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Published on 04/09/2015
Written by Hannah Esqueda

The Elbow Room is marking its 60-year anniversary with several changes, including a new managing partner and an increased emphasis on the restaurant side of the brand.

For decades the business has been a staple of Fresno’s nightlife, offering customers a friendly place to dine while getting drinks. That identity has worked well in the past, but management now say they want the restaurant to be known for its great food options.

“Mike [Shirinian] and I have talked about it for a number of years and we’re interested in changing the identity to be known more for our food offerings,” said Randy McBride.

McBride has worked with owner Shirinian at the business for six years and was recently named managing partner in order to help bring about the transition at the Elbow Room. While the past few decades have seen the business evolve from its origin as a 10-stool bar, both partners now see the potential to develop a full-fledged restaurant.

Over the last few months, the duo have worked to restructure the kitchen and McBride said he brought San Francisco-trained Chef Eric Rodriguez to the business to help improve upon the restaurant’s classic dishes. 
“Everything is being made from scratch now,” he said. “We’re really fine-tuning our food to get our best product out there to our guests.”

Even with the changes, the company’s focus will remain on farm-to-table comfort food, said Elizabeth Noble. Noble handles catering services for The Elbow Room and said the restaurant has no intentions of taking away from its signature selections such as the top sirloin steak sandwich.

While the rising price of beef would make this decision counterintuitive for other restaurants, management said The Elbow Room can’t afford not to stay the same.

“It’s what the Elbow Room is known for,” she said. “It accounts for about 40 percent of items ordered at the restaurant.”

In addition to updating its cooking style, Noble said the restaurant will soon be taking over banquet services for Sunnyside Country Club in southeast Fresno. The new catering deal will allow the restaurant to expand its reach and handle three to four parties a week, she said.

While the restaurant has long been equipped to handle banquets in-house, Noble said the catering service is something that has developed fairly recently.

She anticipates hiring 20 additional staff members for the catering side thanks to the Sunnyside partnership and said she will continue to work with clients to insure they have the banquet options they want for the price they want.

“It always starts with the guest,” Noble said. “Our bottom line is people coming through the door, not the revenue.”

McBride agreed and said that attitude has helped the restaurant stay in business through the decades.

“We constantly work the floor here. We’re not absentee owners,” he said. “We understand that our business is about building relationships with the customers.”