Restaurant of the Week: Sanamluang Cafe

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Sanamluang Cafe, 1648 Indian Hill Blvd. (at San Bernardino), Pomona

The only Pomona restaurant with a twin in North Hollywood, Sanamluang is located on Indian Hill Boulevard a few blocks south of the 10 Freeway, coincidentally enough in the same block as Mix Bowl Cafe, another well-regarded authentic Thai restaurant.

Sanamluang’s interior is pretty funky, done in avocado, orange and brown, with an open feeling and odd angles. A friend and I got a booth and ordered three items: the Thai salad ($5.95), basically an American salad but with peanut sauce; seafood soup ($9.50), with shrimp, squid and mussels; and General’s Noodle, the dried version ($6.50), with noodles, shrimp, beef and pork.

The food was fine, but we weren’t wowed, not even by the well-reviewed noodle dish. Sanamluang is certainly popular. It was a Friday night and the place was packed, with several large parties and a line out the door by the time we left. But service was poor. The restaurant was understaffed and no one even refilled our water glasses.

I used to be a regular at Sanamluang, a streak that ended a few years ago when a roach crawled across our table, a server casually killed it and no one apologized or gave us a break on the bill. A friend enticed me to Mix Bowl and I came to love the place.

I wouldn’t argue anyone out of liking Sanamluang. (Yelpers are evenly split, giving Sanamlaung and Mix Bowl identical 3.5-star ratings.) The interior is a step up from the neon garishness of Mix Bowl and some would prefer the food. I think Mix Bowl has better food and it inarguably has better service. Also, as my (female) friend put it after a close observation of Sanamluang, “The waitresses are prettier at Mix Bowl.” The importance of these things can’t be discounted.

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  • Henry Yu

    David Allen,

    I was very surprised when I saw this article pop up because there hasn’t been a review for Sanamluang Cafe. I have eaten there all my life and I don’t understand how you can compare the two. Mix Bowl is definitely a lot more different and doesn’t suffice for the flavors that Sanamlaung offers.

    Your review digusted me because you aren’t concentrating on the actual critique of the food but you would rather concentrate on the way the restaurant looks and the cuteness of the girls? I mean, let’s talk about the food here not how pretty the girls are. What does that have to do with anything? Plus, Sanamluang girls are actually very attractive. I’m sorry that my comment is jumping from topic to topic but hey, that is how your article was too.

    Can you tell me how the food was at least? Fine isn’t enough coming from someone who wants to critique the food. How did it accommodate for your taste buds, was there any spice or too much spice? Please give me a concise analysis of the food. That is what I am looking for in a review and none of this irrelevant material.

    If you love Mix Bowl so much why don’t you write a review on how good they are instead of trying to bring down Sanamluang Cafe. Your review means nothing and does not give any appealing information on either of the two restaurants.

    I would prefer Sanamluang Cafe over Mix Bowl anyday. I’m a loyal customer and always will be. Mix Bowl cannot satisfy my taste. When you say the food didn’t “wow” you, how could it possibly be? You have eaten before and already have the notions of what the food tastes like. It sounds like you were a regular once there before and just never went back after that incident. Your review doesn’t hold itself together. When I read this I felt like you were more or less attacking Sanamluang as a whole establishment rather than analyzing the food and the atmosphere of the restaurant. But you did say that it was packed on a Friday night. Sounds like a good establishment to me. If you haven’t already, please do a Mix Bowl review. I’m dying to read!

    Henry Yu

    [“Attacking”? Seems a bit strong for a review in which I praised the atmosphere, noted the place was packed, said the food was okay and said I wouldn’t argue anyone out of liking the restaurant, Henry. My friend (a Sanamluang first-timer) and myself (a lapsed admirer) were both slightly disappointed by the quality of the food and service, that’s all. As for Mix Bowl, I wrote a column on it a couple of years ago (after I ate all 144 items on the menu!) but need to do a writeup on it here sometime. — DA]

  • jared yamamoto

    are you serious?! i love sanamlaung. some of the BEST thai food i’ve ever had. at sanamlaung the service, the atmosphere, and of course the food is top notch.

    [You must have low standards for service! — DA]

  • Jayma Loo

    After reading your blog I can’t tell if you were judging a beauty contest or doing a restaurant review.

    I’ve have eaten at all the Thai restaurants within a 30 mile radius of Pomona and I must say the Sanamlaung has been the best by far. That is why I continue to eat there.

    Obviously the food Wowed you when you were a regular or you would have never been a regular.right?? It sounds to me like you already gave this place a bad review before you even sat down Friday night due to one bad experience you had years ago.

    [Like I said, I wouldn’t talk anyone out of loving Sanamluang, and I wouldn’t consider my writeup a “bad review.” Given that I used to like the place, I went in thinking my friend and I would have a better time than we had. She walked out thinking the experience was “meh” and that Mix Bowl was better. — DA]

  • No Name

    The writer of this blog must have had a bad day. This is the only place I will go for Thai food. The food is always excellent. The service is great. As for the statement on the looks of the waitresses, this was out of line. If you don’t like the way they look then go to HOOTERS for dinner.

    [Nothing’s wrong with the women of Sanamluang, but since I was doing a (pardon the expression) head to head comparison with the place next door, I thought I’d point out the heads are cuter at Mix Bowl. — DA]

  • Tia Smith

    You are an idiot to think that looks of a waitress makes a restaurant. Sanamluang cafe is far the best Thai restaurant around. My personal view is that you are dating someone at the mix bowl, so you are knocking down the competition. I do not know one person who has ever said anything bad about sanamluang cafe. You are just one person trying to run a place down.

    Good day.

    [Thanks for wishing me a good day after calling me an idiot, Tia. It softened the blow. — DA]

  • Sparky

    The Mix Bowl is “authentic” Thai?!? Like Del Taco is “authentic” Mexican . . .

    [It’s not? I thought all Mexican places served crinkle-cut fries. Another illusion shattered. — DA]

  • Babu

    Dear David, those are very, very bad people who mock you and call you names. If only I hadn’t been deported then maybe I would open a Thai restaurant, too…with good service, great food and hot waitresses…maybe in Rialto?

    [Gee, Babu, I was hoping you’d say “you’re a very, very good man, Jerry. I mean, David.” — DA]

  • sam ing

    I’m very disappointed by your venomous review of Sanamluang Restaurant.

    First, you and your ‘friend’ seem to place the emphasis of how good a restaurant is based on how the servers look. Based on your standard, then, may be all of the not so ‘pretty’ servers should get out of the restaurant business altogether.
    This’s a downright disgusting thought, and a blatant discrimation if I ever see one.

    Second, I’ve never read a food critic compares 2 restaurants the way you did with Sanamluang and Mix Bowl in my 30+ years of reading reviews. These reviews include Jonathan Gold’s, Ruth Reichl’s, Alan Richman’s, Gael Greene’s etc.
    May I suggest to a professional journalist with over 2 decades in the business to refrain from this type of review in the future? Using your own guideline of reviewing foods and restaurants and comparing your review with those mentioned above, I must come to my conclusion that your review is not only amateurish, but very childish and lacking of any value whatsoever.

    And you and your ‘friend’, I’ll bet, don’t look any ‘prettier’ than any of the servers you mentioned in your review.

    Thank you for printing this comment in your blog.

    [“Venomous”? For a mixed view (some positive, some negative)? Sheesh. I’ll be the first to say I’m not a food critic and I would never compare myself to any of the names you mentioned. Whether these writeups (I hesitate even to label them reviews) have “any value whatsoever” is in the eye of the reader, obviously. As for comparing the two restaurants, well, they’re virtually next door, and there are no other Thai restaurants for a couple of miles, so doing so doesn’t seem outrageous to me. But what do I know? — DA]

  • Babu

    Venomous??? Well it is rattlesnake season, and my dear David…you are a very, very good man and leave the ethnic reviews to Wendy, or that other one who has not written an article in 4 YEARS!!!! You would think that someone in The People’s Republic of Claremont would come to your aid.

    [Babu is referring to a funny post on the RC Now blog on how its writer is frequently mistaken for a former DB reporter who left four years ago! — DA]

  • judi

    Wow, did you touch a raw Thai nerve (and please don’t tell me that is one of the 144 dishes on the Mix Bowl menu).

    To the fans of Sanamluang Restaurant: The man has a right to his opinion, and you should be glad that he braved a return for a new review. (Personally speaking, the cockroach on the table would have forever ended my relationship. Ewww.)

    [Thanks, Judi. — DA]

  • Scott in R.C.

    Seems you have struck a nerve with the local Thai diners! Just wondering, when you had the cockroach, did you happen to notice the grade in the window? I’m guessing B.

    BTW — Babu and your replies are killing me! Please keep up the negative reviews as the responses are hilarious.

    [Believe it or not, the grade in the window was an A, and still is. A friend who eats frequently in the San Gabriel Valley says she’s been to plenty of C-rated restaurants there, and has never seen a cockroach. — DA]

  • Scott in R.C.

    Now there’s an investigative story, “What does it take to get a C-rated restaurant?” I have heard plenty of nasty stories about A-rated restaurants and is probably why you rarely see the kitchens.

  • Ted M

    I might be onto something but maybe the extra small shirts servers at Joey’s BBQ wear is the reason they stay in business and have expanded to Pomona and Rancho Cucamonga. Does anybody really enjoy eating in a place so small?

  • J

    David, David, David. Well, based on all these comments from people who never seem to comment here, one can guess that should you return to Sanamluang again, I would bet that the roach would be IN your bowl this time.

    I would suggest that if you are a restaurateur and are lucky to get some publicity here, keep in mind that the general audience remembers the name and not the discussion. It is bound to generate more traffic regardless (though with this readership more traffic might equal two). Secondly, if you don’t get a great review, make some changes and invite David back if you’d like.

    Oy, the drama.

    [You’re probably right about the minimal impact one way or the other from these posts. One reason I put these writeups on my blog as opposed to my column is a desire not to draw too much attention to them or to risk hurting any restaurant’s business. Even at that, while I aim for honesty, I try to err on the side of kindness. — DA]

  • Maggie

    I love this place. I have been eating pad Thai at different restaurants but nothing like Sanamuluang. I love you guys.