Favorite restaurants of 2019

Looking back at 2019, I wrote 36, an even three dozen, Restaurant of the Week posts. It may not quite have lived up to the weekly billing, but two of every three weeks were covered, with the usual complications — vacations, holidays, illness and the press of column deadlines — accounting for the other weeks.

I ate at restaurants in all the Daily Bulletin cities: Chino, Chino Hills, Claremont, La Verne, Montclair, Ontario, Pomona, Rancho Cucamonga and Upland, with at least two restaurants per city, plus a stray venture to Moreno Valley (for Portillo’s Hot Dogs).

Most of the 36 were pretty good, and if you want to look back with me, search for “Restaurant of the Week” in the search bar and they should all come up in reverse chronological order.

Memorable places (in a good way) include Vita Italian, Slummin’ Gourmet and Luchador Urban Taqueria in Pomona; Old World Deli and Daddy O’s in Upland; Fourth Street Mill in La Verne; Creme Bakery and Pepo Melo in Claremont; House of Fortune in Chino; Take Ur Seat in Chino Hills; Pola’s Mariscos in Montclair; and Mr. Dumpling and Fat Burrito in Rancho Cucamonga.

For what it’s worth, the places I’ve returned to at least once, and sometimes regularly, are Slummin’, Luchador, Old World, Daddy O’s, Creme, Pepo Melo and Fat Burrito. Although in some cases that’s a function of geography as much as interest. If I lived in Chino Hills I’d be at Take Ur Seat all the time.

As always on these visits, I did not announce myself, was virtually never recognized, to my knowledge anyway, and paid my own way. Also, I’m not a professional reviewer. Doing this is more of a hobby than anything else, not even really part of my official duties or workday, although I try to write them on a Wednesday at work if able. (The columns occupy more of my time and mind, including anxious thoughts, sometimes in the middle of the night, than might be obvious.)

In some ways my interest in the ol’ Restaurant of the Week has slackened. But I keep going. I’ve gotta eat anyway, and it’s useful for me personally to get out of my comfort zone by trying new places. And I know readers rely on me for these, or at least enjoy them or identify me with them. So it’s useful for me professionally to do these, even if it’s a pain some weeks and I often feel like I’m letting people down for one reason or another.

That sense only increased in 2019.┬áSome years I’ve produced this best-of list (which I’m writing at 7 p.m. on New Year’s Day, by the way) as a long item for my column. This year I don’t feel quite right about that.

That’s because in mid-year my columns began appearing in the Sun as well as the Bulletin, and I didn’t manage to venture even to Fontana for a meal, much less Rialto or San Bernardino. I’m a little sheepish about that. (Sun territory is, essentially, east of the 15 Freeway.) In fact, a year ago this list appeared in the Bulletin, and perhaps also in the Sun; either way, a Rialto reader emailed in disappointment that I hadn’t been to her city, and I understood.

In my defense, many of my Restaurant of the Week meals are consumed on a lunch break from our office in Rancho Cucamonga, or on a weekend venture from my home in Claremont. Rialto, Fontana or San Bernardino are a little far for a lunch hour and haven’t figured into my evening or weekend plans. It’s not meant as a slight to anyone there or any restaurants there.

Still, no point in parading the lack of restaurants in Sun territory in front of my Sun readers via my column. I’ll just keep things low-key in this space and vow to do better in 2020.

In the meantime, bon appetit, and where did you enjoy dining in 2019?

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