On the trail of the Buffalo Inn

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Upland’s Buffalo Inn is a restaurant and watering hole at 1814 W. Foothill Blvd., located in a sort of compound of old buildings and thick trees around an expansive patio. It’s hard to get more than a sense of it from the exterior, as even enlarging the thumbnail photo below should make obvious. Their staple item (besides beer) is a burger made from buffalo meat and their housemade potato chips.

The signs say “Established 1929,” and based on the evident age of the structures, it’s quite possible there have been businesses on the property since the Depression, although they weren’t the Buffalo Inn, which opened circa 1976.

Previous businesses known to have been on the site, based on phone directory listings: the Green Frog (1974-75), Hazel’s Tavern (1971-73), Ellis Tavern (1967-69), Ray’s Place (1964), Roy and Kitty’s Cafe (1954) and El Montecito Cafe (1945-51). Notice the many gaps when there was no phone listing. Either the place felt no need to be in the phone book or the property was used only as a residence then.

Kelly Zackmann of Ontario’s Ovitt Library found the above for me but said she “pretty much lost the trail in 1945,” unable to find anything definitive before that date. Could be the restaurant’s owner or employees know more. No newspaper seems to have produced a written history of the site, at least nothing that’s on file at the Ontario or Upland libraries.

If you know anything about the site’s history, or just want to comment on the Buffalo Inn, please do so.

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  • Fred Henderson

    Hi David:

    For some reason, Matteos, the Italian Food Joint comes to mind. We used to go there for dinner on Friday nights. The address is close.

    Fred Henderson
    Everett, WA

    [I can’t say you’re wrong, but Matteo’s is such a well-known name (people still talk about it) that I’m skeptical that it could have been shoehorned into one of those relatively brief dormant periods. — DA]

  • http://diversitown.blogspot.com meg

    I have no information to add, but I’d love to know what’s in the compound beside the kitchen and dining area. It’s clear that the Buff is much larger than its public areas, and I’ve always been curious. For a while — before the remodel/closing a couple of years ago — I thought I saw a rather large boat behind the kitchen.

    Why don’t you interview the owner, D-Bomb?

    [I may. When I phoned, during the closure, no one answered and there was no message machine. The thing is, though, he may know less about the history than I do. Although presumably he would know about the boat. — DA]

  • Randall Kruger

    it’s now closed again…

    [Wouldn’t you know it. — DA]

  • Kathryn Dunn

    I can check old COURIERS. We published Upland and Montclair editions during this time, all of which are bound and housed at our office. Maybe I can come up with something. Will let you know.

    [That’d be great, thanks. And of course you’ll get full credit from me if you find something. — DA]

  • Bob House

    I can add that Forest Rinehard (spelling?), early 60s Claremont High football star, was – I believe – the opening owner of the Buffalo Inn.

    Re-reading that, it’s probably not definitive enough for journalism. In any case, it’s another excellent David Allen adventure!

    [That’s interesting, because a letter on the door recently advising customers of the closure was signed by owner Richard Rinard (spelling!). Son of Forest? — DA]

  • http://www.ieshineon.com/blog IEShineOn

    Another great article. A little surprised there are so many people who could help trace back the history. Great to know there are locals out there keeping track 🙂

  • blank

    Richard Rinard is the brother of Forrest Rinard. Richard is currently in bankruptcy. David, have you looked into any legal issues regarding the Buffalo Inn or Richard Rinard? Much more interesting than the history of the building…

    [We know there are a lot of hits when we looked him up in federal court filings, but none of us have taken the time (or had the time) to read them. — DA]

  • Jim Lee

    Not sure where the rumors of the Buffalo closing started, but it was business as usual today at lunch with a decent crowd.

    [Well, the business was closed for the last half of July, but why someone commented today that it had closed again I can’t say. Thanks for the update. — DA]

  • oscar

    Buffalo Inn was closed on July 17, 2012 by the owner after his hearing in bankruptcy court. The owner re-opened the restaurant on July 26th. The owner had originally asked all the waitresses, hostesses, bartenders, and cooks to come to court on July 17, 2012 to support him. None of the employees showed because of previous commitments, lack of notice, and not wanting to get involved. When the owner re-opened, he fired his staff that didn’t show up to support him.

    The fired employees worked for him between 2-13 years. I received all this information on my last visit which was very unpleasant. I have personally witnessed the owner Richard Rinard and his long time girlfriend, Janna Hickler, yell and scream at the staff. Unprofessional. The staff was never paid on time or appropriately from what I heard. Many of the bands are also still trying to get paid for playing the gigs.

  • Ex-employee

    As an ex-employee of the buffalo in I can confirm that all statements Oscar made regarding the buffalo inn and Richard Rinard are true. as for history, the rumor is that the buffalo inn use to be a brothel when it first opened which explains the lack of a paper trail and why the property has housing units around it (one in the back and the building in between the kitchen and Parking lot which was converted to the “office”).

  • Ex-Employee

    One more thing, Richard Rinard blamed all waitresses for the buffalo inn going bankrupt for not showing up to court as character witnesses. Does anyone know if it is actually possible to save a business from bankruptcy by having “character witnesses”?

  • Blank

    The Buffalo Inn and Richard Rinard filed for bankrupcy Nov. 2010. And is on the verge of losing the restraunt. You can find all bankrupcy paper work on google.

  • Annie

    We always felt that the Buffalo Inn had such great potential if only they could just improve the service which had become increasingly dismal… (Um…”Ex-Employee” excepted, of course…)

    We go there and once we gave up hope for good service, we usually had a great time!

    Like many poorly managed restaurants, the good employees just don’t stick around. I’m surprised to hear some employees stuck around for up to 13 years with such alleged abusive management. At the end of the day though, it all comes down to proper management. Hopefully this is a wakeup call and they use it to make a fresh start.

  • Ex-employee


    All of the employees stayed because we are like family. Our co-workers, bands, and customers made work so much fun. Stressful at times, but still fun.

    The lack of service, we will agree with you. We agree BECAUSE the owner would rather not pay 1 or 2 more employees the minimum wage to properly staff the restaurant. During the weekdays, there is only one waitress to seat people, serve them, bartend, and serve food. Subway has more employees working for their lunch than the Buffalo Inn which is a sit down restaurant. We always begged the owner for more employees to work the shifts.

  • Hobo Deepthroat Baggins

    I really like going to the Buffalo inn. It is a great place, and I’ve met some wonderful people there. However, I really miss the old-school buff girls like Sharoney and Christina, Beth and Sheetal and Mandy. They are all not there anymore for various reasons, but I miss seeing them there. If what I read above is true, I hope that Rick and Jana have a change of heart 🙂

    Anyhow, thanks David Allen, for this article. I’ve been going there for years and It is interesting to see the history that you’ve dug up. I am eager to see what else you find.

  • Ex-Employee

    Here’s a good read… Just a little more background on these people.

    http://www.leagle.com/xmlResult.aspx?page=1&xmldoc=In CACO 20101230027.xml&docbase=CsLwAr3-2007-Curr&SizeDisp=7

  • Steve Graves

    Hi David. Interesting post. I know a bit about the history of the building and especially the origins of the Buffalo. The history ranges from interesting to fascinating, depending upon how far you delve into the murky story. Stay tuned.

    Hope all is well with you, Bob.

    Steve Graves

  • HD Bike Rider

    Been going to the Buff for many many years off and on because of the quality of the food and service….sometimes great sometimes beyond bad. I don’t think it was from the wait staff either. I remember when they remodeled…NEW BUFFALO INN LOOK….same crappy service. I wish they would get it together, that place is a diamond in the rough. I also heard the city of Upland also has some issues regarding taking some property in the front for widening Foothill Bl. I hope it survives.

  • Tom Urich

    Does anyone know of the Midway Inn that was on Foothill Blvd in Upland or Montclair? It was made like the Buffalo Inn of all rock. Could have been in 1963 and before. I am wondering if it could have been the Buffalo location?