Biz Beat

Another restaurant, from familiar faces, coming to downtown Turlock

Business partners Jennifer Doerksen and LeRoy Walker are opening the new First & Main restaurant on Turlock’s Main Street in the old Rainbow Fabrics building. Doerksen is the owner of Bistro 234 and Walker is its executive chef.
Business partners Jennifer Doerksen and LeRoy Walker are opening the new First & Main restaurant on Turlock’s Main Street in the old Rainbow Fabrics building. Doerksen is the owner of Bistro 234 and Walker is its executive chef. mrowland@modbee.com

Turlock, already a model when it comes to vibrant Central Valley downtowns, is about to add another restaurant to its mix.

The partners behind Main Street’s Bistro 234 are moving two blocks down to open another eatery in the old Rainbow Fabrics space at the corner of First and Main streets. The appropriately named First & Main will continue Bistro 234’s address-based naming convention. But Executive Chef LeRoy Walker and owner Jennifer Doerksen said while both restaurants also have a California cuisine base, the new spot will have heavy Asian influences.

Walker said he had been thinking about opening another place for the past four or five years. When the Rainbow Fabrics site became available, he jumped at the opportunity to have such a prime location and partnered with Doerksen again.

When Bistro 234 opened in December 2001, it was one of only a few eateries along Main Street. Since then the fine dining spot has become pioneer in the region’s rebirth and recent renaissance. As its name suggests, Bistro 234 has a strong European influence to its new American menu.

For the new place, Walker, who has been with Bistro 234 for 17 years, said he was inspired by the the Fijian background of his wife, Mohini Singh.

“I’ve been cooking for 35 years, but she introduced me to a whole other world of fresh spices,” Walker said.

First & Main will pull from across Asia for its menu — featuring food influenced by Indian, China, Vietnam and other cuisines. Size-wise, the restaurant will be similar to Bistro 234 and seat about 160. The restaurant will fill about 5,000 of the site’s existing 9,000-square-feet.

But don’t start placing your order just yet. Extensive renovations should begin in the few months on the site, which needs to install a full commercial kitchen among other alterations. Walker said they are also making changes to the building’s facade. He hopes to have all the work done and be ready to open by October, early November at the latest. But, he said, if there’s a delay in construction past that he will postpone opening until after the new year.

So can Turlock support another restaurant on its Main Street, which has about a dozen eateries already?

Doerksen said she sees First & Main filling a separate niche among the busy downtown area’s dining options. While it will still be fine dining, she said the new restaurant should have a lower price point than Bistro 234. The design will reflect its contemporary feel with a sleek, bright look.

Plus the revival of Turlock’s downtown — buoyed by the popular restaurants, bars and boutiques that have blossomed along Main Street — is bringing more people into the area as a destination. Diners are coming from Modesto, Patterson, Merced, and other surrounding cities to eat and socialize.

“It’s exciting to watch and to be involved in this,” Doerksen said.

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