Restaurant of the Week: El Patron II, La Verne

El Patron II, 1524 Foothill Blvd. (at Wheeler), La Verne; open daily except Monday

A reader told me a year ago to try out El Patron II. This led me to find El Patron (I) in Rancho Cucamonga, which is a couple of miles from our office and has become a favorite. Once I arranged to meet a friend at El Patron II for lunch and, of all the luck, we picked the day it’s closed.

But on a night last month, craving Mexican food, I remembered El Patron II and went there for dinner.

It’s a storefront in the Vons center. Like RC, it’s sitdown, although they were doing a lot of takeout, and the menu looked about the same. I’d describe the food as homestyle Mexican cooking: nothing fancy, but good versions of the staples, with an emphasis more on plates than on simply a la carte items, although they have those too. And they fresh-fry their hard tacos, which are worth trying.

I got the chile verde plate ($10), which I hadn’t had before. What came were impressive hunk of tender pork in a slightly spicy green sauce, with rice, refried beans  and corn (or flour) tortillas. Delicious, and I took some home. And yes, there were complimentary fresh chips and salsa.

Another thing similar to RC: the exceedingly attentive and helpful service. It must be a thing they emphasize, and it’s appreciated. They don’t rush you, they check on you a few times and when I asked for a to-go box, the server also refilled my iced tea.

It’s nice to have an El Patron not far from where I live and another one not far from where I work. You may not be so lucky.

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Restaurant of the Week: Tamsui River

Tamsui River Taiwanese Cuisine, 2855 Foothill Blvd. (at Fulton), La Verne; open daily, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Tamsui River is on the old Person Ford site in La Verne, now apartments with some restaurants and retail facing Foothill Boulevard. The restaurant has gotten high marks, but I hadn’t been there until just before Christmas, when a Chinese food-lovin’ friend was in town and I suggested we try it out.

The L-shaped dining room is moderately sized, with an area separated by glass for a larger party. We were seated in a booth and examined the expansive menu of more than 100 items: soups, dumplings, noodles, seafood, etc.

We got sauteed lamb with scallions ($14, above), smoked duck noodle ($11) and pork soup dumplings ($9).

The lamb, similar to the cumin lamb that I’ve had elsewhere, was my favorite. We liked the XLB dumplings (below), even if they wouldn’t make me forget Din Tai Fung’s. We were surprised that smoked duck noodle came as a soup (bottom), since it wasn’t listed under soups, but there was nothing wrong with it.

The menu didn’t have photos of any dishes, so the names weren’t always a great help for two non-experts. And a few of the names were both puzzling and amusing, like “modeling dessert.”

Kidding aside, we liked the food. I wouldn’t say it’s San Gabriel Valley level, but for local Chinese, it’s in the upper ranks. As a foodie acquaintance who was leaving said as he passed our table, “This is a good place.”

Also, you know a Chinese restaurant is authentic when the menu isn’t online and they can’t be bothered to even have a Facebook page.

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Restaurant of the Week: Pizza ‘N Stuff

Pizza ‘N Stuff, 1532 Foothill Blvd. (at Wheeler), La Verne; open daily

I was meeting a friend for lunch at the Vons center a few weeks ago, with a Mexican restaurant our destination. But then it turned out to be closed that day. So we went next door to Pizza ‘N Stuff instead.

I’d been there a couple of times, but it had been a few years, and might even have been before this blog started. In other words, having a chance to write about Pizza ‘N Stuff was a good fallback.

It’s been in business since 1977 — 40 years! — and under the same owners since 1982 — 35 years! Congratulations to them. Their menu has pizza, hot and cold sandwiches, salads and an array of pasta dishes. Don’t confuse them with Claremont’s similarly named Pizza n’ Such, although it’s easy to do.

That lunch, I got a mini pizza with one topping (anchovies) and salad ($8.35). The pizza was cheesy, not bad, but not distinctive. My friend had an Italian beef sandwich ($6.35) plus a side salad ($4). He said the salad was “overdressed and overcheesed,” but he did like the sandwich, even if he’s had better.

I felt like going back to try the pasta and made a point of going in for dinner one evening. I got the linguini with white clam sauce, a la carte with garlic bread ($12.75); as a dinner ($14.65) you would get soup or salad plus a dish of ice cream, but that was more than I wanted. The dish was generous with the clams and tasty.

The seating is interesting. There are tables and booths that get a lot of natural light from the windows, but then there’s a warren of high-backed wooden booths that are fairly intimate, with dimmer lighting. Service was friendly on both visits, and the man at the cash register, probably one of the owners, had a nice touch with everyone, newcomers and longtime customers alike.

While I can’t say I was wowed by Pizza ‘N Stuff, it’s low-key and family-owned, I liked it well enough, and they’re obviously doing something right.

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Restaurant of the Week: Nancy’s Pizza


Nancy’s Pizza, 2855 Foothill Blvd. (at Falcon), La Verne

As a native of Illinois, although not of Chicago, I’ve had Chicago-style deep dish pizza a few times in my life, mostly in the Midwest. Only a couple of times have I had it in California that I recall: once at a Pizzeria (or maybe Numero) Uno outlet in San Francisco, and once three years ago in Placentia. It’s pretty rare out here.

But a few months ago, a Nancy’s opened in La Verne in the mixed-use La Verne Village center on Foothill that used to be the site of Person Ford. I’d never heard of Nancy’s, but they’re based in Chicago, and they claim to have invented the stuffed pizza in 1971.

Evidently, deep dish was invented in the ’40s or ’50s, and the stuffed pizza claimants are Nancy’s and Giordano’s, in the ’70s, the difference being “deeper topping density,” according to Wikipedia.

I delayed visiting in part because I wasn’t sure Nancy’s was legit, and also because going out solo for deep dish pizza is an undertaking, like scaling Everest.


Finally I dropped in for lunch on a recent weekend. There’s a visit to Chicago in my near future and I had to get in shape. Unless you’re ordering to go, you take a seat.

The menu has salads, sandwiches, pasta, cannoli and pizza in several varieties, including thin crust and pan pizza.

The waitress explained that the stuffed pizza — the one described as 2 1/2 inches tall — is the traditional Chicago style with the toppings inside. (More to the point, as I read later, under the top layer of sauce it’s got a thin layer of crust, besides the bottom layer, which is why it’s described as stuffed.) So I got one of those, a small Rocco’s party pizza, with sausage, mushrooms, onions and green peppers ($23).

It arrived after about 20 minutes, fairly speedy for pizza this thick.


If you haven’t had Chicago-style pizza before, you might think, $23 for a small? But take a look at the photo, with the parmesan dispenser included for perspective. The pizza is almost as tall as the dispenser.


I was hungry and could eat only two slices. The rest was taken home and consumed over two meals. This was pretty good pizza, perhaps not as good as Tony’s in Placentia but with the crisp, buttery crust and high edges that fans love. I would go back.

Update July 2016: And I have. Having run out of time to get an Italian beef sandwich in Chicago, I got one in La Verne. Oh, that garlic bread. This was an excellent sandwich. Also tried the meatball sub, another winner.



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Restaurant of the Week: Corner Butcher Shop


Corner Butcher Shop, 2359 Foothill Blvd. (at Fruit), La Verne

It was January 2008 that a standalone butcher opened in a shopping center in La Verne, and while brothers John and Will Feuling’s business may have seemed a bold and even risky proposition to some of us, Corner Butcher Shop has thrived despite opening amid the recession.

I don’t cook, as must be sadly obvious from these weekly posts, but besides selling meat to take home to grill, fry or broil, they serve food in-house: sandwiches, steak and barbecue. Over the years I’ve had hot dogs and burgers, and at one point, after they added barbecue, I had ribs that in my memory were okay but nothing special.

I returned recently for lunch and learned they’d just celebrated eight years in business, and good for them. I eyed the menu and got the brisket as a plate, with two sides and a piece of cornbread ($13), plus a bottled soda, then took a seat at one of the heavy oak communal tables.


What arrived was a plate with a heap of brisket, tender and delicious. I can’t say it’s the best brisket I’ve had, but then, I’ve been to Franklin in Austin and Pappy’s in St. Louis, two of the best brisket makers in the country. But this was the best brisket I’ve had locally, which is still impressive. The slightly spicy pasta salad and the cole slaw were both fine versions as well. I would definitely order this again.

Corner Butcher sells grass-fed beef, makes its own sausages, buys only hormone- and additive-free meat and sells Shelton’s turkeys, so they set a high standard for themselves. They also sell craft beer (Dale Brothers, Claremont Craft Ales) and wine, and they cater. Sandwiches and entrees range from $6 to $18. The steak dinners are $40, and while I probably won’t be spending that kind of money anytime soon, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn they’re worth every penny.


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Restaurant of the Week: Wahfles


Wahfles, 1502 Foothill Blvd. (at Wheeler), La Verne; also 5751 N. Pine Ave. (at Butterfield), Chino Hills

My colleague Pete Marshall alerted me to the existence of Wahfles, a dessert and coffee house in La Verne, which opened in February. It turns out the original opened a year ago in Chino Hills. It’s a mom-and-pop. One recent morning I ventured to the La Verne location, which is in the Vons center, for breakfast.

Well, it’s not really a breakfast spot. (It’s no Waffle House.) They have some lunch waffle sandwiches and dessert waffles. Other than a coffee bar, the only thing that works for breakfast is one waffle. I had that: the Breakfast Sammy ($4.45), with ham, Swiss, fried egg, mayo and honey mustard. It was cut in half and could be eaten like a sandwich. And was. Very good.

I liked the vibe of the place: dark wood tables, rugs, some leather chairs, a sofa, a coffee table, magazines to read and locally produced art on the walls. So I returned one afternoon for a dessert waffle, the kind that make up the rest of the menu.

Mine had speculoos (described as “cookie butter” — what’s not to like?), bananas, ice cream, whipped cream and cinnamon sugar ($4.45 for a half, $5.95 for a full; I got the half). Delicious. Rather than get a fancy beverage, I cheaped out with a free water from a dispenser on the counter.

Wahfles (there’s an umlaut over the “a,” incidentally) is a neat addition to the area. Their website has a menu.






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Restaurant of the Week: Pizza Barn


Pizza Barn, 2021 Foothill Blvd. (at D), La Verne; open daily

It’s not in a barn, unfortunately — how cool would that be? — but rather in an older, oak-shaded strip center. I’ve seen Pizza Barn for years, especially as a regular at Taste of Asia in the same building, and remember a positive New Diner review of the place, but I had never stepped inside until one recent Monday evening. There is only one window and the door is wood, so you don’t really know what you’re stepping into.

Well, it is kind of barn-like inside: The ceiling is exposed and peaked. It’s also kind of bar-like: There’s a bar, a small one, with maybe nine beers on tap, and posters for Miller and Coors. They also have small tables and one long table for communal dining or large groups.

You order at the counter. I got a small sausage and mushroom pizza ($10) and a Coke from a very personable employee and took a seat. The Home Run Derby contest was on the TV. A few guys were seated at the bar, a small group at the big table and a few other patrons scattered around, and a couple of people came in for to-go orders. For that night, at least, it was basically a middle-aged crowd.

Besides pizza, the menu has calzones and stromboli, hot and cold sandwiches (including one called Mario’s Ultimate, which sounds like a Dagwood, a little of everything), a few pastas and salads, burgers, wings, and fish and chips. (Yes, fish and chips.) They serve all you can eat spaghetti on Wednesdays for $4 and tacos (yes, tacos) on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

My pizza had generous toppings, lots of cheese and a thick and crispy crust. The slices were dense and chewy. I ate half and took the other half home; when ordering, I’d thought about getting a 12-inch medium to ensure I had leftovers, but that didn’t prove to be an issue even with a 10-inch small. It was what I would call a good bar pizza.

The decor is as eclectic as the menu. I saw sports trophies, a shelf of kerosene lamps, a couple of random framed pieces of art, a Lotto machine, video games, paneling and ceiling fans. Pizza Barn probably hasn’t been remodeled since it opened in 1992, nor should it be. It’s got character.



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Restaurant of the Week: Pappas Artisanal Sandwiches


Pappas Artisanal Sandwiches, 2232 D St. (at Second), La Verne; brunch only on Sundays.

Taking over the former Dillons BBQ and Phoenix Garden spot, Pappas opened in early 2013 in downtown La Verne. I heard good things and checked it out recently with two avowed fans. I was not disappointed.

The interior is brick, open and loft-like, with seating that includes high wooden communal tables. Nice ambience. You order at the counter. The menu, which changes frequently, has sandwiches, burgers, salads, soups and pastas, plus eight beers on tap, more in bottles, and wines, as well as housemade iced teas, cookies and other neat items.

I had the al pastor as a “potato nest,” meaning on crisp potatoes rather than on their housebaked bread ($9.25) and a mint cucumber tea ($2.50). My friends got a tuna melt ($8.45), a burger with egg and bacon ($12) and an ice cream sandwich ($4.75).

The al pastor itself was good, but the nest didn’t work: too many potatoes, not enough vegetables. Could be I should have mixed it. Lesson learned. I wish I’d noticed the tuna melt on that day’s menu, which my friend loved; careful readers may recall tuna melts as my baseline sandwich. The burger and ice cream sandwich were said to be very good. Oh, and I enjoyed an oatmeal cookie with white chocolate and cranberries ($1.50).

I returned another day for lunch, ordering the half-sandwich/soup combo ($8.50): an albacore sandwich, fresh and delicious, and creamy jalapeno chicken soup, like cream of chicken soup with a mild kick. Really good.

Might be a touch pricey for University of La Verne students, but the faculty are among those who’ve adopted Pappas. “It’s very urban. It doesn’t make me feel like I’m in the suburbs,” one friend said approvingly. I’d put it in a rare class of local restaurants where they care about quality, seasonal ingredients.



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Restaurant of the Week: Bowl of Heaven


Bowl of Heaven, 2087 Foothill Blvd. (at D), La Verne; closed Sundays.

Starting with the name, Bowl of Heaven may present a couple of problems: namely, what do they serve, and if you dare step inside, will employees be wearing robes and attempt to ply you with “literature”?

Actually, I knew from having seen coupons that Bowl of Heaven makes acai bowls (a so-called superfruit berry) and smoothies, but it wasn’t until commenter DebB recently gave it a rave here, and I realized the bowls might make a good breakfast (they open at 9 a.m. and stay open until 9 p.m.), that I decided to give it a try.

It’s next to Sal’s Pizza and the interior is Hawaiian-themed. I got a regular Dan’s Peanut Butter ($7), a blend of acai, banana, strawberries and something called “Maq 7 fruit blend,” plus peanut butter and almond milk. It’s topped with granola, banana and honey. I’d seen this on the menu online and knew that’s what I wanted.

Essentially, it’s a smoothie in a bowl, evidently made with vegan yogurt. It was really tasty, and filling. As I sat at a table reading my newspapers, other customers entered, and almost all of them got the Peanut Butter. Must be a popular choice. Everything is gluten-, soy- and dairy-free.

So, I’m a little skeptical of the possibly exaggerated benefits of acai, and seeing “nutrition, weight loss, energy” on the front of the menu is kind of a turnoff. I feel like I’m signing up for a movement or program of some sort. And $7 is more than I want to pay for a breakfast that doesn’t involve bacon.

That said, I may pay it again, because I liked what I had and, even though there’s no nutritional information on the menu, the offerings would seem to be low-fat and full of fruit and protein, all good things. Also, for the record, none of the employees wore robes.


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Restaurant of the Week: Cafe X20

Cafe X20, 2445 Foothill Blvd. (at Town Center Drive), La Verne

Even a makeover by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay couldn’t save Charlie’s Italian Bistro, which closed earlier this year. Cafe X20, its replacement, opened in November and looked inviting from the street, not just the Mediterranean cuisine and hip name but the active patio and open flames visible from the street at night. Curious, I met a couple of friends there for dinner last week.

X20 has hot and cold appetizers, salads, sandwiches and entrees, $9 to $24. It’s a casual dining take on Lebanese food. We shared the hummus special with diced lamb ($7) and the soujok boreg ($6), a fried shell with sausage and cheese inside, both of which we really liked. Individually we ordered a lule kabob sandwich, which is spiced ground beef ($8), marinated cod and wild salmon ($15 each), which were pan cooked with olive oil, lemon juice and garlic and served with rice and vegetables. We liked all those too, with my salmon being the winner. (A picture is below; sorry the lighting is so poor.)

Service was exceptionally friendly. The name, rather than being something off the periodic table, is shorthand for “hugs and kisses,” the owners said in an interview. They have a bar and, out on the patio, hookah smoking after 9 p.m. X20 is open until midnight six days per week and is closed Mondays.

“I would come here again,” the sandwich eater said. “I should have gotten the lamb,” the cod eater mused. I may have to return for the lamb myself. All in all, this is the best local meal I’ve had in weeks. They didn’t even need Gordon Ramsay’s help.

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