A year of dining ahead

As has become standard practice, I expect to continue these Restaurant of the Week posts in the coming year. I like doing them, they get me out to new places and you folks seem to like them too. I’ve been writing them since September 2007.

Let me use this first of the year post to explain how I pick the 45 to 50 restaurants a year that are featured here.

Some come recommended, but many are simply places I drive past or hear about. I may eat there on my lunch break if it’s near our office, which is in Rancho Cucamonga. If on I’m assignment in a farther city, I often make a point of going for lunch or dinner while I’m in the neighborhood. If I’m meeting a friend for lunch during the week or on a weekend, we often pick a restaurant that would be good for the blog.

The restaurant might be new or it might be old. Wherever I go, I’m eating there anonymously and buying my meal without introducing myself. To my mind, I’m just a guy eating lunch or dinner — but taking notes and photos. I have no training to write reviews and don’t consider these blog posts to be reviews. They’re just my take.

If restaurant reviewing were actually my job, I would work harder at staying atop what’s new or popular, or seek out certain restaurants, such as a couple of Mexican restaurants in Rialto recommended by a taco expert. But it’s not. This is just a hobby.

Another note: I try to hit all 10 of our cities at least once in a calendar year. That means at best I may get to only a half-dozen restaurants in any city in a year. So my list of potential restaurants has a big backlog. (A few of them have no doubt gone out of business.)

All that said, I’m always open to your ideas. If there’s any restaurant you’re surprised I haven’t written about, tell me in the comments. If you have any questions about my approach, ask away. Next Thursday I’ll be back with a fresh Restaurant of the Week.

As always, past posts can be found by scrolling through the category listings on the right-hand side of this home page, where they’re organized by city. Or you can search for names in the search feature.

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No restaurant this week (or next)

It’s not that I don’t have notes for a Restaurant of the Week, or even two or three of them, but I’m leaving today for vacation and didn’t have time to compile one. I’m off next week too. This feature will return June 22. In the meantime, columns will appear Friday and Sunday before going dark for a week.

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The real Hal Linker

Longtime readers of this blog will recall a string of comments a few years back by a fella who gave his name as Hal Linker and referred to his wife as Hadla. There was confusion on my part that he quickly cleared up by saying these weren’t their real names but were taken from a globe-trotting couple with a travel show on SoCal TV in the ’60s and ’70s.

Well, the son of the Linkers emails to tell me more about his parents and their travels:

***

My wife told me about your blog and postings by “Hal and Hadla Linker.” 

I thought you might be interested in some clarification about the real Hal and Halla Linker (correct spelling, pronounced Hadla). I am their son. My father did die in 1979, as someone mentioned. My mother is still alive and well.
My mother donated the films from our travels to the Smithsonian Human Studies Film Archive, and they periodically release brief clips to YouTube.
As you probably know, our TV show was based in LA, but syndicated in over 40 other US cities, and 11 foreign countries.
We had a vacation home up at Lake Arrowhead, so often drove through the “Inland Empire” on our way there. I also had a Summer internship at a chemical engineering firm there after my freshman year, but I do no recall exactly where it was.
I realize that it is somewhat off topic for your blog, but thought you might be interested in more detail.
Best regards,
David Linker
***
I was indeed interested and am happy to share this with anyone who remembers the Linkers from TV or is curious about them. This link will explain more about their show and the archive.
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Where to eat?

restlist

A few years ago, I started jotting down Restaurant of the Week possibilities by city, crossing out spots where I went or that closed, adding new spots that I saw or that were suggested to me. It was only recently that I started over with a fresh sheet of paper. Above is the endlessly revised first list; click on it for a readable view if you like. Even without clicking, one thing is obvious: This list should have been tossed long before I finally did so.

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Restaurant of the Week: The Meat Cellar (original)

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MOVED; NOW BURGER BAR

The Meat Cellar, 665 E. Foothill Blvd. (at Claremont), Claremont; closed Mondays

Located at the eastern entrance to Claremont, in the plaza with Blue Fin Sushi, Meat Cellar is a butcher shop that also cooks food to eat in or to go and sells wine. As a frequent visitor to the Starbucks next door, I noticed Meat Cellar as it was going in earlier this year and have been in for dinner three times — which will tell you right there that I like the place.

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There’s simple seating and you order at the register, past the butcher case. There are a half-dozen specials on the board plus a short printed menu, and they will also cook anything in the case that catches your eye. On one day, the specials were lamb chops, salmon tacos, BBQ pork sandwich, halibut, and muscles mussels with fries, ranging from $12 to $21.

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Twice I’ve had steak frites ($19, above), a hanger steak atop a bed of fries, the first time because it sounded good, the second time because I remembered how good the first one was (I was not disappointed). My other visit I got herb-crusted tenderloin with mixed greens ($17, below), another winner.

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Generally I’ll eat a steak maybe twice a year. I’m not one for the formality, or pricing, of a steakhouse, or one who wants to get a mediocre steak at a cheesy family restaurant. Meat Cellar makes it simpler for me. Also, due to ordering at the counter, tipping doesn’t seem necessary, which makes the meal more affordable (by, well, 15 to 20 percent, right?).

They serve beer (from nearby Claremont Craft Ales) and wine. On my visits, the music has been cool, with lots of Bowie, Tears for Fears and the Smiths. The restaurant has no freezer, with all items delivered daily, and all the meat and poultry is organic, antibiotic-free and, as appropriate, grass-fed and pasture-raised.

I like it — but then, I said that up top.

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