Haven City Market, 8443 Haven Ave. (at Arrow), Rancho Cucamonga; open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
After a couple of years of construction, the former J.C. Penney Outlet store opened in October as Haven City Market, a food hall. It’s like a mall food court without the mall, with (at this writing) 25 vendors selling entrees, desserts and beverages, and no retail or services.
It’s only the second food hall in the Inland Valley, after Cravings by 99 Ranch in Chino, putting us as usual far behind LA and Orange counties. Haven City isn’t far from our newsroom and so I’ve made a point of going multiple times. As with Cravings, it makes more sense to write about the food hall as a whole rather than individual spots.
The developers have done a nice job in making the hall inviting. There’s varied styles of seating throughout rather than the monotony of everything looking alike. One area has two ping-pong tables. Some spaces are Instagram-friendly, because that’s almost a requirement now.
Salted caramel cone from Cauldron with Instagram-friendly background
And there’s a sprawling patio area for warm days with shaded umbrellas and fake turf. I found that a welcome place to eat in October and November.
Most of the food stands are not recognizable names, which is good. Burgerim stands out as a “what is this doing here” chain, but their slider concept at least works from the small-bites angle. The majority of the offerings are Asian, primarily Korean and Japanese, but other cultures are represented too.
Shrimp roll and cajun fries from Shrimp Shack
I’ve enjoyed a shrimp roll ($10) and cajun fries ($4) at Shrimp Shack, a Japanese pancake ($8) at Oko Yummy, the yellowtail and white tuna sushi ($13 combined) at Shokunin, the adobo elote cup ($6.50) at Ibasa, the pork belly grilled cheese ($14 with fries and soda) at Belly & Snout and a shrimp, pork and kimchi rice bowl ($7.40) at On + On. A friend joined me at Ibasa and liked his al pastor, carnitas and tri-tip tacos.
For dessert, I’ve had a nitrogen ice cream salted caramel cone ($6.75) at Cauldron, a blood orange popsicle ($4) at Popbar and a Reese’s churro with ice cream ($9) at Churro Bar.
Reese’s churro and ice cream from Churro Bar
And I’ve had a strawberry fruit tea with boba ($4.50) at It’s Boba Time, which also sells macarons. My friend got a beer at Native Son Alehouse (price not noted) and said it was quite good, “aside from being served in plastic,” like at a ballpark.
It’s possible to combine foods or drinks from three or four places in one meal, besides sharing with friends.
My favorites of the above would be Shrimp Shack, Ibasa and On + On. The other meals were fine to greater or lesser degrees but perhaps not enough to draw me back. Overall the offerings are a little hit or miss, but that’s probably to be expected. The only meal I didn’t like was an under-grilled chicken kabob meal ($11) at Baba K, which came with no tahini and no fork. I was reduced to pulling the chicken apart with my fork and fingers. But to make up for some confusion on their part at the register, they gave me a free falafel, which was better than the meal I’d paid for.
On + On mini-sized bowl
I’d had the idea of eating at every spot, but that proved too ambitious as well as a little nutty. Plus I don’t need Fire Wings or Oke Poke. But I’ve been to 11 vendors out of 25, a fair sampling.
Haven City was packed from Day One, and I’ve been told it’s especially so on weekends. It’s been great to see so many cars in the parking lot of what had been a dead business and so many people of all ages inside. Will the all-food concept sustain itself? We’ll see. Out here in the suburbs, we don’t have enough buzzy hangout spots.