Bardot, 206 W. Bonita Ave. (at Harvard), Claremont
For 21 years the corner of Bonita and Harvard was home to Harvard Square Cafe, perhaps the quintessential Claremont restaurant: largely outdoors, urbane, cozy and slightly boring. But the cafe closed in 2012 and after extensive renovations, interrupted by weeks or months when nothing appeared to be happening, its replacement, Bardot, opened in March.
Co-owner is Alain Fournier, who founded Harvard Square before leaving it to other hands in 1995 and opening Caffe Allegro. Bardot is updated with a more modern look: more white, more light. The interior has a bar as its centerpiece. (Longtime residents, by the way, will remember the distinctive brick building as the Village Theater.)
As with Harvard Square, the patio — now shaded by a canopy — seems to be the spot, especially if you want to be one of Claremont’s beautiful people, the envy of anyone walking or driving past. A friend and I had dinner there recently and chose the patio.
Bardot’s menu has small plates, salads, sandwiches and a few entrees; it’s described as French fusion, but there are only a few French dishes, perhaps because even Claremont can’t support an outright French restaurant. Main courses range from $14 to $38. There’s also wine, 16 beers in bottles or on tap, and a selection of cocktails.
We stuck to the lower end of the food spectrum with $14 entrees: My friend had the croque monsieur sandwich with tomato bisque soup, I had the portobello sandwich with fries (both pictured below), and we liked them both. She had a Pomona Queen beer ($7), I had a refreshing water (free).
Judgment: We liked the place, and the food was fine, although we weren’t blown away.
Two minor but noticeable downsides: The overhead misters are overactive and practically enveloped my friend in a cloud of spray. (See photo at bottom, shot on a different evening, for an example. When we ate, the misters ran until about 7 p.m., kind of late given the mild temperatures.) Also, the chairs are a couple of inches lower than the bench seating around the perimeter, and consequently the table was a couple of inches too high for comfort for me.
Overall, though, the patio ambience is so pleasant that as long as the food and service are acceptable, which they were, Bardot was worth the splurge. “It’s so nice out here,” my friend said contentedly, and I had to agree. I don’t know if any passersby or motorists envied us, but I like to think they did.