Restaurant of the Week: The Habit

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The Habit Burger Grill, 1608 Foothill Blvd. (at Chelsea), La Verne

The Habit opened recently in a standalone building in front of the remodeled Vons center near Wheeler and was busy pretty much from day one. There are two dozen Habits, which began in Goleta in 1969, but the nearest one is in Glendale.

The operation seems perched between Fuddruckers and In-N-Out with its emphasis on fresh, quality ingredients and its somewhat stylish interior. On Saturday, when I visited, the lunchtime line stretched to the door. The menu has charbroiled burgers, some tasty-sounding sandwiches including chicken, tri-tip and albacore tuna, and salads.

I got the No. 1 Char combo ($5.95), a single burger, fries and soda, and took a seat on the patio. My number was called on the loudspeaker in a few minutes. The fries were pretty good and the burger even better, charred to perfection and served on a toasted sesame seed bun with lettuce, tomato, mayo, pickle and, a nice touch, caramelized onions.

The staff was friendly, just like at In N Out. They’ll come take your tray or offer to fetch a soda refill.

The patio is the stroke of genius. Rather than an afterthought with one or two tables, theirs has 12, and the tables and chairs are wood, not molded plastic. Saturday was uncommonly warm, as it’s been all week. I sat outside in short sleeves for the first time in weeks, reading the centennial issue of Westways with its pieces on two SoCal icons, ’30s artist Maynard Dixon and writer Carey McWilliams, soaking up the weather and feeling mighty fine about living in Southern California.

This could become a habit.

* Update, February 2014: And indeed it has. I still eat at the Habit now and then. I should probably try more items on the menu, but the burgers and fries are really good.

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Restaurant of the Week: Red Devil Pizza

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Red Devil Pizza, 1465 Foothill Blvd. (at Wheeler), La Verne

Red Devil is in the CVS Center near the old Vons, placing it across the street from the new Vons. Opened in 1973, Red Devil is a longtime La Verne favorite.

The interior is nicer than expected, with vintage-style Italian posters and such decorating the walls. Also, a “GoodFellas” poster autographed by Henry Hill. Although there’s a counter for takeout orders and paying, they have waitress service. A couple of gents near me were chowing down silently on large bowls of pasta.

Pasta dinners range from spaghetti ($9) to seafood linguine ($17); they also have sandwiches, beer and bottled wine up to $25. And, of course, pizza. I got one of the $8.50 lunch specials, a mini pizza with one topping (mushrooms) and a salad and soda or beer (iced tea, in my case).

The salad was iceberg but it was large, almost entree-sized, with cheese, olives and tomatoes. Not bad. The pizza was also large at 10 inches (2 inches larger than most mini pizzas), chewy and tasty. I took home three of the eight slices. It was a good deal for the price.

La Verne’s a good pizza town. Still gotta go back to Sal’s for a Sal’s Special, as some of you recommended.

*Update, August 2014: I returned to Red Devil so I could update this 2008 post with photos. Actually, I returned twice; the first time, a Monday night, the place was packed, so I left. I came back for lunch on a Sunday and the place was much quieter. I got a small Joey’s Special ($10.50), which has sausage, bacon, pepperoni, ham, mushrooms, onions and bell peppers. Pretty good pizza, light on the sauce, generous with the toppings, a medium-weight crust. Service was attentive. They also have 16 pastas on the menu, from $9 to $17.

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Restaurant of the Week: Sal’s Pizza and Bagelry

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Sal’s Pizza and The Bagelry, 2095 Foothill Blvd. (at D), La Verne

I’ve passed this combo restaurant on Foothill at D Street probably hundreds of times, but for whatever reason it never occurred to me until a couple of weeks ago that I ought to actually eat there sometime.

I had been inside once. Circa 1998, for a feature story, a photographer and I spent a day driving around the Inland Valley to check out banks that had been converted into other commercial uses. I don’t have access to that story, but the La Verne building had been some sort of a bank — anyone remember which one? — and the main entrance was then The Bagelry. Sometime in the past few years, Sal’s Pizza was added.

(The sign out front advertises the building’s two less-visible businesses, Taco Factory and Juice Stop. Because of the strange spacing, I always read the sign in jest as Taco Juice/Factory Stop.)

Anyway. The restaurant seats 87, plus another 20 or so on the patio, so it’s quite large. It’s pleasant enough, tiled everywhere. A lot of restaurants would envy the generous patio. Speaking of generous, the sprawling menu has bagels, bagel sandwiches, salads, sandwiches on fresh-baked bread, pizza and pasta, and there’s an espresso bar.

I had the Route 66, a sandwich of turkey, swiss, tomato, onion and pickle, and got it on a plain bagel, toasted ($5.95-ish), and an iced tea ($2-ish). I didn’t expect great things, and didn’t receive them, but the sandwich was acceptable. There were several customers, including a young guy on a laptop at the espresso bar and an older couple in a booth, each reading a paperback as they ate silently.

Anyone tried the pizza?

* Update, March 2014: I came back for the pizza: the Sal’s Special (small $14.45), which has sausage, bacon, green and red peppers, pepperoni, onions and mushrooms. The thing was a beast: the toppings generous, the crust bready but crisp on the bottom. The large chunks of sausage were especially notable. I ate half and got two light meals out of the other half. Sal’s would not be my go-to pizzeria, but I would go back. (By the way, Taco Factory and Juice Stop are both gone.)

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Restaurant of the Week: The Tenderloin

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The Tenderloin, 2080 Foothill Blvd. (at B), La Verne

In an L-shaped shopping center, the Tenderloin, at the northern end, is easily visible to motorists on Foothill. I’ve seen it for years and wondered if it was a bar, a restaurant or what. The unfortunate connotation with San Francisco’s seedy Tenderloin District made me wonder about the place.

As it happens, it’s a steakhouse. I dropped in for lunch Saturday.

The interior is decorated in Old West style, with several large paintings of Western scenes, and Tiffany-style light fixtures. The lighting is on the dim side. The menu prices are on the moderate side.

I had a steak sandwich with fries ($10.79) plus a side salad. The sandwich came with grilled onions, lettuce and tomatoes, on sourdough bread. It was messy but pretty good. The fries and salad were OK.

Service was indifferent. My waitress wore a quilted winter coat over her uniform. Management ought to turn up the thermostat. She also left me without utensils or napkins, which I had to fetch from another table.

The Tenderloin attracts an older crowd. A father had three young boys at the booth next to mine, but everyone else was in their 50s or older. On the other side of me, a couple in their 70s may have run out of things to say to each other. They read paperbacks silently during their lunch.

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