A margarita bar?
Yes, the Tower District in Fresno has one now.
The bar specializing in margaritas, as well as the restaurant that accompanies it, might look familiar to some Fresnans.
CDT Cocine is in the same building as the Tower Theatre, just west of the theater and facing Olive Avenue.
You may remember it from his previous life as House of Tamaleswhich was recently located on the street where Banzai Japanese Bar & Kitchen is located now. (Casa de Tamales also had other locations over the years on West Shaw Avenue and Fulton Street and sold its tamales at farmers’ markets.)
We’ll get to what inspired CDT Cocina’s change in a moment, but first, let’s look at the food and drink options. You can still get tamales here – and so much more.
“It’s a resurrection and a transformation,” said owner and founder Liz Sanchez, who has been serving margaritas with the new menu for about a month.
food and drink
The menu still features traditional tamales and modern tamales like creamy chicken poblano tamales or vegan spinach and artichoke tamales.
The entire restaurant is always gluten-free.
But now the menu (although still small) includes five kinds of tacos. They range from vegan fried cauliflower to slow roasted carnitas.
Habanero pesto fries topped with ranch are on the menu, along with fries, salsa, and guacamole.
Expect to see more items on the menu soon.
And of course there is the margarita bar.
Casa de Tamales used to have margaritas, but they were wine-based because the restaurant’s liquor license only allowed it to serve beer and wine. Now with a new liquor license, margaritas are made with tequila.
Five kinds of margaritas are on the menu, most made with homemade tequila infused with fruit or herbs.
CDT’s signature cocktail is made with fig-infused tequila with citrus flavors. There is also a paloma, a drink made with pink grapefruit and tequila.
And a drink is made with bright orange carrot juice (although it looks a lot more like a cocktail than a vegetable).
Two types of Modelo are on tap, and bottled Mexican beers are also available.
One small thing to note: some tequila bottles have a label with the silhouette of a woman digging up an agave plant (the base ingredient of tequila). This means that the distillery is owned by a woman.
It’s also why you see a bigger, mirrored version of the woman and the agave behind the bar and signs like “la jefa” (the boss) on the wall. It’s a nod from the boss who founded this company to other women-owned businesses.
CDT Cocina doesn’t have a full bar, however, and doesn’t have a loud bar scene.
“Adding the margaritas just complements the food we already have,” Sanchez said. “We are on the food. We are a family business.
Why the change?
So why the new name, location and menu?
“Really, COVID inspired everything,” Sanchez said. “There were a lot of changes that needed to happen and we changed with it.”
When her lease ended at the old location in 2020, she did not renew it.
Technically, the Casa de Tamales has closed. Sanchez began interviewing for other restaurant management jobs, where she spent much of her early career.
Then one day her husband told her that he had found her the perfect job. It was a start-up looking for someone with experience building a business from scratch, he said.
What’s it called, she asked him. CDT Cocina, he says. He had already filed the necessary documents for incorporation and made some other preliminary steps.
“I wanted to cry and laugh at the same time,” she said.
It was late 2020 and the restaurant has been taking shape ever since. The name CDT Cocina (pronounced co-SEEN-a, Spanish for cuisine) was a way to go beyond the tamales focus.
He moved into the new space at the end of 2020 with just access to the kitchen and the patio. Since then, Sanchez has been remodeling the dining room and slowly building out the menu, bar, and hours (which will continue to expand).
“I couldn’t be more grateful for the loyalty I’ve had over the years and it makes me work harder to make sure we achieve this,” she said. “I’m so happy to be here at Tower.”
Details: CDT Cocine is at 805 E. Olive Ave.