    Dusty Buns – Not really impressed. Their product is inconsistant. Sometimes it’s pretty decent and sometimes it’s just disappointing. They bun, I can enjoy on it’s own. Put it together with a sandwich, it sometimes loses its luster. The owners are nice enough, but their hired help is sometimes just cold. Not mean, but little expression for in greeting customers. This is another place that I can not with good faith recommend. If you are going to have a limited menu, please prepare every one of those items spot on, so your customers are never disappointed.

    I don’t believed in providing bad reviews, unless it absolutely warrants it. Right now, it saddens me to say that Me-N-Eds warrants it. They have yet to respond to any e-mail, phone call or tweet. Locals blindly support them and it appears Me-N-Eds believes they can do no wrong.

  7. JJJJ says:

    I just wish the dusty ban changed their menu once a decade or so.

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