Two years of eating dangerously

Today’s column is my second annual Inland Valley dining guide, which offers a roundup of some of the more noteworthy of the 92 restaurants at which I ate in 2007.

For anyone who missed it, or who wants a refresher, here’s my earlier dining guide, published Jan. 5, 2007, covering some of the 84 restaurants at which I ate in 2006. Amazingly, I think all the ones mentioned below are still in business. Now here’s that column:

True, Id developed a reputation as a fella who likes to eat out, but by the end of 2005 I realized my lunch hours were mostly spent at the same half-dozen joints.

Thus, to shake myself out of a rut, I made a New Years resolution for 2006: try at least one new-to-me restaurant per week.

Admittedly, it was a modest goal. But unlike your resolutions to stop smoking or start working out, I stuck with my vow all year. Nyaah!

By the end of December, I had eaten at 84 previously untried restaurants. A few were chains. Most were mom and pop places. Some looked like dumps but had good food. Some actually were dumps.

I hasten to point out that Im not a professional reviewer, just a guy on his lunch break, so my standards arent exactly rigorous. Also, just so you know, I ate anonymously and paid my own way.

Any opinions below are merely observations, but theyre all mine.

And now, some results from my field research:

* Thai T (9000 Foothill Blvd., Rancho Cucamonga) and Bangkok Blue (2300 Foothill, La Verne) are in strip malls, but both Thai restaurants have a genteel ambience and good food. My favorite Thai place, by the way, is Mix Bowl Cafe in Pomona, where Im slowly eating my way through the 100-plus items on the menu.

* The interior is stark and bare, but the carne asada tacos at Taqueria el Triunfo (1565 W. Holt Ave., Pomona) make a deep impression.

* The food was fine, but the old-school interior of the venerable New China (2006 W. Foothill, Upland) with its ornate bar, burgundy booths and carved ceiling is what makes this a local treasure.

* A colleague recommended the chili at Buckboard BBQ (1386 E. Foothill, Unit M, Upland). He was right.

* Years best restaurant name: Posh Burgers and Beyond. Its the latest tenant in a former Dairy Queen (727 E. Holt Blvd., Ontario). The teriyaki bowl features charbroiled chicken and is surprisingly tasty. Not to mention posh.

* Tropical Mexico (1371 S. East End Ave., Pomona) opened in 1967 and may be Pomonas oldest Mexican restaurant. Its a sprawling place with a busy lunch trade, and I can see why.

* Reputation holds that Owens American Bistro (5210 D St., Chino) is the nicest restaurant in Chino. Its downtown in a converted bank. Bank on a fine meal there.

* Despite the name, Guidos Pizza (9755 Arrow Highway, Rancho Cucamonga) is really a deli. They make a fine sandwich.

* I can recommend the pizza at both zPizza (1943 N. Campus Ave., Upland) and Joe Chicagos (711 W. Foothill, Upland). Upland, in fact, must be a good pizza town, as its also home to the superior San Biagio N.Y. Pizza.

* Tucked away in a business park, Angelinas Cafe (9135 Archibald Ave., Rancho Cucamonga) is worth hunting down. The food is good, the atmosphere is cozy and the servers, Karen and Katie, are a crackup. If youre lucky, youll get homemade potato chips while you wait. I know I was trying to get out of a rut, but after finding Angelinas, I ate here every week.

* Best sushi I had around here all year was at Kuma Sushi (1905 N. Campus, Upland).

* When I paused at the menu board at Esther Tacos (1466 E. Foothill, Unit Q, Upland), the woman behind the counter asked if Id been there before, then scurried to the kitchen to bring out small samples of all their meats. I wouldnt have gone wrong with any of them.

* I had better than average hamburgers at Archibalds Burgers (2685 E. Riverside, Ontario), Jims Burgers (969 W. Foothill, Upland) and Samos (1701 S. Garey Ave., Pomona). Although I still miss A&W Root Beer in Ontario and continue to dote on Golden Ox, with three locations in Pomona to serve you better.

* While its hard to beat the food at El Merendero, an old standby, two other Mexican restaurants within walking distance of Pomona City Council meetings are also a cut above: Sabor Mexicano (180 E. Sixth St.) and Mexico Lindo (1060 S. Garey).

* Its Home of the Bean Special, according to the sign at Taco King (1317 E. Foothill, Upland), but I went for the chicken tacos. Not only was the food tasty and cheap, but three customers recognized me.

Eating there was satisfying for my appetite and my ego.

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