Restaurant of the Week: Great Grinders and Burgers



Great Grinders and Burgers, 12423 Central Ave. (at the 60), Chino

Grinders, for the uninitiated, are submarine sandwiches rather than suggestive dances at the Video Music Awards. This Chino shop gets decent ratings on Yelp, so I sought it out for lunch. It’s in the Superior Market center just below the 60 Freeway, east side, across from the Post Office.

They have hot grinders (the comment above still applies), cold sandwiches, burgers, salads and teriyaki. I asked the best items and was told the pastrami sandwiches, char-broiled burgers and grilled chicken salad are the most popular. I went for the pastrami, as a combo with chips (or fries) and soda ($8.63 with tax).

The sandwich, with mustard, pickles and provolone, came on an 8-inch roll, the pastrami flavorful, the roll crusty. Tasty. Great Grinders’ decor is standard sandwich shop, although the Seattle Mariners poster was an unexpected touch. The TV played “People’s Court,” where a plaintiff won a judgment of $1,250 against his lying ex-roommate. Justice prevailed.

A divider between two rows of tables is topped with a long row of ceramic figures of chefs, more than 50 in all. It’s a personal and unusual touch. Not a bad lunch spot.


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Restaurant of the Week: Tummy Stuffer

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Tummy Stuffer, 5530 Schaefer Ave. (at 12th St.), Chino

Feeling the need to boost my Chino restaurant totals, I went searching on Yelp for sandwich places in that city. When I found one with the colorful name Tummy Stuffer, my next lunch choice was obvious. I left my desk so fast my chair was probably gently spinning for a full minute afterward.

Its slogan is “101 Sandwiches!,” and it’s apparently connected to another location of the same name and slogan in Anaheim. The Chino location is in a strip center with automotive businesses, next door to a Korean church. The interior is short on charm, with acoustical tile ceiling, tile floor and fluorescent lighting, but I was there for a sandwich, and with 101, I had plenty of choices.

I went for a Korean BBQ, the 8-inch ($6.59) version (the 12-inch is $8). It’s marinated sliced beef on a french roll with lettuce, onion and pickles. I prefer the KBBQ at Corner Deli in Ontario, the crucial difference being Corner Deli’s slaw, but the Tummy Stuffer one was credible, not to mention edible, and the 8-inch, along with a basket of crinkle fries, was sufficient to stuff my tummy.

The sandwich isn’t even technically on the menu, which has various, numbered turkey, ham, roast beef, salami, tuna salad, bacon, club, vegetarian, egg salad, steak, meatball, sausage and pastrami sandwiches, as well as hamburgers, teriyaki bowls and a few salads. The menu lists 114 sandwiches. The KBBQ isn’t among them and neither was another on the specials board, a shrimp sub.

I guess the menu is stuffed too.

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Restaurant of the Week: New York Pizzeria

New York Pizzeria, 12431 Central Ave. (at the 60), Chino

You can’t find Chicago pizza in the Inland Valley, so far as I know, but people who like New York pizza have a handful of places to choose from. No spot is more established than New York Pizzeria, which opened in Chino in 1984.

After a recommendation from reader Ron Scott, I met a couple of friends there for lunch. Not much to look at from the outside, as it’s housed in a stucco cube on the outskirts of the Superior Market center just below the 60 Freeway, but New York Pizzeria becomes interesting the moment you step inside. There’s NYC photos, posters and memorabilia in the entryway, as well as a few seats from the original (1923-2006) Yankee Stadium, in which you can wait for takeout and think about Phil Rizzuto.

Closer to home, the arch-shaped windows into the kitchen for ordering remind me of Pizza Royale in Rancho Cucamonga. NYP has grinders, a few pastas and a couple of salads, but clearly the main event is the pizza. They make the dough fresh daily, make their own sauces, grate their own cheese and bake their pizzas in a stone oven.

We got two medium pizzas, one with sausage and mushroom, the other cheeseless with vegetables (accommodating the table’s wannabe vegan). This would have cost us $30, but they have a deal, two medium pizzas, two toppings each, for $19, so we went for it. (I had suggested we get a straight cheese pizza, but if the toppings are free…)

We liked the results. I appreciated the chunks of sausage and fresh mushrooms but thought the crust, which kept collapsing, was too thin to support two toppings. Still, it was a good pizza and my meat-eating friend thought so too. As for the cheeseless pizza, “the veggies were plentiful and fresh,” said the wannabe vegan. The meat-eating friend said agreeably, “It turned out not to be a mockery of what a pizza is supposed to be.” I’ll second that. The crust was thicker on the veggie pizza.

Although we gave the edge to San Biagio’s NY Pizza in Upland for its sauce, we¬†all said we’d be willing to return here. In fact, a couple of weeks later, I did, going there for a solo weekday lunch. You can get an 8-inch pizza with two toppings, a salad and a soda for $6.49. I did that but skipped the toppings because I wanted to try a straight cheese pizza. Pretty good, and the salad beats San Biagio’s.

The dining room at New York Pizzeria is wallpapered in youth sports plaques, and the day of our Saturday lunch several of the picnic-style tables were reserved for young players, who showed up in force, and hungry. Not a place for an intimate evening, but fun. Service was exceedingly friendly at this family-owned restaurant. Probably friendlier than you’d get in New York.

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Restaurant of the Week: Bento Box

Bento Box Japanese Grill, 12202 Central Ave. (at Philadelphia), Chino; also, 2910 S. Archibald Ave. (at Riverside), Ontario

Casting about for a local place to have ramen, friends and I found Bento Box, about whose ramen a Yelp diner raved (“Try the Ramen. Dear God, try the Ramen”). We met for dinner at the Chino location, on Central just above the 60, part of a shopping center with Goodwill and 99 Cents stores.

Not promising, perhaps, but Bento Box (its website is here) has an impressive modernist interior with parquet flooring, a gleaming bar, the requisite industrial ceiling and indie rock on the playlist: the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Hot Chip and Vampire Weekend among them. Definitely hip. It was a quiet night, the music was unobtrusive and the conversation flowed. There’s no sushi bar, which may also keep the noise level down; sushi comes out of the kitchen.

Despite the Yelp rave, the menu had only one ramen soup ($9), which one of our group ordered. Sticking with the theme behind the restaurant’s name, I got a bento box with sushi and sashimi ($12, pictured), and the third got a baked lobster roll ($12). We found the food average, the atmosphere notable. Thursdays, the day we visited, drinks are half-price with an entree. One of us got a raspberry mojito for $4 and liked it.

In short, this shouldn’t be your first choice for Japanese food, but if you’re in the area, it’s a comfortable, pleasant spot to hang out.

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Restaurant of the Week: Escabeche Grill

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Escabeche Grill, 5460 Philadelphia St. (at Central), Chino

I was in Chino, driving around looking for one Mexican restaurant and finding another. Escabeche is in the Chino Promenade center, with a movie theater, gym, thrift store and other shops. The sign looked new and snazzy so I figured it was as good a place as any for lunch.

The menu is Chipotle-like, an upscale take on bowls, burritos and tacos. Fillings are divided between “proteins” and “veggies.” The menu touts “healthy Mexican food.”

I ordered a taco trio with fish ($4.75) and sat down to wait. The dining room is surrounded by windows on three sides, for a lot of natural light. Seating is at solid tables with ornate iron pedestals and wooden chairs. The woman at the next table got a torta and the bun looked oversized and substantial.

My tacos arrived (on a pie plate, reminiscent of the pizza pans at Chipotle) and were delicious, with double tortillas made on the premises and grilled marinated fish. “Escabeche” is an acidic marinade, described online as being like the type in ceviche, and that fits the taste of my fish. The restaurant also has aguas frescas and a few bakery items.

Even though Escabeche Grill looks like a chain, it appears to be a single location, there in Chino for a year. It’s got potential. I’m glad I found it.

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Restaurant of the Week: Jollibee, Chino

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Jollibee, 4021 Grand Ave. (at Pipeline), Chino

The dominant fast-food chain in the Philippines, Jollibee has locations elsewhere in Southeast Asia and in the United States that are often beloved by Filipino immigrants who remember the food from childhood. Its only Inland Valley outlet is in Chino, a city that must be more exotic than we’d dreamed.

I drove down for lunch one recent Saturday and found Jollibee in the outdoor food court of Chino Spectrum Towne Center, by a Starbucks. The interior resembles a slightly louder Pinkberry, with orange molded-plastic chairs and white tables. One wall is filled by a photo mural of children’s faces.

The menu has Filipino takes on hamburgers, fried chicken and spaghetti. I ordered a combo with spaghetti and one piece of chicken with a soda ($6). The dark-meat chicken (the chain calls it ChickenJoy) came with a cup of gravy. The spaghetti had a sweet marinara sauce, a sliced-up hot dog and melted cheese on top.

I can’t say this was delicious, but the food and ambience were pleasantly odd. Interesting to see another culture’s slightly surreal version of American staples. I might go back sometime to try the YumBurger just to see what that’s all about. Service was cheerful but emphatic. Outdoors, there’s seating around a burbling fountain, relaxing on a warm afternoon.

This Jollibee also has a bakery, named Red Ribbon, that makes cakes and small snacks. The restaurant hosts children’s parties that feature an appearance by the Jollibee mascot, a smiling bee who wears — why not? — a blazer and a chef’s hat.

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Restaurant of the Week: Avocado House

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Avocado House, 11618 Central Ave. (at Francis), Chino; open Tuesday to Saturday 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.

An old house with a country feel on the northern tip of Chino was converted into a restaurant in February 2009. A couple of readers have recommended it, and I pass by it frequently, so on a recent Saturday a couple of friends and I met there for breakfast.

The property still has a couple of outbuildings, one of them a small house, plus an enormous avocado tree, a tree swing and a parking lot that’s not large enough for the restaurant’s popularity. They have seating on the wraparound porch and several tables in the homey interior, which has wood floors, a fireplace (with Christmas decorations on the mantle in our early December visit) and cupboards.

Very charming. I was a little surprised that ordering is done at a counter that fronts the kitchen rather than at your table, but the system must work for them. They bring the food out to you. Overall, service is competent but not quite as welcoming as you might think from the grandma’s-house setting.

The food, however, was quite good. My friends had the garden omelet and the meat lovers omelet (each $8.50), canceling each other out I guess, but each ending up impressed. One bought a gift certificate on the way out. I had the country breakfast ($8) with two eggs, diced potatoes, sausage and toast. Mine was what you’d expect, although the potatoes were notable. I don’t have any complaints, I just should’ve tested the kitchen with something more exotic.

My friends also got the avocado toast ($2.75), which is two slices of bread spread with a thick layer of avocado. They pronounced it delicious. I’ve never been an avocado fan, so I took their word for it. Pictured is the avocado toast and garden omelet.

Avocado House also does lunch. Some of the sandwiches and salads sound awfully tempting. Check the full menu here.

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Restaurant of the Week: Lee’s Sandwiches

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Lee’s Sandwiches, 3938 Grand Ave. (at Spectrum East), Chino

Lee’s is a San Jose-based chain specializing in banh mi, which are Vietnamese sandwiches. A Lee’s opened a few months ago in Chino, of all places, its first Inland Valley incursion. The shop is in the food court of the sprawling Chino Spectrum Marketplace shopping center on the north side of Grand.

I only knew Lee’s by its excellent reputation. I checked it out for a recent lunch. They have Asian and American sandwiches on 10-inch baguettes and European sandwiches on croissants. (Remember the French influence in Vietnam.) A neon sign in the window announces “Hot Baguettes Now,” akin to Krispy Kreme’s donuts sign.

I had the grilled pork banh mi, which comes on fresh-baked bread with pickled daikon and carrot, onion, jalapenos, cilantro and mayo. The price was an absurd $2.79. The mango smoothie I got to wash it down was $2.95, also a good deal.

There’s only a four-seat counter inside for dining in, but a large patio sufficed on a comfortable day. The sandwich was excellent, especially notable for the bread, and was filling, and the drink was good too.

Banh mi can be found at some Vietnamese restaurants locally, and I know of one banh mi shop, Super Sandwiches in Montclair. If there were a Lee’s closer to our Ontario office, I would eat there all the time.

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Restaurant of the Week: Taylor’s Cafe

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Taylor’s Cafe, 7049 Chino Ave. (at Euclid), Chino

Perhaps the Inland Valley’s only weigh station/steakhouse combo (unless Fleming’s in Victoria Gardens has added truck scales), Taylor’s is a delightful contradiction. The intersection itself shows Chino in transition: tidy tract homes on one corner, cows or fields on a couple of others, Taylor’s and a few semi-trucks on another.


Above: The sign on the entry door.

The window-free restaurant and bar is nothing fancy: a paneled bar with a bug zapper and an adjoining room with equally austere furnishings that include a vintage, but empty, cigarette machine. The cafe has been there for decades and caters to an oldtime Chino dairy crowd. It’s relaxed and informal.


I’ve been to Taylor’s a couple of times for breakfast, but I’d never had a steak. A friend who swears Taylor’s has the best ribeye around invited me out recently at lunchtime. We sat in the paneled bar, the TV news showing hopeful news about the oil spill, and had the ribeye lunch ($14) with salad, fries, French bread and slices of bleu cheese.

The steaks, medium rare, had a peppery tang and minimal fat, and were enormous, probably close to a pound each. Excellent for the price, and awfully good for any price.


They also have top sirloin for $10 and porterhouse for $16, plus burgers for $6. Cheeseburgers are also $6. Breakfast, served until 3 p.m., includes pancakes, eggs, huevos rancheros and Basque sausage. Some swear by the carne asada burritos.

I wrote a column on Taylor’s a couple of years ago; you can read that below. A long review on Yelp can be read here and a neat writeup with photos can be found here.
Continue reading

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Restaurant of the Week: Papachino’s

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Papachino’s Grill and Greens, 14501 Ramona Ave. (at Eucalyptus), Chino

Papachino’s is a locally owned restaurant in the Home Depot center in an industrial area a few blocks east of the 71 Freeway. The casual eatery opened in 2009 and offers salads and seafood items, all priced below $10. Orders are placed at the counter and food is brought to your table. You can eat in the vaguely tropical interior or outside on the expansive patio, which is shaded by large umbrellas.

I visited with three friends last weekend. Our table got two wraps, a salad and a fish plate. The veggie wrap ($5.49) had zucchini, bell peppers, sweet onions and asparagus (!); the shrimp wrap ($6.99) had the same plus shrimp. Each came with fries. The grilled chicken taco salad (price forgotten; it was the daily special, not on the menu) came in a tortilla bowl. I had the grilled mahi-mahi ($8.99), which came with rice pilaf and pineapple cole slaw.

All four of us left satisfied, to a person describing the food as tasty and the portions as filling but not enough to leave us stuffed. But we didn’t leave for a long time, opting to enjoy the warm afternoon on the patio.

I like the concept of a reasonably priced place to get seafood, most of it unfried. If I lived or worked closer to Papachino’s, I’d probably be there often. As it is, Papachino’s is a long haul for me, but I do hope to make it back. Yelpers say the fish and chips are especially good, and many other menu items looked enticing.

You can view the menu here.

* The New Diner visited a few days after we did and reports: “I would go back to Papachino’s any time.”

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