Students are back on campus at Fresno State. And on Saturday, the fans will return to Bulldog Stadium for a late morning matchup against UConn.
For the tailgaters who leave their grills at home, the Red Wave will have a bevy of food trucks this season, arranged by promoter Fresno Street Eats. The trucks will headline a new fan experience outside the stadium, Bulldog BLVD.
Bulldog BLVD is billed by the school as a “family fun zone,” with live music, games, and food. The festivities will be located in a plaza area between Bob Bennett Stadium (baseball stadium), the soccer stadium, and Bulldog Stadium itself.
The food truck lineup includes Real Philly, Rolling Donut, Living Seed (açai drinks and smoothies), and Taqueria Jaliscience.
But, what better food truck to headline a Bulldog football game than the Bulldog Burger Bistro. The brick-and-mortar restaurant across the street from Bulldog Stadium is now in mobile form.
Taking a Gamble on a Restaurant
Five years ago, Matias Smith took a gamble. With absolutely no restaurant experience, he and his partners bought the Bulldog Burger Bistro because he wanted a change in his professional life. He built his career as a human resources manager.
It’s been hard for Smith, especially with the challenges during the pandemic, but he remains an optimist. Participating at the revamped Bulldog BLVD will serve as a great coming out party.
Watch: Two Top-Selling Burgers
“It’s a fantastic opportunity. A lot of the guys that run (the business side at) Fresno State come to our restaurant,” Smith said.
Last month, he debuted his food truck.
“I saw the trend about three years ago. I had my eyes on a food trailer, it just wasn’t feasible at the time. (With) hard work, (I) put money aside and I was able to get the trailer,” Smith said. “I had no idea what 2020 was going to look like, but my trailer was already in development. I just knew that the mobile arm is what I wanted to add to my business instead of another brick-and-mortar location.”
He broached the idea of taking his food truck “across the street” for gamedays.
“Luckily, the guys at Fresno State backed me, too. They said, ‘Hey, we got to have Bulldog Burger at Bulldog Boulevard.’ So it was a great timing,” Smith said.
Smith said that traditionally, gamedays are his six biggest days of the year.
“It’s nice to have the students back across the street. That adds a lot of potential customers to come in and try our product. So overall it’s just going to be great just to have the school going again and football,” Smith said.
Local Ingredients, Freshly Made
The goal of Smith’s truck was to emulate his in-restaurant experience, down to the taste.
“What makes our burgers special is that it’s all fresh ingredients. We don’t use frozen patties. We don’t use anything frozen. The chicken that we serve is fresh meat that we serve is fresh. So our concept is everything fresh,” Smith said. “You put a bunch of fresh ingredients together, you’re going to get a good product.”
He gets his meat from Renna’s Meat Market in Fresno. His bread comes from another Fresno favorite, Max’s Artisan Breads.
The Big Bulldog ($13) combines two 1/3 pound beef patties, pastrami, bacon, cheddar, and American cheese, a house sauce. along with the various condiments (lettuce, tomato, pickles, etc.). A Baby Bulldog ($11) comes with just one patty.
Cooking on a flat top makes the difference, Smith says, helping create the “crust” on the meats.
The buttery brioche buns make the burger. With all that meat and melted cheese, the Max’s buns do the job of keeping it in one place without squirting everywhere.
Another top seller is The Cowboy ($9.50), a burger with bacon, pepperjack cheese, sautéed jalapenos, onion straws, and BBQ sauce, along with the usual condiments.
Drinks Available, Too
An unusual 11 a.m. local kickoff time will not deter the booze from flowing.
Each home game will have its own theme, with Bulldog BLVD opening four hours prior to kickoff, meaning a 7 a.m. wake-up call for the Red Wave on Saturday. The first-week theme is appropriately the “Biggest (Brunch) Party in the Valley.”
Nosotros Nook, a specialty tequila bar, will serve its drinks in a setup in the White Lot. The company’s other college football location is the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.