Restaurant of the Week: Norms

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Norms, 807 S. Indian Hill Blvd. (at Auto Center), Claremont

Norms, which opened in Claremont next to the 10 Freeway in August, was the most-anticipated Inland Valley restaurant arrival since Five Guys Burgers in Rancho Cucamonga.

All this fuss for a sort of upscale Dennys? This says a lot about the essential working-class character of the valley, as well as the numbers of repatriated Angelenos in our midst, as Norms’ 18 locations are scarce in our part of L.A. County.

The 24-hour diner, heralded by a very un-Claremont sign that looms over the freeway, is still busy a month after its opening, so timing your visit carefully is advised.

I had breakfast there with a friend recently. At 8 a.m., the restaurant, which has an occupancy of 221 seats, had plenty of empty booths, but by the time we left at 9, every seat was full and there was a line to get one. Ditto with a lunchtime visit a few days later; at 11:45 a.m., 25 people were waiting to be seated and there was a line at the cashier to pay. By 1 p.m., when we left, the crowd was thinning out and the pace slowing.

It’s a comfortable, coffee shop vibe, with browns and oranges in the color scheme, plush booths, counter seating and tiled walls. One friend said the interior, with its high ceilings, hanging orange lamps and expanse of windows, reminded him of the old Henry’s drive-in. There’s a surprising amount of outdoor seating as well, wrapping halfway around the building.

At breakfast, I had the Jump Start ($4.99), with eggs, bacon and toast. It was what you’d expect. For an extra buck I could’ve had the Bigger Better Breakfast, which comes with eggs, pancakes, ham, bacon and (not or) sausage. That’s a lotta meat.

My friend had the Country Cookin’ ($8.79, pictured below) with chicken fried steak, his baseline meal, and two eggs and hash browns. On a 1-to-10 scale, he gave the steak “a good 8.” The steak was processed rather than made on the premises, but the gravy was pronounced “excellent.”

Coffee, at $2, was a little steep, my friend said, but Norms is making a fuss about the quality of its coffee, and refills were offered every few minutes.

On my lunch visit, I had a tuna melt ($7.69), my own baseline sandwich by which to judge a diner. It was a decent version and the fruit on the side, thin-sliced crescents of melon, provided a nice balance. My friend had the Avo Gobble ($8.29, pictured at bottom), a turkey and avocado sandwich. (At Nancy’s in Rancho Cucamonga they call something similar the Turkado.)

That friend’s verdict: “The food’s pretty good. Everybody’s nice and friendly. They come by and ask how you’re doing.” Of the crowd, he said: “You wouldn’t know there was a problem with the economy.” He also observed that the diners didn’t look like Claremont people, being working-class types and retirees.

I’m looking forward to dinner there sometime, and maybe to a middle-of-the-night visit too, if only I could stop sleeping soundly and induce insomnia.

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  • Ms. Lois

    Hi David,

    Thanks for this post. I’ve been wanting to try Norms but I find that I’d rather read your posts first before I try a new place out!

    [Any other places you need me to test for you, Ms. Lois? -- DA]

  • Andy

    From your pic it looks nice that Norms has modernized the traditional diner decor.

  • Ted Melendez

    No John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth sighting ala Pulp Fiction? Lucky you.

  • Guillermo N

    This Norms has a very modern look unlike all the other ones I’ve been too. Service is fast and the food is good and inexpensive. They also have free wireless internet. Too bad for the Denny’s that’s across the street.

  • Kevin

    I haven’t tried it yet, but a 24-hour joint is a treasure!

  • R. Jara

    I think Norms’ charm is not that it is an upscale Denny’s, but that it was part of so many of our childhood memories…especially us boomers. I have many a fond memory of eating tapioca pudding with my mother at the local Norms.

    [That speaks to the "repatriated Angelenos" angle I suggested. For people who grew up out here, or far away like me, Norms doesn't mean anything. For people who grew up in LA, Norms may be like an old friend. -- DA]

  • Charles Quinn

    The place is very LOUD, it was so LOUD that you could only hear the bassy sounds of the music that is piped in. The surfaces are too hard so the sound bounces around.

  • Frank O

    Love Norms, it is my understanding the initial preference for Norms was Rancho Cucamonaga. Unfortunately, the planning commission member, upon meeting with a representative from Norms, nixed the proposal. This was communicated to me and a resident from Chino, as we were having breakfast in the counter area. The representative from Norms overheard us saying we would have loved to have a Norms in our respective communities. He indicated to us that an individual from the planning commission made it known to him that Norms was not welcome in Rancho. So they sought placement in other Inland Valley community that was friendly and willing to work with a business.

    Sure would be nice to inquiry to see if there are any legs to this. It is no secret Rancho has many restrictions upon businesses coming into the community. No wonder the most familiar name on the Haven corridor is Available, available seems to be very popular in Rancho. Anyway love Norms, the variety and prices are very competitive. Maybe that’s what Rancho didn’t want.

    [Interesting tidbit, Frank. The true answer is probably more nuanced, given that Rancho has a Denny's, a Sonic, etc. -- DA]

  • http://www.insidesocal.com/dine909 John Plessel

    I love the neo-Googie look of the Claremont Norms. The food was good (and plentiful!), the service was great and they even have baristas! (Just look for the fedora-wearing employees.)

    I’d love to sit out on the southern patio on a warm night and enjoy a late-night breakfast!

    Every time I hear about the proposed restaurant trio (In-N-Out, Miguel’s Jr.(?) and an unnamed “sit-down” restaurant) coming to Rialto just off the 210 Freeway at Riverside Avenue, I keep thinking…Norms?

  • Sam

    Stay away from this place. All the workers from management to the cooks are inexperienced. Food takes 30 minutes from the time you order your food to the time you get the food. In the meantime, we could hear the cooks yelling at each other.

    The managers will comp you when you complain. How can we get comped when we have a comp ticket from the previous visit.