Restaurant of the Week: McKinley’s Grille

McKinley’s Grille, 601 W. McKinley Drive (at White), Pomona; open daily 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

McKinley’s is the restaurant in the Sheraton Fairplex hotel at the Pomona fairgrounds. I’d been there a couple of times for fair-related lunches, and a few times more for service club lunches. Once I met Jon Provost and his wife for an interview over iced teas. But it had not occurred to me to go there for a Restaurant of the Week.

That is, until reader Ken Haerr contacted me to rave about the place. “If you haven’t already reviewed McKinley’s Grille at the Fairplex Sheraton, you must. There is a 5-acre farm to table plot at the LA County Fairgrounds that is dedicated to this restaurant,” Haerr wrote. “There is no reason that this restaurant should not be packed during off-event hotel times. My wife and I ate here tonight in an empty restaurant and the food was utterly spectacular.”

After Haerr’s email I was looking for an excuse to try out McKinley’s when a colleague’s farewell dinner was scheduled there. Bingo.

McKinley’s has a long main dining room with a bar, plus a private room, which is where our dinner was. The decor is all earth tones, comfortable but a little dull. But it’s swankier than a hotel coffee shop, that’s for sure.

The dinner menu has starters, salads, sandwiches and entrees, the latter ranging from $12 to $32. I opted against circling the table to photograph everyone’s food, especially since most people got sandwiches.

But the friend to my right had the Szechuan stir-fry ($12) with chicken ($6). She said the vegetables were fresh and likely from Fairplex’s farm and that the sauce had a pleasant kick to it. She took home half.

Meanwhile, yours truly splurged on the seared rare yellowfin tuna ($28), crusted with yuzu miso and served atop wild rice pilaf with wasabi cream and farm vegetables. This was a winner, light and delicious.

Our dearly departed was given a free dessert, a scoop of vanilla ice cream with berries. I don’t know if it’s on the menu as such, but it was enjoyed by the table. I didn’t poll the table, as I would at a lunch or dinner that was primarily about the food rather than a farewell, but everyone seemed to like what they ordered.

The restaurant also serves breakfast and lunch (the $16 burgers are made with ground brisket and short rib), with a mid-afternoon break in service, and has a wine list.

McKinley’s exists primarily for hotel guests and to provide catering for community group events on the premises, and thus perhaps doesn’t live or die by attracting regular folks in for meals. But I can see why the reader was excited about it, because the food is superior, the atmosphere serene and, at least on that Thursday, there was plenty of elbow room.

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Restaurant of the Week: Cross Court Cafe

Cross Court Cafe, 3410 Pomona Blvd. (at Temple), Pomona; open daily, 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Pomona is home to many wonders, among them the San Gabriel Valley Badminton Club, which contains the Cross Court Cafe, a rare spot for Indonesian food. I wouldn’t have known any of this if LA Weekly, of all places, hadn’t written a restaurant review about it that was forwarded to me by a reader.

Looking for a place to meet a Chino Hills friend (everyone should have a Chino Hills friend), I picked the cafe near Cal Poly Pomona. Once through the doors, non-members have to be buzzed in — just say “restaurant” or “cafe” — and the cafe is down the hall. It’s an unprepossessing place, a few tables embossed with the club log, a paper menu taped to the wall and an order window. The couple who runs the cafe will probably be found seated in the dining area but will scurry to assist you.

Indonesian fried rice is the item to get ($7.50), a melange of sausage, pork and fried egg in a crispy rice with bits of garlic, shrimp paste and fish sauce. This was hearty and very tasty. We also had stir fry noodle ($6), not bad, and steamed egg custard buns ($3), a dessert we liked. I had a taro smoothie ($4) and she had a passion fruit green tea ($2.25).

Three weeks later, I had to be at Cal Poly for an interview about its mariachi ensembles and used that as an excuse to go back to Cross Court Cafe. This time I had pad see ew ($8), or maybe an Indonesian dish similar to pad see ew — it wasn’t clear and it wasn’t on the menu. That was good too, and I got a milk tea with boba ($2.75). But if I return, it will be for the Indonesian fried rice.

The cafe seems to be open much of the day and into the evening, except for a break in the afternoon. I was there past closing without realizing it and the cafe owner let me out.

It’s possible, I think, to rent a court as a non-member, but we didn’t try. It was fun to watch people play for a few moments who know what they’re doing.

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Restaurant of the Week: El Buen Gusto

El Buen Gusto, 360 N. Park Ave. (at Center), Pomona; open daily, 10:15 a.m. to 7 p.m.; cash only; second location at 990 E. Holt (at Reservoir)

Reader Helen Uceda recommended El Buen Gusto to me possibly three years ago (ulp), seconded by a friend of mine, and the restaurant was dutifully added to my list of places to try around the region. Time passed, as it does, until recently I scanned the list and I made a point of finding the restaurant, which I didn’t believe I had ever noticed despite it being on the fringes of downtown Pomona.

But there it was when I looked for it, in a nondescript building alongside a barber and a botanica with its own tarot reader. I parked around the corner and stepped inside for a late lunch.

Even after 3 p.m., there were a few customers inside the modest restaurant. You order in the lobby at the window, where they also dispense takeout orders. I asked the employee, who might have been an owner, what people ordered, and she listed a few items — pupusas, fajitas and beef soup are the ones I recall — while saying the pork, cheese and bean pupusas were the most popular.

I got two of those — they’re known as revueltas — and a guanabana agua fresca. She said I could pay upon leaving.

There are two small adjoining dining rooms, probably evidence the restaurant has expanded into the next door space. An El Salvador flag is displayed in one window. A Spanish-language program played silently on a TV. After a while my food was delivered: a plate of two thick, pancake-like pupusas, plus a bowl of a vinegary slaw to use as topping.

I’ve had pupusas a handful of times. These might be my favorite, stuffed, delicious and filling. The guanabana drink was sweet but light, a good combination.

The bill: $8. That’s hard to beat.

El Buen Gusto may not be much to look at, but the food is good and the staff polite. I should have tried them three years ago.

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Restaurant of the Week: Pomona Valley Mining Company

Pomona Valley Mining Co., 1777 Gillette Road (at Dudley), Pomona; 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4:30 to 9 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday

Perched atop a hillside above the 10 Freeway, Pomona Valley Mining Co. is a destination restaurant with a theme. At the bottom of the hill, a sign on a weathered-looking shack points you in the right direction.

That requires a heart-stopping drive up the hill, one that it might be possible to get used to, but which freaks me out the handful of times I’ve done it. (Too bad I don’t still have that F-150.) Once up there, though, you’re rewarded with views of Pomona, the freeway and Elephant Hill. A seat near the bank of windows is a must.

The exterior is meant to resemble a Gold Rush-era wooden building, and wagons, lanterns and other such items decorate the drive up, the parking lot and the interior. The dining room is down a flight of stairs.

I was there for dinner recently with bloggers Dining in Pomona (and wife Mrs. C) and New Diner 2. It was a blogging summit meeting. As with most summit meetings, progress was incremental and deals were elusive. The only photo ops were of food.

I had had dinner at the Mining Co. precisely once and remember only that my cheapskate friends were irate that they were charged for soda refills, which I believe were taken off the bill. At noontime it’s a rental facility and I’ve been to a couple of service club lunches there.

The menu is largely steaks, prime rib and seafood. Two of our party got the shrimp and scallops ($26), one got the ribeye ($32) and I got the Miner’s Filly filet mignon ($34). Salad and soup bar is free with a meal or $18 on its own; you get a chilled plate that resembles a mining pan, except you’re panning for veggies, not gold. I had a little of the albondigas soup, which had (ugh) peas.

Cheese bread was delivered gratis (and au gratin). What’s not to like?

The seafood crowd was perplexed that their shrimp and scallops came in a cream sauce rather than a garlic sauce. (The menu says they’re “sauteed with garlic butter,” after all.)

The ribeye eater was put out by its preparation; it should be cooked “hot and fast,” leaving a char on the outside, she said. Also, her lemonade ($3.50) was never refilled. But then, maybe they don’t do free refills? Still, they should ask if she wanted another. She said that’s typically the way women are treated when outnumbered by men at a table, but noted ominously, “I have just as much influence on the tip.”

I may have been the only satisfied customer, enjoying my splurge steak with herb butter and mushrooms. Overall, though, the salad and soup were unexciting, the service average to indifferent and the mining theme a little dated. Here are the takes of Dining in Pomona and New Diner 2.

So, as a holdover from the era of theme restaurants — it appears to have opened circa 1977 — Pomona Valley Mining Co. is an interesting curio. The food’s okay. But if you go, it will probably be more for the views.

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Restaurant of the Week: Big D’s Burgers

Big D’s Burgers, 135 E. 2nd St. (at Garey), Pomona; open daily, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

For a brief spell the three main restaurants in a two-block stretch of 2nd Street were hamburger parlors, which was kind of a drag. Big D’s, which has a location in Whittier, was the latest, joining Burger House and the Rookery. But Burger House has closed, leaving a more manageable two burger specialists.

I hadn’t been to Big D’s due to the overkill factor, and because I like the Rookery, but with the path clearer, two friends and I gave it a shot recently at lunchtime.

It’s the first business on the east side of Garey and in recent years has cycled through a crab restaurant, a sushi restaurant and two pizza restaurants. As before, it’s got exposed brick walls, a high ceiling and a deep layout, with patio seating at the sidewalk.

In recent years it’s been a party spot rather than a serious restaurant, catering to the club and concert crowd, and nothing wrong with that. I’m always up for a good burger.

I got the shroom burger ($11) with Swiss and fries ($2), someone else got the patty melt ($11), which comes on parmesan sourdough, and the third got a chicken caesar salad ($9). None of us were blown away, but our food was fine, and the server was nice. My expectations were low, and they were exceeded.

Besides 10 burgers, the menu has four salads, fish and chips, a couple of sandwiches and a hot dog. Oh, and unless my eyes deceived me, you can get a $12 milkshake. Has anyone had one? At that price, I hope it’s sharing size.

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Restaurant of the Week: Los Jarritos

Los Jarritos, 3191 N. Garey Ave. (at Foothill), Pomona; open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. except Sundays, until 2 p.m.

For years this restaurant was known as Los Jarritos II, because the original Los Jarritos was on Towne Avenue near downtown. But that one closed a year or so ago, it seems, turning the more-popular II into simply Los Jarritos. Probably as it should be. I never went to LJ I but have been to II several times over the years. It’s in the Grove Center south of Foothill Boulevard.

It’s a well-liked spot, busy with takeout orders and with full service in the two dining rooms, where tables are neatly arranged in rows on the tiled floors, lots of natural light flooding in through the floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides. They sell menudo on weekends, filling pots that people bring in from home. Los Jarritos isn’t fancy, but on the other hand it’s in better shape than a lot of restaurants in aging shopping centers.

I was there for lunch this week with John Clifford, a frequent commenter on this blog, who has been blogging at Eating Garey for the past year as he hits every food establishment on that thoroughfare. His wife, Deborah, tagged along. He blogged about our lunch the next day, a post that can be read here.

Los Jarritos has a short menu, consisting mostly of burritos, although they’ll make you tacos, enchiladas or breakfast (where burritos again seem to be the main event). Asada, shredded beef, chorizo and machaca are the main fillings. I went with chicken, Deb got asada and John got a chile relleno and enchilada plate. (I’m not sure of the prices as Deb grabbed the check while I was interviewing John for an upcoming column, bless her heart, but the burritos were around $7 each and the total came to $35 with drinks.)

John found his rice pleasantly garlicky, his beans creamy and his entree very good, other than his chicken enchilada being on the dry side. Deb liked her burrito and side of beans. John and I were unexcited by the liquid salsa, although Deb was all praise. My burrito was a little dry, as chicken tends to be. I recall liking earlier meals more, probably asada and shredded beef burritos, if memory serves. It had been five or six years since my last visit.

Service was acceptable, and it was interesting to see the ebb and flow in the two hours we spent eating and blabbing: Plenty busy upon our 1 p.m. arrival, nearly empty by 2 and, around 2:30, half full again as a new wave of customers drifted in.

Los Jarritos, now the one and only, is hanging in there as a solid neighborhood choice in north Pomona.

Update: A couple of you in the comments urged me to get a chile verde burrito, enchilada style with green sauce. So I went back and did so (see below). It’s not on the menu, but chile verde is, and they didn’t bat an eye. It was really good, and I recommend it.

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Restaurant of the Week: Taqueria El Sol


Taqueria El Sol, 2129 N. Towne Ave. (at La Verne), Pomona; open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

I’ve passed Taqueria El Sol for years; it’s on Towne Avenue a couple of blocks north of the 10 Freeway, and I had wondered if it was any good without ever stopping to investigate. But then someone recommended it, and when a Pomona pal wanted lunch, I chose it.


It’s small, and fast-food style, but homey; the owner came to our table (we were waiting for a third person who never showed) to chat, and I asked if they had specialties. They do: al pastor, which is marinated pork, and pork leg.


So my friend got al pastor tacos ($8 as a plate) and I got a pork leg torta ($7). We were both satisfied. “That was really good!” my friend exclaimed. “I would come back here.” Me too. I liked my sandwich and the vibe of the place, and it’s even freeway-close.


The salsa is too potent for me, but the presentation was nice, with paddles no less, and a side of radishes and limes. The menu is simple, with $6.25 breakfasts and $7.79 plates. It’s family run, open since 2003 and with Guadalajara-style food. To answer my original mused question, yes, it is good.


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Restaurant of the Week: Mi Cafecito


Mi Cafecito, 101 S. Main St. (at First), Pomona; 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily

A coffeehouse with a Latin twist, Mi Cafecito is the first independent coffee shop in downtown Pomona in some years. It’s in the former VFW building, renovated and carved into storefronts and offices, by the railroad tracks.

I met a Pomona friend there on a Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago. It’s a small place on the corner, with floor to ceiling windows on both sides, letting in lots of light, and the interior is cheery.


The menu has espresso and coffee drinks, most available hot, iced or frozen, all 16 ounces, with such flavors as cajeta, caramelo and hazelnut, plus brewed coffee and pour-overs. They also sell some bakery items, including flan, cookies, dessert empanadas and cakes, made by a bakery owned by the owner’s father.

My friend had a frozen coconut latte with almond milk ($6) and I got an iced horchata latte ($5.45). We took one of the small tables and on this warm afternoon caught up over our cold drinks.

She called hers “yummy,” said she’d be back (she has) and hoped Mi Cafecito would succeed despite its corner location a block above Second Street.


Since then it’s become a near-weekly stop for me. I’ve ordered something different each time. I’ve had two iced lattes — tres leches (made with three milks: regular, condensed and evaporated) and coconut — and four frozen lattes: mocha Mexicano, churro (!), masapan and vanilla. The latter three are my favorites. Tres leches, pictured above, was a little sweet for my taste, but that’s personal. I tried an apple empanada ($1.50), which I liked, on the same visit. The churro latte is below.


The staff I’ve dealt with are exceptionally nice and remember my name, and on my fourth visit even recalled the three previous drinks I’d ordered. On one visit they had cafe de olla, which they don’t always make, and gave me a small cup. (They have no idea I have a blog or anything; they just recognized me as a regular and gave some away near closing time.) That was actually among my favorite drinks too, and I’m not a hot coffee person.

Mi Cafecito seems to have caught on. It’s got a five-star rating on Yelp, and on my visits, a heartening range of customers walk in, from chipsters to middle-aged couples to families with small children or grandchildren. Hours have increased, another good sign: They recently added an extra hour in the evenings and two hours more on weekend mornings, although they’re still closed Mondays. * Update: it’s now open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.


A bookish friend doesn’t like the stark, modernist seating, all stools with high-top tables, and it’s true too that the tables are so small it’s hard to get more than two drinks (if you’re with someone) or a drink and a laptop on them; on one visit I put my dessert plate on a nearby chair.

But they’re trying to make good use of a small-ish space, and they are. Warm regards to them. Also, you can watch trains go by, which is kind of cool.


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Restaurant of the Week: Lily’s Tacos, Pomona


Lily’s Tacos, 919 N. Garey Ave. (at Kingsley), Pomona

When last we left Lily’s Tacos, operating from a former Orange Julius stand since 1992, the shopping center it was in was being renovated and the stand, then on the edge of a construction zone, was due to be demolished.

Lily’s moved earlier this year to an indoor location below the 10 Freeway. There’s also a second location, in the La Verne Village center, at 2855 Foothill Blvd. The La Verne restaurant appears almost genteel. Even the Pomona restaurant is a big step up from the picnic-style seating of the original.


It’s in a brown, stuccoed building next to Flower Lane Florists, with parking in back or on the street. You order at the counter from the limited menu of tacos, burritos and combination plates. I got an al pastor burrito (about $5.50).

The burrito was pretty good, and I think Lily’s place as one of the better taquerias in Pomona has survived the move, even if the ambience of the previous incarnation is missed. The plate still comes with a scattering of tortilla chips with a smear of beans and salsa, just like the old days.


Perhaps the spirit of the old surroundings lives on in the slightly makeshift quality to this Lily’s. I asked for utensils and was directed to a cheap, three-drawer plastic dispenser on the counter, from which I withdrew an aluminum fork and a plastic knife, one of them from a drawer that wouldn’t open all the way. It was a little comical given the relatively upscale interior. And the restaurant still doesn’t appear to have an online presence.

The building occupies a corner and is angled toward the intersection. Through the expanse of floor-to-ceiling windows, the sidewalk is just steps away. Cyclists rode past. Pedestrians walked dogs or pushed shopping carts. Cars whizzed by. The windows were a screen on which the passing parade played. Needless to say, a window seat is recommended. As is the al pastor.


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Restaurant of the Week: Day Day’s BBQ and Waffle House


Day Day’s BBQ and Waffle House, 994 E. Holt Ave. (at Reservoir), Pomona; closed Mondays

In my world Day Day’s for years was more rumor than fact. It was originally known as Day Day and Duke’s and had limited hours, but despite having a rough idea where it was, I never saw a sign in my occasional drives on Holt and was never entirely sure where it might be. I don’t know if it’s been in continuous operation or not, but the name (despite what the old sign says) is now Day Day’s, and its Duke-less incarnation seems to be more of a going concern, open six days a week and with the recent addition of dinner hours, until 8 p.m.

I still couldn’t find the place without looking it up on Google and noting the address, and without that I might never have found its unassuming storefront and small sign, especially after dark. Next door to the east is East End Liquor (despite the corner being Reservoir, not East End); next door to the west is an auto repair shop that was once the bar where the Mothers of Invention formed. So it’s a neighborhood with character.

Entering requires opening a screen door, a nice touch for a soul food restaurant, and inside it’s a small diner, with six booths and a short counter, everything in shades of brown. A friend and I met there for dinner recently, curious how the chicken and waffles would stack up against Ontario’s Maple House.


Confronted with the extensive menu, though, we each opted for other things. I got the Aunt Toe’s pork chops, smothered, with greens and mac ‘n cheese ($15), and he got the Big Pimp omelet with shrimp, chicken, jack and cheddar cheese, and mushrooms, plus a chicken wing a la carte ($14 total). Breakfast is served all day.


The omelet was inexpert, perhaps, but enjoyed despite its lumpiness, and the wing was praised. The pork chops themselves were the weakest part of my plate, with the gravy, rice and two sides the standouts. My friend had a Kool-Aid and, offered a refill, later wished he’d been told he’d be charged a second time. But overall, he liked the experience.

So did I. The place had a friendly, relaxed vibe. A TV in the corner provided the entertainment, “Wheel of Fortune” and a sitcom with a laugh track, rather than music.

There’s barbecue on the menu, but only on weekends. I went back that Sunday about 1 p.m. for lunch, hoping for ribs or brisket. The dining room was busy, but I got a seat and watched as several other tables turned over. Alas, barbecue, which seemed to be prepared at the owner’s whim, would only be available after 2 p.m. So I scanned the menu and got chicken and waffles: the Teasha combo ($12), with two wings, one waffle, an egg and grits.


This was excellent: a fluffy waffle and prime fried chicken.

It came with three pieces, not two, which made up for the fact that other tables within earshot were told they had all-you-can-eat that day, and my server didn’t mention it. And also for the fact that my waffle arrived five minutes after everything else. Day Day’s is a little haphazard, perhaps, but the food and atmosphere more than compensate.

I even liked the grits, a dish I’d had once, in childhood, and didn’t really care for but thought I ought to try again. Since then I’ve had grits at Maple House, and Day Day’s were better; the chicken and waffle battle ended in a draw.

As the dining room slowly cleared out, and nobody needed my booth, I settled back to enjoy my Sunday newspaper in peace.

I would definitely return. If I ever get the barbecue, I’ll update this post. Or maybe I’ll let the barbecue remain as mysterious as the fate of Duke.


Update August 2016: So I did go back for barbecue. Just as I was ordering pork ribs, the fellow taking my order, who happened to be the owner, said for $2 more I could get the Big Dave ($17), with ribs, chicken, sliced beef and hot links, plus two sides. So I did that. (Mac and cheese and cornbread were my sides.) The ribs weren’t the best, but the rest was pretty good. That said, I like the breakfasts here more, and you can get them all day.


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