Shake + Stir

Hosted at Manhattan Steakhouse & Bar

At the Manhattan Steakhouse & Bar, “There’re no strangers here—just a friend we haven’t met, yet!” proclaimed owners Dave and Karyn Milutinovich as Dina Juve, Anaheed Tatarian, Tami Serpa, Ashley Hyatt, and Lannea Woods took their seats with CVLUX’s Donna Ensom for Shake+Stir’s fourteenth edition. A delicious surprise awaited the group after four (okay, five) cocktails, six incredible dishes, and desserts galore. The most outrageous stories about dating and children started to fly early on, leading this party to last twice as long as usual!

The restaurant is truly a partnership between the husband and wife team. “My wife is a fabulous partner up front,” Dave mused of Karyn. “She has a talent for making everyone who comes through our doors feel special. I’m in the back!” He’s big on details (like logos on the plates, glasses, and napkins), making the Manhattan stand out for its fine points. 

Since its establishment in 1992, the Manhattan has been tucked in the southeastern corner of Fresno’s Bullard and West Avenues. Dave recalled that he and his brother, both restaurateurs, wanted to do a restaurant together with their wives. Both couples loved New York, hence where the name “Manhattan” came from. A few years later, Dave and Karyn bought the restaurant from their partners and updated the name to Manhattan Steakhouse & Bar as the popularity of steakhouses increased.

The couple relishes being a multi-generation establishment—patrons who have been coming here since they opened have instilled that dining tradition in their own children. Dave and Karyn’s keen sense for maintaining relevance instigated a slew of renovations and updates a few years back. New lighting fixtures and tile flooring were added, grayscale vintage photos line the walls, and black and white checkered tablecloths bring an element of informality that juxtaposes the atmosphere splendidly. Don’t fret—the trademark Manhattan skyline mural along the back wall of the restaurant and the expansive mirror behind the bar remain.

If your party might not fit in the main dining room (where dinner is served Monday through Saturday starting at 5 o’clock), banquet rooms are available: the Park Avenue Room offers seating to 85, while the Carnegie Room seats up to 40. Meet your friends for Happy Hour in the lounge from 4 p.m. to 6:30 (shout-out to $5 Tito’s Thursdays!), and remember that on Fridays and Saturdays hours are extended from 10 to midnight.

The Milutinoviches dislike the term “fine dining” because of the pretentiousness it implies. “We like to say ‘fun dining’ instead,” Dave explained. Their daughters helped develop the menu, which changes frequently and features upscale yet familiar fare with a twist. “We try to incorporate a young vibe,” which is evident from the décor to the food selection—prepare to be blown away by everything placed on your table.

Ideal for fall, the Apple Manhattan features Jim Beam Apple bourbon, sweet and dry vermouths, and a Filthy Black Cherry. “The dark cherry is a nice touch,” Ashley admired. It’s the epitome of a “smooth sipper.”

Presentation alone of the Vine-Ripened Tomato Stack will have your mouth watering… A thick slice of tomato supports thinly sliced avocado and a bay shrimp nest with diced red onions. Creamy bleu cheese dressing and crumbles spill over it all, securing the jumbo prawn on top. “The combination of avocado, onion, and baby shrimp reminds me of ceviche, but this is much fancier and fresher!” related Anaheed.

If you’re an sushi/poke fan, be sure to order the Ahi Tartare. Tossed in sesame vinaigrette, it is served in a bowl with wakame salad, avocado, and radish. Nori chips line the perimeter, making the appetizer an interactive experience unlike the traditional pre-dinner tuna snack. 

Good any time of year (or day), the Tangerine Cosmopolitan is a blend of Grey Goose L’Orange vodka, triple sec, cranberry and orange juices, and sweet and sour. “I don’t usually go for Cosmos—this one is refreshingly citrusy, but you get a kick from the alcohol,” relished Anaheed. “And you wouldn’t know there’s cran in there—it’s basically a sophisticated screwdriver.”

Beet Salad is “One of my favorite salads to eat,” Ashley admitted, “and I love seeing such a different version.” Manhattan’s is certainly not the norm. Featuring both golden and red beets with red onion, citrus supremes, and a wedge of fried goat cheese, it is arranged atop spinach with a light vinaigrette.

The Honey Old-Fashioned cocktail uses Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey as its base with orange bitters, a splash of soda, sugar, plus a Filthy Black Cherry and an orange wedge garnish. “I don’t like whiskey, but this I’d come in and order,” Tami admitted. Donna concurred, “The orange bitters make it lighter.”

Manhattan’s New York Roquefort highlights a generous spoonful of melted bleu cheese, but this ain’t your typical steak and potatoes dish... The Milutinoviches serve this cut with the butteriest, most golden hash brown you’ll ever lay eyes on—it’s one of their signatures. Dina called it “delightful. Not too heavy. I only eat cheese on occasion and I would have the cheese again on this dish, especially if you do not have an allergy or intolerance to dairy.”

With not one but two 4-once filets set atop an artichoke bottom, the Tournedoes Monterey might be the most creative marriage of favorites from Manhattan. Served with mashed potatoes, al dente veggies, and topped with mushroom caps and béarnaise sauce, Tami “loved the way it was prepared,” and you will, too. 

Classic and strong, “The Lemon Drop cocktail was absolutely perfect,” Dina reflected. A combination of Absolut Citron vodka, triple sec, Monin Lemon Syrup, and sweet and sour, it is served in a chilled glass. “I wanted to enjoy it exactly as they make it, but without me even asking they asked if I wanted sugar on the rim or not. So thoughtful.”

Pressed with a pistachio crust and oven baked with pistachio-lime butter, the Pistachio Crusted Halibut will make you feel transported to the Central Coast. “It’s simply wonderful on the outside, it’s cooked perfectly,” Lannea described, “and it’s so fresh that I feel like I’m at the ocean!’

Dave and Karyn are experts at making their patrons beg for a reason to stay—enter the dessert list: there are approximately 10 slices and creamy things to choose from, in addition to a selection of floats and three sweet cocktails. The ladies were so excited at the prospects that they asked CVLUX’s Editor in Chief David Manning about ordering a few to share—everyone selected one (a Shake+Stir first!) and all proceeded to be passed back and forth around the table. 

Surprise! David insisted on Park Avenues all around, too. Liquid ice cream, Baileys Original Irish Cream, Kahlúa, and Chambord are blended with ice into a perfectly pink adult milkshake with whipped cream filling the remainder of the glass. “I’m in love!” Lannea couldn’t help but exclaim. “Stir it up! It’s even better when you mix the whipped cream in,” Ashley divulged. Donna was right when she declared it the fan-favorite drink of the evening—way to save the best for last. 

The Milutinoviches’ hospitality is as renowned as their food and drinks. Rumor has it that the Manhattan is already almost fully booked for the holiday season party scene, but don’t let that keep you from coming in to experience big city dining in small town Fresno. Remember: at the Manhattan, “It’s always nicer when you’re here!”