About David Allen

A journalist for nearly 30 years, David Allen has been chronicling the Inland Valley for the Daily Bulletin since 1997 and blogging since 2007. His first book, "Pomona A to Z," was published in 2014. E-mail David here. Read recent columns here.

Restaurant of the Week: Owen’s Bistro

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Owen’s Bistro, 5210 D St. (at 7th), Chino; 5:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; closed Sundays and Mondays

Considered among the Inland Valley’s finest restaurants since its opening in 2003, Owen’s Bistro is located across from the Chino Civic Center in a brick building that dates to the early 20th Century, and practically the only part of downtown that actually seems like a downtown.

I’d been to Owen’s only once, years ago, for a lunch; it’s a little out of my normal price range and I hadn’t had a reason to return until a friend suggested meeting there, which I was all for.

The restaurant is in a picturesque block in an otherwise-drab area of ’70s and later buildings; from the rear, the exposed brick and original painted advertising signs seem surprisingly urban.

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The dining area has a concrete floor, brick walls, iron gates at each end and no roof, merely a curtained roof that retracts. It’s a unique space, with ceiling fans and space heaters to even out the temperature. An indoor lounge seats 20.

The menu is short, with seasonal items and local produce. Eight entrees range from $22 to $42, and there are appetizers, salads and a soup. We ordered bleu cheese toasts ($8), she got a frisee and walnut salad ($7) and I got the camping trip (!) ($23), salmon on a hot stone with potatoes and greens.

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The toasts were the size of bruschetta but with bleu cheese and pears, delicious. The salad had feta, green apples and dried cherries and was enjoyed. The salmon came out sizzling in a bowl with greens and, thanks to lavender placed under the stone, was meant to have a “forest aroma.” I didn’t notice, but I did notice how good the salmon tasted. An unusual but tasty dish.

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Two singers performed jazz to recorded backing, and it was so pleasant, and unobtrusive, not to mention taking place on the other side of the room, that I didn’t even notice the music was live for quite some time. A nice touch.

The service left a little to be desired, although at least it was well-meaning. The salad was requested to come out at the same time as my entree but came later, after a quizzical look from my friend when my food came out solo, and itself a bit late. Despite being told we could get to our 7 p.m. event with plenty of time, we didn’t have time for dessert.

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Coincidentally, a work colleague ate at Owen’s not long before I did. He said he and his wife were told they would be seated soon by someone who disappeared, twice; a daughter and elderly mother got the same treatment. Once seated, his wife ordered the angus ribeye, which took so long to cook, someone came out to apologize for the delay. What arrived was so large it might have weighed two pounds. Most was taken home and provided three more meals.

It was perfectly prepared, and for $39, quite a deal, and he felt the same about his medallions of filet mignon, at $32, but the service, which included getting someone else’s bill, was more comical than desired for a nice evening out. “It was like nobody there had ever worked in a restaurant before,” he said.

There are those who say scoffingly that Owen’s is the Inland Empire’s idea of fine dining. The food in these twin experiences was very good, and we had nothing to complain about, really, on that score. The staff, though, seems a little disorganized. I recommend Owen’s anyway, but be prepared for things to go wrong.

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Column: Leonard Cohen: Mt. Baldy monk, Claremont consumer

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Singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen’s death reminds me that some 20 years ago he was apparently a familiar sight in the Claremont Village. (He left about the time I moved there, alas.) Sunday’s column pays tribute through color gleaned from talking to a bunch of people who saw him or waited on him. Above and below are views of the window display in his honor at the Folk Music Center.

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Farewell, mayors

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Goodbye events took place last Thursday for the mayors of Upland and Chino. The former, for Ray Musser, was at the Carnegie Building. Above, he gets a plaque and is applauded by council members, with his wife, Fern, to the right.

Dennis Yates’ more formal event was at Chino’s Planes of Fame Museum, a unique setting. For the speeches, Yates was sat in a rocking chair, not his usual position of authority, as speakers praised and mocked.

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Restaurant of the Week: Mustang Sally’s on 66

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Mustang Sally’s, 8411 Foothill Blvd. (at San Bernardino), Rancho Cucamonga; open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekends

Mustang Sally’s was subject of a column of mine due to its location, in a small older building, probably originally a house, by the Pacific Electric Trail and overlooking Foothill Boulevard. At the time I hadn’t eaten there, but since then I’ve been in twice.

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It’s a cute place, with decor that emphasizes Texas and the Southwest. I went in on a quiet Friday last month for lunch.

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They have a steak special that day: a bone-in ribeye, salad and fries, normally $12, for $8. Too good to pass up. Did I want onion straws? Sure.

The salad, served in a metal bowl, could have been a meal in itself — but then there was the steak, said to be fresh from Hottinger’s, a well-regarded meat market in Chino. It was a decent steak, and excellent for the price; I took home half or more of everything. I can fault them only for bringing out the salad at the same time as the entree. It really was an embarrassing amount of food for eight bucks.

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I returned earlier this month to try the Mexican food, ordering the Tasty Tacos ($7), three hard shell tacos with lettuce, tomato, cheese and a mix of beef and potatoes, a family recipe.

They were stuffed and the overflow from each created a sort of mini-taco salad on my plate. The tacos were tasty, just as advertised, and the avocado salsa was a solid accompaniment. I took a photo of the final taco so you could see what one actually looks like under all the cheese.

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Service is casual but friendly. (It might have been the cook who was waiting on me during the slow period.)

There’s a neat patio out back with picnic tables and a bean-bag toss with a view of Foothill and the bike/walking trail. The food at Sally’s is good, the setting a little better.

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