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brings local farms to the table

Celebrating two years in business, Burly’s California Bistro is a place where families and friends gather for a farm to fork experience. Owner and Manager Daffani Ryan and Owner and Executive Chef Michael Ortiz, along with founder Kimberly Gaynor, collaborated to bring the 209 a menu that is locally sourced and will keep folks coming back for more.


It truly is all in the name as Burly is a nickname for Kimberly; California for diversity; and Bistro for the small casual dining establishment that it is. Locating in West Modesto was purposeful as mom Gaynor and daughter Ryan have lived on that side of town for many years. Ryan is a Modesto High alumnus and her daughter attends school there currently. Gaynor explained that the west side of Modesto did not have upscale dining options so she wanted to create something for people to enjoy without having to go downtown or further.

“We are like an upscale meat and potatoes,” noted Ortiz.

Burly’s may be a relatively new restaurant but Gaynor has been catering for over 30 years with Ortiz and Ryan joining in for over 10. Although they still cater, Gaynor is looking to step down from the restaurant business and retire.

“We wanted a kitchen and then somehow this happened,” added Gaynor about opening a restaurant. “The restaurant is mainly for these two (Ryan and Ortiz). I am ready to retire.”

They are open for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday; dinner on Saturdays from 5 p.m. to midnight; and closed on Sundays. There is a huge mural of what was going to be a geographically correct painting of Modesto but had so much interest from others to be added to the wall that it has grown to feature many businesses in the area. There are some notable landmarks like the DoubleTree as well as hidden Star Wars items.

Ortiz has been a chef for about 20 years and has worked at several different restaurants in his career. He graduated from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.

He said, “I have a well-rounded background. I did a little bit of everything.”

The farm to table was fitting for the trio as they are surrounded by farms and have relationships with several local businesses including Dave’s Meat, Zaiger’s Genetics, Fisher Nut Company, Stewart and Jasper Orchards, Fiscalini Cheese and Alpine Pacific Nut Co.

“We get a lot of farmers in here,” said Gaynor.

They collaborated on the menu that has starters, salads, soups, and entrées like the Whiskey Peppercorn Sirloin that is a customer favorite. It comes with garlic whipped potatoes, and a local seasonal vegetable that is topped with a flavorful whiskey cream sauce that brings extreme delight to the palate.

“Our whiskey sauce is really good,” said Ryan. “The chef did a great job on that one. That is our go to. We suck people in with that sauce. It is hands down one of the best. He is a very talented dude. Everything is made from scratch; nothing is out of a can. We use everyone local.”

Every Thursday is Prime Rib Night at Burly’s where guests can get a tender, well-seasoned cut of meat with garlic whipped mashed potatoes and seasonal mixed veggies.

The Crispy Calamari, Ahi Tuna Poke, and Almond Crusted Chicken Skewers are some of the starters that are top sellers.

Their one and only pasta on the menu is the chicken or shrimp Cavatappi ala Vodka that lights the tastebuds on fire served in a cream sauce with mushrooms, garlic and pepper flakes. The flavor profile is spicy but very tasty and hard to stop eating.

The seared salmon is a guest favorite served with a mushroom risotto, asparagus, and lemon thyme sauce.

For those looking for something simple, another customer favorite is Dave’s Meat Beef Burger topped with Fiscalini cheese, peppercorn aioli, tomato, and pickled red onions on a brioche bun.

“It is a service industry so that is what it is for, the customers,” remarked Ortiz. “When they are happy, I am happy. We have really loyal customers. Since day one we have had the same people coming into this restaurant.”

They have a full bar and an extensive wine list with an assortment of reds and whites. On Wine Wednesday there are several varietals that are half price with the purchase of an entrée. Although there is happiness throughout the restaurant, Burly’s has a Happy Hour from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. except on Tipsy Tuesdays where happy hour continues in the bar until closing.

The location was formerly a church that had wood pieces with scripture on it. When they renovated the building, they incorporated those pieces into Burly’s. 

“Our chef and his father-in-law and my husband built this place,” stated Ryan about the hard work that was done prior to opening. “All the electrical my husband did and chef and his father-in-law did mostly everything.”

There is a warm family-friendly vibe in the quaint, casual restaurant where everyone seems to know everyone. Ryan pointed out a customer that graduated from Modesto High at the next table. People walked in saying “Happy birthday” and giving hugs to Gaynor, as her birthday was in March.

“Everybody knows everybody when they walk in,” expressed Gaynor. “We are from West Modesto. It is really important to us to be on this side of town.”