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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Restaurant of the Week: El Pescador

El Pescador Mexican Restaurant, 636 N. Euclid Ave. (at G), Ontario

There’s a chain of El Pescador restaurants around L.A., including two in Ontario, one of which is at Mountain and the 60 Freeway. I’ve only been to the one at the edge of downtown, on Euclid at G in a former Bob’s Big Boy.

But my two visits a decade or so ago, shortly after it opened, had not been followed up, even though my impression was positive. In fact, when the state librarian was in town a couple of years ago, I directed him there for dinner, and he responded later that he had liked it. In the neighborhood recently, looking for somewhere to eat, I decided to try El Pescador again.

It’s pretty nicely appointed, with a chandelier, Tiffany-style lamps, art, pottery in wall sconces and etched glass on the partitions between booths. There are probably few Mexican restaurants in Ontario, or the rest of the Inland Valley for that matter, in a setting quite this nice.

Chips and a bowl of chunky salsa were delivered to my table as I scanned the menu, banda music playing in the background. The menu has a lot of meat and seafood entrees. I went with a standby, camarones al mojo de aja ($17.50), or shrimp in garlic sauce.

The platter came with a small green salad, rice with vegetables (ugh, peas), beans with cheese, 13 shrimp, six tortillas and an orange slice. I can’t find anything wrong with the portion, but the food struck me as very average. El Pescador was better in my memory, or maybe my tastes have changed.

Still, this was only one meal, and you could do worse when downtown. And they make margaritas and have happy hour specials, so there’s that.

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Restaurant of the Week: Imperial Sushi

Imperial Sushi, 108 W. Holt Blvd. (at Euclid), Ontario; open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday, until 10 p.m. Friday to Sunday

Downtown Ontario now has a sushi restaurant — but not a Japanese restaurant. That’s because Imperial Sushi, reflecting the demographic, is Mexican-run and Mexican-focused. They have sushi, but also tacos.

I was skeptical, but when a friend proposed meeting there for lunch, I was willing. Imperial Sushi is a couple of storefronts west of the downtown epicenter of Holt and Euclid, in a former mariscos spot.

There’s no sushi bar, just a kitchen, plus booths in the fairly large dining room. To start, a server brought out a cup of tortilla chips and, for dipping, a cup of ceviche. Right off the bat, this was going to be a different experience.

The menu has sushi rolls (but no nigiri or sashimi), plus ceviche, fish tacos and cooked seafood dishes. Just to further mix up the cultures, one of the latter includes fettucine.

We got a spicy tuna roll ($10), a crunchy roll ($11) and a guamuchilito roll ($12), pictured in that order below.

Overall, this is the brownest sushi I’ve ever seen. These and all other rolls use cream cheese. The spicy tuna was close to a Japanese restaurant version, except for the spicy orange sauce squirted on it; the others appeared to have added crunch through deep-frying rather than using tempura.

There was no wasabi, although we were given a small carafe of what the server called salsa soya, or soy sauce.

At another table, a man was matter-of-factly shaking Tapatio sauce on his roll.

“For a Mexican place i’d say the sushi’s not bad,” my friend observed. “For a sushi place it’s … adequate.” We didn’t finish our rolls and I doubt I’ll be back.

Imperial Sushi would be easy to mock, but let me say something in its defense. Americans are notorious for adapting foreign cuisines to their taste. This includes Mexican food, Chinese food and Japanese food. In Japan, they do not eat California rolls, obviously, nor do they serve the kind of party rolls many Americans love.

So, Mexican-Americans have adapted Japanese food to their taste too. Good for them. Imperial Sushi isn’t to my liking, but it’s a fascinating cross-pollination of two cultures, and I wish them well.

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Restaurant of the Week: B & F Japanese

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B & F Japanese Restaurant, 3495 E. Concours St. (at Haven), Ontario; open for lunch and dinner weekdays, dinner only Saturdays and closed Sundays.

B & F is in a plaza off Fourth and Haven not far from our office, and a colleague had said something nice about it recently. When a friend who once lived in Japan wanted to meet for lunch, I suggested B & F.

The plaza is less visible than before due to the apartments that went up on the southwest corner — it used to be visible from Fourth — but then again, the center suddenly has a few hundred neighbors instead of an empty lot, and that’s gotta be good for business.

The restaurant is medium-sized, sushi bar off to the right, dining room to the left. We sat in the dining room. All the tables have heating elements on the top and range hoods overhead, and they seem like holdovers from a previous restaurant, as nothing on the menu looks like anything you would need to cook yourself, unless you decide your sushi is too raw.

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We got bento box lunches: sashimi and salmon teriyaki for him (top), nigiri sushi and garlic pork shogo yaki for me (above; $10 each). They came with small salads, fried tofu, a scoop of potato salad that was more like mashed potatoes, and orange segments, with a bowl of rice on the side and a bowl of miso soup to start.

What we had was acceptable, but nothing special, and it didn’t live up to the current four-star Yelp rating. The fish was sliced a little thin and wasn’t outstanding. That’s not to say something else on the menu might not be very good; people on Yelp rave about the amount of fish in the chirashi bowl.

The service was attentive and friendly. The restaurant doesn’t seem to be Japanese-run, which didn’t bother me or my friend, but might bother you. So, an okay spot, but unremarkable. You could get sushi just as good or maybe a little better down the street at Benihana.

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Restaurant of the Week: Yeast N’ Flour Pizza

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Yeast N’ Flour Pizza, 231 N. Euclid Ave. (at C), Ontario

I’d seen the sign on this downtown Ontario storefront for weeks and puzzled over the name, which was probably not tested with a focus group. Evidently the crust is made with nothing but yeast, flour and water. But I was curious about the place, downtown being light on restaurants. After my movie night at the library one evening, two friends suggested we try it out. One had been there twice and liked it.

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Yeast N’ Flour is a fast-fired pizzeria, but not a chain. They also have wings, subs and a couple of salads. Of course we went for the individual pizzas ($8.19). You can choose your crust (original, gluten-free), sauce (red, spicy red, white) and cheese (mozzarella, gorgonzola, parmesan, ovalini), and then can choose from an array of toppings.

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Employees all dress in referee-type uniforms. They make the pizza in front of you and then shove it in a gas oven. You pay and they bring it to your table in about five minutes.

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The interior has high ceilings and an industrial chic look. There are a few TVs, but not a lot. The walls are otherwise bare and the atmosphere doesn’t quite match the referee look.

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The pizza was very good. The crust was particularly fine, with a crispness and char that you get at real pizzerias but rarely at fast-fired places. I’m surprised myself to say that I liked this pizza better than Blaze and Pieology. I ate half and took the rest home.

The other newcomer liked his pie. He thought the interior was too stark and said the menu board is placed too high on the wall for comfort. The veteran said she’s glad to see a pizzeria downtown. She’s had the white sauce, which she said was ranch-y, and the spicy red, which is garlicky.

One further burst of nit-picking: the spelling. The menu has “gorgonzalo,” “oergano” and “pepperonie,” A promotional card at the register gave the location as “downtwon” Ontario. It wasn’t until writing this that I noticed my receipt, on which I’d scribbled notes, spells the restaurant as “Yeast N’ Falour.” I don’t know if this is inattention or a language difficulty, but it’s the sort of thing that erodes confidence that a business knows what it’s doing.

Which is too bad, because the pizza was good, and I intend to return. But I also intend to pronounce the name among friends as “fuh-lure.”

Update July 2016: I’ve gone back a couple of times, and not only is the food still good, they’ve got some actual decor in now. And the menu board has been replaced. It’s not perfect (“tomatoes sauce”), but it’s a vast improvement. The family, by the way, is Egyptian, and nice.

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Restaurant of the Week: Iron Skillet

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Iron Skillet, 805 N. Euclid Ave. (at H), Ontario; open daily, 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

One of Ontario’s most distinctive restaurants, the Iron Skillet dates to 1959 and was built in the Googie style, with a low-pitched roofline and expansive windows, not to mention an old-fashioned counter with swivel seats. Originally a Spires Squires, it’s been Iron Skillet, under various hands, since about 1980.

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After a period in the doldrums, it’s perked up in recent months under new owner. A reader advised me to give it another try, touting the freshly baked bread, pies and home-cooked food. So, after a long period away, I’ve gone in a couple of times for lunch.

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First visit I got a special, the BBQ brisket sandwich ($9), which was a mistake. I forgot that kind of sandwich is basically chipped beef. The fries were better than average, though.

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Next time I got the half-sandwich special ($11, I think), which came with two sides, from among a choice of soup, salad or pie. I got a tuna melt plus a Caesar salad and apple pie. (There were three flavors available.) It shouldn’t surprise anyone that I got pie, or that I opted for my baseline diner sandwich.

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This was a filling meal, and pretty good too: big salad, hearty sandwich even in a half-portion and, after a few minutes for everything to settle, a slice of pie. While the pie was along the lines of the type you get in a supermarket, i.e., not spectacular, it was pie in a diner, where the ambience improves the experience. I’m not sure why it was served with a spoon rather than a fork.

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Everything is homemade, including the pie and bread, my server told me. Breakfast is served all day, they’re open for dinner and, after 4:30 p.m., dinners come with ice cream on the house. Perhaps no other restaurant in Ontario can make that claim.

The menu has a variety of breakfast items, sandwiches and salads at lunch, and chicken, steak and seafood items for dinner (including, for those who find this appealing, liver and onions). Unexpected beverages include Italian sodas, Shirley Temple and Roy Rogers.

The Skillet is worth a fresh look if you like classic American diners. It’s nice to see them trying again.

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Update August 2016: I’ve gone back a few times, including twice for breakfast, getting the cinnamon french toast (oh, that home-baked bread) and hash and eggs, both superior. An early bird dinner (for me it was a late lunch) of prime rib wasn’t bad either, and if memory serves, around $10. And it came with ice cream.

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Restaurant of the Week: Hamburger Mary’s

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Hamburger Mary’s, 3550 Porsche Way (at Inland Empire), Ontario; open daily

The existence of a Hamburger Mary’s in Ontario may say something interesting about the Inland Empire market. The gay-friendly chain has locations in West Hollywood, San Francisco, where it started, and Long Beach — and, since August 2015, Ontario. (As well as a few other metro areas around the country.)

Ours is near the 10 Freeway off Inland Empire Boulevard, a little east of Haven and within hailing distance of Benihana. It’s a restaurant with a full bar and, most nights, drag shows or other entertainment. Like I said, it’s something relatively unusual in these parts.

Uninterested in drag shows or bars, I met a friend there for a sedate weekday lunch after a local restaurateur told me the burgers were amazing. The restaurant interior resembles a Marie Callender’s and was quiet for lunch, evidently not the case in the evenings.

It’s worth noting that upon our entrance, two employees by the greeter station continued their conversation without acknowledging us — we must have arrived at an inopportune time for them — but a server hustled over to seat us.

The menu has appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps and, naturally, burgers, which can be ordered as ground chuck, chicken, turkey, ahi tuna, salmon or black bean vegan. I got the Meaty Mushroom Burger ($13), my friend had the chipotle chicken wrap ($10).

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The wrap (grilled chicken, mixed greens, cheddar jack cheese, black beans, avocado and dressing), with a side of cole slaw, was deemed acceptable. “It’s hard to get excited about a chicken wrap,” my friend admitted.

My burger (half-pound ground chuck, grilled mushrooms, cheddar and jack, lettuce and tomato) was very good, and a little messy. The bun didn’t seem firm enough; after cutting the sandwich in half, I had to eat each half fairly quickly to hold it together. The seasoned fries as my side were above average.

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Mary’s has a bar island in the middle, a few sofas besides all the booths and tables, and kitschy decor that includes photos of Marilyn and Audrey Hepburn, posters from “Casablanca” and “Attack of the 50-Foot Woman,” stuff like that. The bill arrived in a high-heeled shoe. Heh.

Hamburger Mary’s was all right, and it’s got arguably the best burger in Ontario (but not the Inland Valley). It’s not really my kind of place, I don’t think, but it might be yours.

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