Restaurant of the Week: Chapala Restaurant

Chapala Restaurant, Bar and Grill, 1542 W. Holt Blvd. (at Benson), Ontario; open daily, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., except Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

You could date your longevity here by whether you know the low, long building at Benson and Holt as Last Round, or Las Playas, or Antonio’s, the latter of which occupied the corner for a few decades until the mid-’00s. The latest restaurant and bar is Chapala.

I learned of its existence from a rare mention of an Inland Valley restaurant in the Times food section’s news briefs column. The paragraph cited Chapala’s ceviche towers, tortas ahogadas, birria de res and handmade tortillas, plus mariachis on Friday and Saturday. To be clear, the Times didn’t visit; the mention was merely a rehash of a news release.

Still, I was impressed by the savvy of a local restaurant able to insert itself into the Times. So when a small group wanted lunch in Ontario, I chose Chapala. It’s named for a city in the Mexican state of Jalisco by a lake, accounting for the restaurant’s lighthouse logo.

The building has two halves, a restaurant side and a bar side. We checked out both and both were empty at 1 p.m. on a Thursday, perhaps not the best sign. We were seated in the bar area. I counted nine TVs, so it’s probably a fun place to unwind after work and watch sports.

Two had shrimp tacos ($2 each), said to be “all right” but served on cold tortillas. Handmade, but cold. Someone else got carne asada tacos ($1.55 each), which he said were “good.”

I had a chicharron torta ($6.75), decent but unexceptional.

The asada guy also got a shrimp cocktail ($13). He said the shrimp had been frozen and thawed in the cup, which might have accounted for the watery cocktail sauce.

Perhaps we came at the wrong time and ordered all the wrong things. But for what we experienced, Chapala was disappointing. On the bright side, we weren’t disturbed by the conversation of other diners.

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Restaurant of the Week: Omni Deli

Omni Deli, 402 S. Milliken Ave. (at Brickell), Ontario; open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday, closed weekends

Located south of the 10 Freeway in a business park, Omni Deli opened in April. It’s open weekdays only, gearing itself toward nearby businesses, there being no residences nearby. A friend heard about it and suggested we meet up for lunch.

The area doesn’t have much ambiance; the business next door is named Cheap Fingerprints. But the deli is clean and new. Its walls are decorated with┬áB&W photos of generic people enjoying themselves generically, so bland as to be comical.

Omni sells 13 sandwiches, eight kinds of burgers, seven salads, five kinds of pizza, plus breakfast burritos and a half-dozen random entrees, among them hot dogs, buffalo wings, baked zitti and poke bowls. They’re eager to please.

A half-sub is $6, a large is $9. We got half-sandwiches. Above, the Godfather, with roast beef, mozzarella, garlic butter spread, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles and pepperocini on a roll. He liked the Boar’s Head meat and the toasted roll.

Meanwhile, I had the Italian, with capicola, salami, mortadella, provolone, lettuce, onions, tomatoes and pickles. It was a good sandwich on a soft roll.

If you’re in a certain radius of Omni Deli and like deli sandwiches, you might want to give it a try. And they’re friendly: The woman behind the counter went table to table and offered free ice pops. Like I said, eager to please.

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Restaurant of the Week: Golden Corral

Golden Corral, 1640 E. 4th St. (at Baker), Ontario (also at 2037 Rancho Valley Drive, Pomona); open 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday and 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday

(It’s schedules like the above, by the way, that make me regret my policy of typing out restaurants’ business hours.)

Buffets’ heyday might seem to have come and gone, with the late, and lame, HomeTown Buffet driving the final limp celery stalk into any remaining interest. But along comes Golden Corral, the North Carolina-based chain that has made a big entry into California.

I was only mildly curious about Golden Corral. I’m not a buffet guy. But a week ago, three members of our newsroom, which was practically the entire newsroom, were all going to the Ontario location for lunch and invited me to join them. Why not? I knew I’d never go on my own.

When you enter, you get your tray and your self-serve drink before you pay, which probably cuts down on cheating from those who would claim they would only get a water while later secretly filling up on soda, and plenty of it. Lunch is $13, with drinks extra. I actually did get water. A server stopped by our table a couple of times to offer refills, since you can’t get them yourself, so be prepared to tip a dollar or two.

There’s oceans of seating, and a weekday lunch does not seem to be the busy time. I’ll bet weekends are a different story. There are five areas for food: Greenhouse (salads and fruit), Smokehouse (Southern/BBQ), Hacienda (Mexican), Grillhouse (chicken and fish) and Brass Bell Bakery (dessert).

One colleague went all-Southern (see above), which she called a Southern potluck: fried catfish, hush puppies, popcorn shrimp, fried okra, mashed potatoes with sausage gravy, fried chicken, “Bourbon St. chicken,” pot roast and a roll. She liked it and singled out the popcorn shrimp for being more shrimp than batter.

My first plate, above, was, to go clockwise from left, toasted ravioli, pulled pork, fried shrimp, hush puppy, fried fish, Bourbon St. chicken, collard greens and rice. Not bad.

Another colleague had fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn and green beans. Taking after the “Southern potluck” diner, he declared: “My course is Sunday afternoon at Aunt Bea’s house.”

He said his strategy is to try to get seven courses, but not seven plates, represented. The fourth in our group said he looks at buffets as a competition: “Oh, David got the clam chowder. I need to get that.”

It’s hard to photograph a buffet, especially when you’re 1) trying to be subtle about it and 2) not trying that hard to begin with. But here’s one view.

The dessert area included a chocolate fountain, soft serve ice cream, hand-scooped ice cream (which the staff serves), cookies and brownies. I had a chocolate pudding, which was pretty good.

Overall, my friends were satisfied. The competitor did his best to keep up and, sated, spent the afternoon struggling to stay awake. Golden Corral is all right for what it is. As a non-buffet guy, it’s hard for me to imagine going back. It wasn’t that good. But it’s definitely of better quality than HomeTown. If you’re a buffet guy or gal, you might like it.

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Restaurant of the Week: D Grill Boy

D Grill Boy, 4323 Mills Circle (at Concours), Ontario; 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily

Formerly a Lollicup, this small eatery has a new name. Not a great name, but a new name, since June, with new owners to match. A friend and I checked it out recently for lunch.

D Grill Boy is an unassuming place, mod and with communal tables. The menu is mostly hibachi-style grilled entrees — chicken, steak, shrimp, salmon, lamb or chicken katsu — with rice and vegetables. You won’t get a floor show from the chefs, like at Benihana, but you’ll also pay a lot less.

There’s also yakisoba dishes (stir-fry noodles with chicken, shrimp or steak), which are Japanese, and loco moco (rice, gravy, eggs, with sausage or Spam), which is Hawaiian. Additionally, they make tea drinks, milk tea, slushies, smoothies and salted cheese teas.

I had steak and chicken ($11.59) with — why not? — one of the salted cheese drinks, a matcha green tea with cheese foam ($5.29). My friend went one better by getting steak, chicken and shrimp ($14.59), with an upgrade to fried rice ($1.50), plus a watermelon slush ($4).

He pointed out something about the steak and chicken that I was beginning to notice myself: They tasted, essentially, the same. Had I closed my eyes, I might not have been able to tell the difference. As a non-cook, I couldn’t tell you why they would taste the same, but maybe were both overdone. “The shrimp was the best — by far,” my friend concluded.

Our drinks were OK. (I didn’t like mine $5.29 worth, but I liked it.) You might be better off getting a beverage here than food: There are many more options, including 16 slushies and 15 smoothies.

Overall, the food might be comparable to WaBa Grill — but unlike WaBa, you can get boba. And maybe that’s enough.

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Restaurant of the Week: Nano’s Deli

Nano’s Deli, 2250 S. Archibald Ave. (at Philadelphia), Ontario; open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday

I rarely get down to South Archibald because from where I work, the airport is in the way. But two friends on two straight days (hi, David; hi, Nancy) told me about Nano’s Deli, which opened in May. So a few days later I invited a friend to meet me there.

Even though the Bulletin’s office is on Archibald, I had to head east to Haven, then head west on Philadelphia. At least that was the plan; by the time I got to Philadelphia, I forgot about heading west and hunted in vain for the restaurant. Realizing my error, I hopped on the 60 and got off at Archibald; the deli is in the first block above the freeway.

Nano’s turns out to be next to Alina’s, a Lebanese restaurant featured here in 2010. I liked it but haven’t been back just because of the logistics. Nice to see it’s still around.

It’s clean inside, if a little bare. Nano’s was doing good business with customers who probably work at nearby industrial and business parks.

You can build your own sandwich from a wide variety of meats, including eight types of turkey, six types of bread and nine kinds of cheese. They use Boar’s Head meats and cheese. There’s also some specialty sandwiches, hot and cold, and three salads. Basically, it’s virtually all sandwiches — plus an impressive variety of potato chips.

We got two of the cold specialty sandwiches: the submarine and the Nano’s 2 Meats, as combos with chips and drink ($12 each).

The sub had mortadella, hot cappicola,, pepperoni, salami and provolone; the two-meat had Cajun turkey (a little spicy), roast beef and American cheese, which, perhaps unpatriotically, we swapped out for Swiss.

They were generous with the fillings. (That’s the Italian in front, the two meat in the back.) While we thought our sandwiches were fine, we were not wowed. Even with Cajun turkey, they were a little bland or generic. I felt like I should like the food better than I did.

By the way, on our way out I noticed a separate rack of potato chips on the opposite wall. This is like a Mecca of chips.

The New Diner 2 blog praised Nano’s vegetarian sandwich ($7), noting the fresh veggies and two slices of cheese.

So, if you’re in the area or live or work around the 60, give them a try and see what you think. I’ll stick with my north of ONT sandwich shops — although I do want to go back to Alina’s.

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Restaurant of the Week: Carnitas al Estilo Michoacan

Carnitas al Estilo Michoacan, 818 S. Mountain Ave. (at Mission), Ontario; open daily

Ontario doesn’t show up as often in these Restaurant of the Week posts as some cities. So when a friend suggested meeting at a carnitas specialist in south Ontario, I was all for it. Carnitas al Estilo Michoacan is in the shopping plaza on the southwest corner of Mountain and Mission.

You order at the counter, by a steam table of meats. Here’s the menu; click for a larger view. As befits the restaurant’s name, it’s pork-intensive: pork, stomach, skin and the carnitas mix, pork with brains.

But they also have beef. My friend got the two-taco combo: one pork, one birria, which is stewed beef, with rice and beans (about $9, below); I got the same, except both birria. This wasn’t on purpose. I can get a little tongue-tied at unfamiliar and ethnic restaurants.

Their tacos are large and meaty; I ate about half the beef with a fork before picking up the remainder. We both thought the tacos were quite good. She bought a bag of housemade pork rinds for her parents.

A couple of weeks later, I returned for two carnitas tacos, again as a plate. Couldn’t very well write about Carnitas al Estilo Michoacan without trying the carnitas. It was tender and flavorful.

Next door there’s a La Michoacana Ice Cream shop in case you’d like to continue the theme and maybe cool off the spicy salsa.

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Restaurant of the Week: Gloria’s

Gloria’s Cocina Mexicana, 401 N. Euclid Ave. (at D), Ontario; open daily, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and to 9 p.m. Sunday

The 1938 Ontario Laundry building, later Blue Seal Laundry, was cleverly designed by architect Peter Ficker with a tower resembling a washing machine spinner. The building has been a series of Mexican restaurants for two or three decades, but now a Downey restaurant has poured money into transforming the place, which opened in mid-August as Gloria’s.
There’s a tile entry, a patio along Euclid, a mural against the flower shop next door, and a beautiful, tasteful interior with dining rooms and a bar. With its cream walls, dark wood and trellis features, it’s one of the nicer restaurant interiors in the valley.

The food, however, is less impressive. I had a lunch of enchiladas suizas ($14) with rice and beans, which was okay but nothing great.

Back with a friend for lunch two weeks later, I got a chicken burrito ($8), plus red sauce (as the server described it) for $1. The burrito was a little bland, but all right, and the red sauce was, unusually and unpleasantly, like tomato paste. A real disappointment. My friend got the two taco combo ($7), one asada and one carnitas. He said the asada was good and the carnitas dry, but overall he liked them.

Service was friendly and attentive both visits.

In sum, Gloria’s is a good addition, and the improvement to a major corner and a historic building is a boost for downtown. I wish the food were as exciting as the surroundings.

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Restaurant of the Week: Beola’s Southern Cuisine

Beola’s Southern Cuisine, 1845 E. Holt Blvd. (at Vineyard), Ontario; open weekdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sundays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

In mid-2016 Beola’s took over this modern but somewhat obscure space near a Starbucks and previously occupied by Italian and Indian restaurants, if memory serves. The restaurant is said to have a connection to Maple House, which is a few miles west and focuses on chicken and waffles, but this one has a broader menu.

I’d been meaning to try out Beola’s for a while, but, well, you know how it goes. A friend and I were looking for a lunch spot and Beola’s came to my mind. The interior was pleasant in a kind of business-lunch way and has a bar.

We were seated and examined the menu, the same at lunch as at dinner. Entrees range from $10 to $25 and were a mix: a sandwich, fried seafood, gumbo and oxtails, plus $5 sides like greens, yams. At $19 to $24, the gumbo was a little more than we wanted to pay. So he got the shrimp and grits ($14) and I had smothered chicken over rice ($12).

Our socks weren’t knocked off, but the food was fine. From my standpoint, there was something slightly disappointing about the experience. I like Maple House and felt like Beola’s was a half-step below due to the pricing and the scattered menu choices, I think.

The service was friendly, as you would expect of a Southern-style restaurant, even though the server was working alone and juggling a few tables. Unusually, a point of sale device was brought to our table to ring up the bill and show us the change we would be owed.

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Restaurant of the Week: Cream

Cream, 960 Ontario Mills Drive (at Rochester), Ontario; open daily, noon to 11 p.m. (midnight Fridays and Saturdays)

Cream is said to be an acronym for Cookies Rule Everything Around Me; the first opened in Berkeley in 2010. One came to the Ontario Mills area in 2016, sharing space in a building with a Noodle World Jr. across Rochester from the Edwards 22.

I had meant to try it at the time but forgot the whole thing until Tuesday, when I met a friend for lunch at Rubio’s (which has a new name, Rubio’s Coastal Grill, and new menu since the last time I ate at one; it’s an improvement, btw) and parked facing Cream. Walking back to my car on a hot afternoon, I decided to hit up Cream before going back to the office.

They have two dozen ice cream flavors and more than a dozen cookies (menu is on the website), with the concept being that while you can get one or the other, you really ought to make your own ice cream sandwich. In real life, the cookies are less blurry than in my photo.

I paired peanut butter twist ice cream with two peanut butter cookies ($4). There’s the option of adding toppings to the sandwich, like chocolate sauce or Nutella, many of them as a drizzle, for another 75 cents, but that sounded messy for eating by hand, so I skipped that step.

The server first warmed the cookies for me — mmmm — and the sandwich made for a nice mid-afternoon treat.

You can get your ice cream in a cone, or get your sandwich with brownies rather than cookies. Also worth noting, it’s vegan-friendly, with two soy ice cream flavors (blueberry and mint chocolate chip) and three vegan cookies, as well as three gluten-free cookies.

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Restaurant of the Week: The Chocolate Bar

The Chocolate Bar, 1520 N. Mountain Ave. (at Sixth), Ontario; open daily, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

A dessert shop, The Chocolate Bar, opened in March in Ontario’s Gateway Center, the one just below the 10 Freeway at Mountain. I recognized the location immediately as a former comic book store, New Age Comics (RIP), that I had patronized. I guess it’s still full of pricey indulgences.

It sells parfaits, cannoli, mousse, cheesecake, gelato, sorbet and more. A friend and I met up there at his recommendation; he’d been there multiple times. We were going to have lunch, but sandwiches have been taken off the menu until after the grand opening, the server explained. So we ate at Chopsticks Wok in the same center, then returned for dessert.

(I thought I’d written about Chopsticks Wok, formerly Chopsticks House, and didn’t take photos of our lunch. Come to find out I never did. Well, it gets a mild recommendation for its decent, standard Chinese food.)

Chocolate Bar is a cavernous space, very long, with a faux brick wall, a communal table, a long sofa and more. Plenty of room to hang out or mill around, or maybe to walk off a few calories.

The server gave us free samples of macarons. I’m not a devotee, but theirs seemed like a good version.

I got a small gelato ($4) with two flavors, dulce de leche and banana dulce de leche, side by side. Very creamy, very rich, and the banana is like the basic dulce de leche, plus banana, and what’s not to like about that?

My friend got a small sorbet ($4) with two flavors, coconut and blood orange. He discerned real coconut and called his dish “refreshing.”

Incidentally, gelato flavors included two types of pistachio, one of which has chunks of pistachio, for the purists.

The Chocolate Bar seems like a nice addition to the dessert landscape (mmm, dessert landscape). I wonder a little about the name, having seen an unrelated Chocolate Bar at Hollywood and Vine last weekend, and with a search for Chocolate Bar turning up a chain with four U.S. locations chosen seemingly at random, plus one in Kuwait.

But perhaps the name will stick, just like chocolate to your fingertips.

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