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.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

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.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurant of the Week: B & F Japanese

bf1

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.

bf3

bf4

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.

bf2

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurant of the Week: Yeast N’ Flour Pizza

yeast1

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.

yeast2

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.

yeast3

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.

yeast4

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.

yeast5

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.

yeast6

yeast7

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurant of the Week: Iron Skillet

ironskillet1

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.

ironskillet2

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.

ironskillet3

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.

ironskillet4

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.

ironskillet5

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.

ironskillet6

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.

ironskillet7

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.

ironskillet10

ironskillet8

ironskillet9

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurant of the Week: Hamburger Mary’s

hambmary1

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).

hambmary2

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.

hambmary3

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.

hambmary4

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurant of the Week: Mar y Tierra

mar1

Mar y Tierra, 826 W. Mission Blvd. (at San Antonio), Ontario; also 1754 S. Euclid, Ontario

There’s a Mar y Tierra on Euclid near Chino that I pass now and then, and which a friend recommended years ago. Or was he praising the Mar y Tierra on Mission, only a couple of miles away, which I discovered via Google when searching for the address to the one I knew?

Either way, I made plans with a friend to meet up, and at the one on Mission, as its blue paint scheme and more expansive size made it look more like the one to visit. It’s got an interesting layout: You walk in past a large covered entry to find yourself almost in the kitchen; a few tables are nearby, and then there’s an L-shaped seating area technically outdoors but almost entirely enclosed.

mar3

According to the sign, this is Mar y Tierra No. 1. And for the record, Mar y Tierra translates as “Sea and Land” and is the equivalent of surf ‘n turf. The menu is heavy on seafood — shrimp, oysters, octopus, lobster — while also offering tacos, burritos, soups, breakfasts and combination plates, many with meat. The menu’s cover depicts a mermaid on a desert island.

I ordered the house special, pulpo, or octopus, “Mar y Tierra style” ($13); asked if I’d like shrimp as well, I said sure. My friend, who apparently has an eye for bargains, had the ceviche de tiritas de pescado ($5.50).

mar4

Mine came with shrimp and chopped octopus in a spicy sauce, plated with rice, beans and salad, tortillas on the side. It was a little spicy for my tastes, which is more a reflection on me than the dish, but was otherwise good. The ceviche was very good, lots of lemon, and with tostadas for dipping.

mar5

The Euclid location is smaller and entirely enclosed. “I like the vibe of this one,” my friend said approvingly of the Mission location. Me too.

mar2

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurant of the Week: Maple House

maple1

Maple House Chicken and Waffles, 1520 N. Mountain Ave. (at 6th), Ontario

Chicken and waffles are hard to come by in the 909; I think there used to be a Roscoe’s in San Bernardino, but other than that, the only place I’m aware of is an obscure Pomona restaurant, Day Day’s, which isn’t open for dinner. But now there’s a spot in Ontario.

Maple House opened in March in what had been Sal and Sons Pizza, right off the 10 in the Gateway Center, near Starbucks and a cupcake shop. One of Sal’s sons is still involved, and the interior looks largely the same. But service is now at your table rather than at the counter and the menu, needless to say, is entirely different. (There’s also a patio with umbrellas.)

Have you had chicken and waffles? I have, a couple of times, at the Roscoe’s in Pasadena. The chicken and the waffle are usually plated separately, if you’re curious, and can be eaten separately, with the waffle more of a side dish, or eaten together. They do pair surprisingly well.

A friend and I tried Maple House for dinner recently. They serve several kinds of waffles (with such toppings as bananas, strawberries, pecans and Nutella) and various pieces of chicken, all cooked to order; they also serve omelets, salads, desserts — peach cobbler and sweet potato pie — and beer and wine. Sides include yams, mac and cheese, turkey greens and more. And my friend got a grape Kool-Aid. So it’s a soul food restaurant, and the background music included James Brown, but they’re not quite all-in.

The chicken and waffle dinners came with two sides, which seemed like too much food, so my friend and I ordered a la carte: a waffle each ($4) with a breast for me ($4.35) and a leg ($2.50) and wing ($2.25) for him. We each found that a filling meal.

The chicken coating was crunchy, with excellent texture, and the chicken itself came off the bone easily and tasted great; my friend declared it “awesome,” and as chicken is his favorite meal, that says a lot. The waffles were Belgian, puffier than Roscoe’s, and had powdered sugar too. Roscoe’s is a tradition, the food’s very good and the energy and vibe part of the experience; Maple House doesn’t have that, but the food is arguably just as good, and depending on where you live, it’s probably closer.

Each table, by the way, has a small sign advising that the food is cooked to order and that the chicken “can take up to a minimum of 30 minutes to prepare.” Isn’t “up to a minimum” contradictory? Mixed messages aside, our food came out in about 20 minutes during a slow period. Be prepared to wait a bit, but it’s worth it.

I’m not a guy who wants to order chicken and/or waffles very often, but it’s cool to have a local place, and one with good hours: from 9 a.m. daily, closing at 8 on Sundays, 9 on Mondays to Thursdays and 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

maple3

maple2

Update February 2016: Wanting to try more sides, I returned for dinner when hungry, getting a dinner plate with a waffle, chicken breast and two sides: greens and grits ($15). It was hard to get it all into one photo, but I did a better job than above. Excellent meal, and every item was top-notch. Too much food for me to try a dessert.

maple4

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurant of the Week: Olive Grill

olivegrill1

Olive Grill, 320 S. Milliken Ave. (at Airport), Ontario; open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday; closed Saturdays and Sundays

I hadn’t remembered hearing of Olive Grill until it made a listicle of 10 notable Ontario eateries on The Culture Trip’s website. It made me feel out of it. Isn’t it my job to know these things? The reader who sent me the list made a reconnaissance mission and said the place was fantastic. I’ve since made a couple of visits myself.

Getting there for most people will involve taking the 10, getting off at Milliken and heading south through the truck-choked intersection near the Travel Centers of America truck stops and under the relatively new train overpass. Once past that, Olive Grill is on the west side in an industrial park between Airport and Brickell.

Don’t let all that deter you. Olive Grill is colorful and cheery, if fast-paced on a lunch hour. They have breakfast burritos, hot and cold sandwiches, salads, burgers, teriyaki, yakisoba and smoothies.

On my first visit I got the Korean BBQ sandwich ($8, pictured below), curious how it would compare to the version at the nearby Corner Deli. It’s marinated beef with grilled onions and mushrooms, mozzarella, soy, garlic, pickled red ginger and garlic aioli.

It’s quite a rendition: less drippy than the one at Corner Deli, less meat, more flavors. Call it a draw. And you get a small salad, two orange wedges and a thin apple slice. I added a bag of chips and regretted it as the meal turned out to be filling as it was.

Next visit I tried the Edo charbroiled chicken sandwich ($8, pictured at bottom), with teriyaki chicken, Asian slaw (cabbage, green onions, carrots), mozzarella, pickled red ginger and garlic aioli, and again coming with the sides. (Having wised up, I didn’t get chips.) Another very good sandwich, unusual, tasty and satisfying.

I arrived moments before 1 p.m. and the dining room was mostly full, with a half-dozen people standing up waiting for to-go orders. By 1:05, half the people had left.

Why it’s called Olive Grill, which suggests Greek food, I don’t know — there may not be an olive in any of the dishes — but under any name, this Asian-owned mom and pop shop is well worth repeat visits.

olivegrill3

olivegrill4

olivegrill5

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurant of the Week: Panda Inn

panda1

Panda Inn, 3223 E. Centrelake Drive (at Guasti), Ontario

Panda Inn, an outpost of the small Pasadena-based chain that also owns Panda Express, opened in 1992 in Ontario in what was then the hinterlands. But we had an airport. The location, only yards from the 10 Freeway, was renovated in 2013, the subject of one of my columns. I’ve dined at this Panda several times over the years with groups of friends. I had dinner there last month with a friend and figured I might as well memorialize it here.

Panda is a little more modern inside now. They knocked down a wall to the bar, making it more accessible, and it has more TVs. And the dining rooms are more stylish and colorful with elements like decorative bird cages.

The menus are updated too, although I don’t remember enough about the old menus to gauge how much it’s changed. Panda is still Americanized, as perhaps you must be to fill an enormous restaurant in Ontario, and orange chicken, sweet and sour pork, and fried egg rolls remain on the menu.

But they do a good job. My friend got kon pao chicken ($14), pork fried rice ($10) and braised string beans ($7.75). A creature of habit, she orders those same dishes at any Chinese restaurant she visits. She likes Panda’s versions best, though. I got steamed pork dumplings ($6.25) and wok-fried scallops on a bed of spinach ($19.25). Pretty good.

All the food came out quickly, except my dumplings, which arrived 10 minutes after everything else.

The waiter was exceptionally friendly. Celebrating mutual March birthdays, we got birthday ice cream and a song from three servers. And of course, Panda’s signature foil-wrapped fortune cookies dipped in white chocolate.

Overall, it was a pleasant meal in nice surroundings. Leaving our dining room for the men’s room, my way was momentarily blocked by a party of four taking a selfie. “The arches,” one explained apologetically. Ah, yes, the arches: The long hallway got five arches as part of the renovation, and it does make for a neat, almost science fictional sight.

panda2

panda3

panda4

panda5

panda7

panda6

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email