Biz Beat

From truck to table; fans line up as Food Fix opens its downtown Modesto restaurant

See inside the new Food Fix restaurant in downtown Modesto

Food Fix Butcher & Baker opened in downtown Modesto, CA this month. The restaurant from the owners of the popular Food Fix Truck features its full sandwich menu plus salads, sides and craft beers on tap.
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Food Fix Butcher & Baker opened in downtown Modesto, CA this month. The restaurant from the owners of the popular Food Fix Truck features its full sandwich menu plus salads, sides and craft beers on tap.

If it helps, just think of the new Food Fix Butcher & Baker as a really, really big food truck — minus the wheels and with a much higher ceiling.

Fans of the popular Food Fix Truck from husband-and-wife team Hank and Ashley Olson are already lining up for their first brick-and-mortar restaurant in downtown Modesto. The couple quietly opened their doors earlier this month, in the 11th Street space of the short-lived Cobblestone Bakery, starting with lunch service and with plans to expand to dinner later next month.

Their food truck has garnered a devoted following since opening in 2015, which has even included celebrity chefs like Guy Fieri (who featured it on his hit Food Network series “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” in 2016) and fellow Food Network star Alton Brown. (who visited the truck before performing at the Gallo Center for the Arts the year before).

The reason is clear to anyone who has ever gone through a stack of napkins devouring one of the eatery’s super-sized sandwiches — they just taste really good. And what makes them really good is the care the Olsons put into making their food from scratch.

Ashley bakes the bread daily — from the pretzel buns to focaccia and bolillo rolls — as well as the frequent sell-out cookies. Hank handles all the meats, including their signature porkstrami which takes fives days to prepare.

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Filthy Fix sandwich (Cured pork, mayo, cream cheese, grilled sweet onions and bell peppers, hot waxed peppers, on Bolillo roll) with a side of mac& cheese at Food Fix Butcher & Baker restaurant in Modesto, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. Andy Alfaro aalfaro@modbee.com

Pretty much all of the food truck’s staple sandwiches, including a few seasonal specials and some secret menu items, can be found at Butcher & Baker. That includes the Porkstrami & Pretzel (cured pork, mayo, havarti cheese and beer mustard on a pretzel bun), the Angry Bleubird (grilled chicken, pepper jack cheese, greens, bleubird sauce and sriracha on a bolillo roll) and the Pepper Jacked Club (turkey, honey pepper bacon, pepper jack cheese, bacon mayo and greens on focaccia). Sandwiches run $8 to $13 and include a choice of side.

What’s new to the restaurant is a large selection of entree salads, including an impressive Cobb, Caesar and more (which all run about $11). Sides range from the mac-n-cheese of the day (recent varieties have included alfredo, jalapeno and pepperoni pizza), house-made chips, potato salad, slaw, pasta salad and a quinoa salad.

Interest has been high since the doors have opened, but on a recent visit the line moved swiftly and food came out at a steady pace. Another upgrade from the truck is the large bar the couple had built with 20 taps for local craft beers and more.

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Hank and Ashley Olson at Food Fix Butcher & Baker restaurant in Modesto, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. Andy Alfaro aalfaro@modbee.com

“People were always telling me, ‘Man, your food would be so good with beer’,” Hank Olson said.

The spacious 4,280-square-foot restaurant can fit about 160, with a mix of low table, high table and bar seating. The Olsons wanted an old-school butcher shop look, hence the subway tile behind the counter.

While they haven’t completed decorating, some nice early touches include the large mural Ashley painted of their unmistakable orange food truck and light fixtures made out of old box graters. You can also play a vintage Street Fighter II stand-up arcade game for free while you wait.

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Patrons line up for lunch at Food Fix Butcher & Baker restaurant in Modesto, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. Andy Alfaro aalfaro@modbee.com

The truck’s signature orange extends into other parts of the restaurant as well, including the patio chairs. Speaking of that patio, anyone who walks down 11th Street is no doubt thrilled that the Olsons have moved back the fencing to be flush with next-door-neighbor Barkin’ Dog Grill. They’ve also installed new custom-made panes in the fence bearing their name and butcher knife and rolling pin logo.

The pair plans to have an official grand opening in about three weeks, and after that they’ll begin dinner service and expand the menu to include some bistro fare, share plates, charcuterie and more desserts. They also intend to start selling their fresh-baked breads and more grand-and-go items.

While they’ve been opening the restaurant, the food truck has been largely off the streets. But Hank said once they begin dinner service and have the restaurant running smoothly it’ll be back on the road. The restaurant has about 13 on staff, and still has positions available, particularly for cooks.

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Cook Jennifer Kaminski puts together a sandwich at Food Fix Butcher & Baker restaurant in Modesto, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. Andy Alfaro aalfaro@modbee.com

The couple logged countless hours getting the restaurant together, renovating and remodeling and joked that their children — ages 11, 7 and 2 — practically slept there. They’ve also received a lot of help from friends and fans alike. Just like with the food truck, they put up a Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund money for the project. They reached their goal in just 22 hours and 44 minutes, ultimately raising just under $28,000.

“The support we’ve gotten has been amazing,” said Ashley Olson. “As has the support from downtown. We’re really loving the whole downtown life.”

Food Fix Butcher & Baker, at 938 11th St. in Modesto, is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch Monday to Saturday (dinner hours coming later). For more information call 209-525-3663 or visit www.facebook.com/foodfixtruck.

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Marijke Rowland writes about new business, restaurant and retail developments. She has been with The Modesto Bee since 1997 covering a variety of topics including arts and entertainment. Her Business Beat column runs midweek and Sundays. And it’s pronounced Mar-eye-ke.
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