The dining circuit

There’s no particular rhyme or reason to how I choose restaurants for my Restaurant of the Week posts, other than that I try not to leave any cities out. But some cities get more exposure here than others.

Fontana, Chino and San Dimas have had the least attention traditionally, with Fontana and San Dimas being on our borders and Chino, like them, being hard to get to on my lunch break. (Poor Fontana had only been featured three times prior to Jan. 1.)

For 2015, though, I decided to start off right by rotating among all our cities. In order, I’ve written about Seventh Heaven (Upland), El Fortin 3 (Chino), Stein Haus (Pomona), Noodle House (Chino Hills), El Gallo Giro (Fontana), 5 Star Pizza (Ontario), Lucille’s BBQ (Rancho Cucamonga), Cafe Moderno (Montclair), the Harvey Mudd Dining Hall (Claremont), Wahfles (La Verne) and Angela’s Italian Kitchen (San Dimas).

From this point, I won’t be sticking to a rotation, as it’s kind of limiting, but at least I got to every city this year, something I can’t always say. And it’s barely spring.

(True, I didn’t get to Diamond Bar, Glendora or Norco, at least not yet, but those are really the hinterlands as far as we’re concerned.)

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurant of the Week: Seventh Heaven Cafe



Seventh Heaven Cafe, 1042 N. Mountain Ave. (at Foothill), Upland; closed Monday

This Italian-influenced cafe, which bills itself as “gourmet casual dining, pizza and art,” opened in July 2014 in the old Albertsons center on the northeast corner of Foothill and Mountain. Reader Rick Cuevas tipped me off that it was good, and people on Yelp agree. I scheduled dinner there with a friend.

A wood-fired pizza oven is the big draw; supposedly it’s the only such pizzeria in the area. For more authenticity, the kitchen uses only organic flour from Naples. This isn’t the place to get your pepperoni pizza for the big game; while they do have pepperoni, toppings run more to organic roasted pork, peso, artichoke hearts and grilled eggplant.

The pizzas themselves come in 10- and 14-inch sizes and the 14-inch one we got, with mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and provolone ($15), was in the charred Italian style, not the chewy, heavily sauced American style. We liked it a lot.

The interior is minimalist but stylish: blond wood tables and chairs, drop-down pendant lights, interesting art on the walls, even a few jars of jam and handmade jewelry for sale. That weeknight, the dining room filled up with actual adults. “This place is really popular with people who aren’t teenagers,” my friend said approvingly.

Most items are made from scratch, including the sauces and dressings, and customer favorites from the menu are said to be salads, chili and the pizza. They have craft beers and wine by the glass.

Dinner wasn’t perfect: They delivered the pizza to our table but we had to remind them we’d ordered two sides and that I’d ordered a drink. My friend didn’t like the side, a kind of rice pilaf (it was a special and I can’t remember what they called it); I ate mine.

I’d have written this post back in December but I wanted to go back for a second meal. I did go back the next week, but it was a Monday, which turns out to be the one day they’re closed. The year ended and my column item on my favorite restaurants of 2014 appeared, and a woman phoned to ask, didn’t I know about Seventh Heaven? I was impressed and told her I did know about it and that I’d have the post done this week.

So, on Tuesday I went in for a late lunch. I was going to try one of the panini sandwiches, but a daily special, gnocchi with homemade sauce ($9), was tempting. Well, I liked that too. It was a light lunch, and probably I should have ordered a side of some sort, but they don’t seem to have a small salad.

I expect I’ll go back for a salad or panini, and maybe dessert: They have biscotti, lemon bars, cookies, semi-freddo and granita. Nice to see a restaurant trying to achieve a higher level. Seventh Heaven is a blissful addition to Upland.




Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Column: 15 favorite restaurants of 2014, plus 25 standbys

Friday’s column begins with a summary of the best restaurants I tried in 2014, as well as listing my local favorites, from the new to the traditional. Clip and save! Or print out and save, or something. After that: items from Upland and Montclair, and a movie quote about Corona. You’re encouraged to list your own local restaurant favorites or discoveries in the comments section!

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurant photos added for Claremont, La Verne, Pomona

As with Rancho Cucamonga and Fontana, I’ve focused in recent months on updating 2007-09 Restaurant of the Week posts from Claremont, La Verne and Pomona, adding photos to these photo-less posts and, if I ate there again, a few lines about the meal.

Click on the names to find the updates for, in Claremont, CasablancaLa ParolacciaLa Piccoletta and Malott Commons; in La Verne, the Habit, Red Devil PizzaSal’s Pizza and Bagelry and the Tenderloin; and in Pomona, Hilltop Jamaican, Macho Pollo and Omana’s. And I (why not?) added a photo to a Pomona-based entry from 2008 about Mexican Coca-Cola.

I also cleaned up the restaurants listings for Claremont, La Verne and Pomona, shifting any closed restaurants (that I know about) to the Inland Valley Eatin’ category with the notation “CLOSED.”

Further updates to other cities as time permits.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Food phobias


One of the foods I will not eat is peas. Dates to childhood. I will not give peas a chance. This means there are pastas, fried rices and occasional other dishes that I won’t order at a restaurant or buy in a store. Chicken pot pies almost always have peas, for instance.

Usually I’ll check for suspicious ingredients, but I let my guard down Sunday at Fresh and Easy when I bought the seemingly innocent Lemon Salmon Quinoa and Brown Rice entree. Then I heated it up for dinner and discovered peas. Plenty of them. I began fishing them out with a fork. And kept fishing, and kept fishing. This wasn’t easy, as the dish also had asparagus, which is also green but which I will eat.

Have you ever tried separating an objectionable item from a dish? Just when you think you’ve got them all, you find more. I thought I was done, then found probably 10 more. When I started eating, another pea turned up almost immediately. Eventually three more hidden peas were spotted. All in all, this 9-ounce serving had something like 60 peas. It should have been called Lemon Peas, Etc.

I won’t be buying that entree again, obviously. (The rest was tasty in a healthful way. It might be less work to make the dish from scratch, sans peas.) Your turn: Is there an item, or two or three, you resolutely refuse to eat?

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Peach donut season


Donut Man in Glendora (915 E. Rt 66) is renowned for its fresh strawberry donuts, generally available February to July. It’s less well-known for its other fresh fruit donut, the peach, in part because the peach season is so much shorter, often only one month. Last year I missed out completely. On Sunday I got one, bought directly from Donut Man Jim Nakano himself, who was manning one of the order windows.

Check out this bad boy. At $4, it’s the most expensive donut I’ve ever bought, but it’s well worth the dough (ha ha). And yes, that’s a fork partly visible in the photo.

Personally I like the peach better than the strawberry. I think the taste pairs better with the donut shell. The fact that it’s rarer no doubt adds to the allure.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Ramen Burger coming to L.A. County Fair


Ramen Burger is opening its first brick-and-mortar location in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, but the L.A. Times also reports that it’s coming to the Fair in Pomona, which takes place Aug. 29 to Sept. 28.

The LAT says the sandwich “comes with a ground beef patty topped with scallions, baby arugula and secret shoyu sauce sandwiched between a bun made of ramen noodles. More than 1,000 people stood in line to get a taste last year when the burger made its West Coast debut.”

My friend Wendy Leung, who had one later without such a wait (and contributed the photo above), says: “It’s really not as crazy as it sounds. It was good. You might need more napkins but it’s fun to eat.”

I haven’t had one, but I’m glad to hear I can stick close to home and get one soon.

* Also, the Fair’s Chicken Charlie stands will debut deep-fried Doritos and deep-fried chicken skin, according to LA Weekly.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

‘Too bready’: Restaurant of the Week descriptions


Rather than give you a Restaurant of the Week right before a holiday weekend, here’s something Restaurant of the Week-related that I’ve meant to share for weeks now.

My friend Pam Arterburn gave me a silly but thoughtful homemade gift back in March for my birthday: She power-read her way through all my past restaurant blog posts and compiled her favorite descriptions or observations into a poster. Ha ha! (Click on the image for a larger view.)

You can judge for yourselves what the phrases add up to, but she said she was struck by how low-key and middle of the road they were, and so was I. With a couple of bolder exceptions (“excellent,” “amazing”) they stake out very modest territory. What can I say, I don’t feel qualified to write these restaurant posts anyway, so why go out on a limb?

Before you ask, she placed Bieber stickers on the poster because I’m a superstar. Obviously.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

All fooded out

I know that’s not a word, but on Thursday and Friday, after finishing columns, I spent several hours writing five (!) Restaurant of the Week posts, about places I’d eaten at going back to February. They’re scheduled for May 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29 and emanate from, in order, Rancho Cucamonga, Upland, Pomona, Upland and Chino Hills.

I was relieved to have been able to find my notes, identify my photos, finish these and toss the notes. With these done, that’s one less thing to worry about during May. By then, I’ll be excited by the idea of photographing food, taking notes and assembling blog posts about them, but not right now!

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email