Bright Star Thai Vegan Cuisine, 9819 Foothill Blvd. (at Ramona), Rancho Cucamonga
A vegan restaurant in the Inland Valley? Unlikely as it seems, there is one, in an aging strip mall east of Archibald Avenue that also boasts a Korean market. Bright Star opened a few weeks ago and on a recent lunchtime was doing decent business.
Since few Thai dishes use eggs or dairy products, this is essentially a vegetarian place, but they do use soy milk rather than condensed milk in Thai iced tea, which is less sweet than what you’re used to. Bright Star has soups, salads, curries, noodle and rice dishes, and some non-Asian sandwiches.
Our table had two of the lunch specials, garlic soy chicken with mixed vegetables and sweet chili soy fish ($6.95 each), which come with miso soup, salad, steamed brown rice and two dumplings. The faux chicken was indeed chicken-like, the faux fish less so but acceptable. This isn’t precisely my sort of thing, but it wasn’t bad, and you can’t help but feel more virtuous after a vegan meal, which counts for something.
I was impressed that a niche restaurant that would seem better suited to Santa Monica appears to have found a place here, and a multi-ethnic clientele: Over the course of a lunch hour, diners included a half-dozen blacks, a few Asians, one Latino and a white couple besides yours truly. Not cutting into meat must cut across all sorts of boundaries.
(This area has just two other vegetarian restaurants, according to HappyCow’s restaurant guide: Veggie Era, 903 W Foothill Blvd. in Upland, and Veggie and Tea House, 641 Arrow Highway in San Dimas.)
* Update, February 2014: Bright Star is still around, which is even more impressive given that its strip center is largely vacant. I got the garlic soy chicken again for photo purposes. It’s gone up a mere 4 cents in price in six years, to $6.99, although you only get one dumpling now, not two. Still tasty, and the restaurant was doing a good lunch trade.