Unless you were unnaturally attached to Kenny Rogers Roasters or Brueggers Bagels, we can probably stipulate that Ontario Mills’ food court has always been lame, especially for a mall of its size, its offerings being embarrassingly airport-quality. The food court has been renovated in recent months with a brighter look and some different stands. Needing a fast meal before a movie, I saw the mostly completed food court recently and tried one of the new eateries.
Stone Oven (www.enjoystoneoven.com) was giving out samples of its focaccia bread, which is baked in an oven with a wood stone. Watching the guy put the bread in the oven with a paddle, flames rising deep inside, brings rare entertainment to the food court. So a friend and I gave it a chance. The chain also has locations in the Beverly Center and Westside Pavilion, among others, so it would seem to be a step up in class for Ontario.
I had a tuna salad sandwich with a side of potato salad ($8) and the result was okay but unimpressive. My friend got a garlic and pesto chicken sandwich. Portions were large — he took half of his home — and he liked his. I was lukewarm on mine, although even under the best circumstances it’s hard to get excited about cold tuna salad.
I returned a few days later for lunch at a time when I didn’t have to wolf down my meal. This time I ordered a hot sandwich, BBQ chicken, which comes with bacon and cheddar, and got basil pasta salad as my side ($8; pictured below). Better, but nothing special. (My sides on both visits, by the way, weren’t bad.) The salads, such as goat cheese chicken and walnut and green apple, sound good.
My friend and I had agreed the sample of hot bread was more enticing than our sandwiches. The focaccia is thin and insubstantial, not dense enough for my tastes and more like a pita than a loaf. You could do worse in the food court, one reckons, but you might be better off taking a sample from the woman with the tray as you walk on toward another stand.