You can get a BLT with a blowout at this Fresno salon.
Or, maybe just sip an espresso martini with your meal at a table.
Genesis Bistro & 8028 Salon in Fresno are two businesses under one roof: a bistro and bar with an eclectic American menu, and a hair salon.
The restaurant and salon are at the northeast corner of Cedar and Nees avenues, behind DiCicco’s. They operate separately under the same corporation.
And, no, you won’t get hair in your food, promises Thomas Leonard, the president and CEO. The health department is even OK with the arrangement, he said.
Walk in the front door and you’ll probably do what most first-time customers do. Pause a moment and look to the left, where there’s a bar, a standard restaurant dining room and a piano. Look to the right, where customers are tipping their heads back into a shampoo sink, or getting a cut and color in the 24-station salon.
After a beat, most customers understand the concept.
Though there was that one guy who walked in and said, “’Oh hell, I thought this was a saloon,’” Leonard recalled.
“Sir, it is a salon,” though there is also a bar, he pointed out.
Bistro and salon
So how do a hair business and an eatery end up sharing space?
The spot used to be the International Gourmet Marketplace & Deli. It closed years ago and half of it became a salon, 8028 Salon.
Leonard’s wife got her hair done there. After a career in banking and finance and business consulting, he ended up partnering in the business.
They were planning a blow dry bar — where customers get a wash, blowout and style — for the remaining half of the space, but the pandemic put the brakes on that.
The spot had a kitchen, including one of the most expensive parts of a restaurant kitchen — a working hood for ventilation over the grill.
Leonard fondly remembers The Daily Planet, the restaurant and bar inside the Tower Theatre.
The dual usage stuck in his head and gave him an idea: “Let’s make this The Daily Planet. I don’t have a theater, but I have a salon, and if you don’t need that, there’s a car wash behind us.”
So the bar was built, the menu created, and a donated baby grand piano that’s more than 100 years old brought in.
The piano donation was arranged with help from the Fresno Music Academy & Arts business a few doors down. It belonged to the donor’s grandmother, a blind woman in Arkansas who learned to play by ear.
Look closely and you can still see the original owner’s name etched in the piano’s lid, having bled through when she wrote her name on something atop it.
Local musician Nate Butler plays the piano from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays. A trio of musicians plays about once a month.
And every Taco Tuesday, there’s karaoke. There are carnitas, shrimp and barbacoa tacos on the menu every day, by the way.
You don’t have to get your hair done to eat here. But lots of women do, grabbing a cocktail or a light meal at separate seating on the salon side while waiting for their foil-wrapped hair to process, notes hair stylist Kathryn Sanchez.
Many customers are busy moms, and a few hours at a salon is an escape that’s a step up from a Target or Starbucks run.
“This is great because they have that opportunity to have a cocktail, some lunch, and get pampered a little bit,” Sanchez said.
The two businesses are separate enough that they don’t really intrude on each other.
“There’s no smells,” Leonard said. “It’s not like the old days where everything is stinky.”
Perms and their pungent scents have mostly gone out of a fashion, and he won’t allow a nail salon in the space due to the fumes.
Yes, you can hear the blow dryers going, but the sound is softer than some restaurants in town play their music.
The chef in the kitchen is Robert Payne. He got his start driving big trucks in the Army before being assigned KP duty one day.
He fussed about something to a senior officer and the man said, “Well, if you can do it better — and I did,” Payne said.
That launched a culinary career that included stints at Popolo’s Pizza, The Peppermill and the restaurant at the former Hacienda before starting Robert’s Catering.
The food at Genesis is a lot different than the eggs Payne used to cook under a tent on old World War II compressed gasoline burners for 150 troops at a time though.
Here, the star of the menu is a mushroom bruschetta. Instead of tomatoes and basil, it features mushrooms sauteed in wine with shallots and served with creamed goat cheese and pepper jelly on baguette slices.
Another customer favorite is the “marry me chicken.” Originally attributed to Delish magazine, the chicken breasts in sun-dried tomato and Parmesan cream sauce is supposedly so good people offer to marry the cook.
Payne turns the otherwise brown dish into something colorful, the side of pilaf made with a pinch of turmeric for a yellow color, and bright orange carrots and other veggies.
The menu also features steak, rice bowls, sandwiches and salads, pasta and a build-a-burger.
There are some high-end wines and craft cocktails, too. That includes a chocolate old fashioned and a lavender love, a drink with Empress gin that gives it a purple color.
Like the interior of the business, there’s a lot of variety when it comes to the food and drink here.
“If you look at the menu, it has a lot of different things going on,” Payne said.
Details: Genesis Bistro & 8028 Salon are at 8028 N. Cedar Ave. Hours: The bistro is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. 559-314-8284.
This story was originally published March 27, 2023, 5:30 AM.