Restaurant of the Week: Blaze Pizza


Blaze Pizza, 7833 Monet Ave. (Victoria Gardens), Rancho Cucamonga

Fast-fired pizza specialist Blaze Pizza opened over the summer in Victoria Gardens, the sole local outlet for now. The chain is based in Pasadena. Because I wasn’t around for the opening specials, the company sent me two coupons for free pizzas, which a friend and I recently redeemed.

Blaze is on Monet, the street undergoing a hipsterification. The pizzeria is a good fit for the street, which is being designed to appeal to the younger crowd.


The setting is casual and lively, with some high-top tables. Because of the high, open ceiling, the room is a little loud, which must be how the young people like it. Only semi-populated on a weeknight, the noise level didn’t impede conversation.


Like Pieology, you can order a pre-designed pie or customize one from a long list of ingredients (but not long enough to include anchovies). And much like at Subway or Chipotle, you move down a line past ingredients that a series of employees will add at your request. You pay at the end of the line, your pizza is popped into an oven and your number will be called in about five minutes.


We each ordered “signature” pizzas: The White Top for her (white cream sauce with mozzarella, applewood bacon, chopped garlic, oregano and arugula) and the Link In for me (Italian sausage, roasted red peppers, sauteed onions, mozzarella and red sauce), typically each $8.


These were pretty good pies, about the right size for one person. “On a scale of 1 to 5, I’d say it was a 4 1/2,” my friend said. “Because I wish the crust was a little thicker.” I can appreciate that, although the thin crust is what allows it to be baked so fast. I liked Blaze and its crust better than Pieology’s. Neither compares with going to an actual pizzeria, but the experience is novel and you can be in and out in a lunch break. I would go back.

Oh, yeah, and we sprung for the S’mores dessert ($2.50), a sort of cookie filled with chocolate and marshmallow. You might want to try one.

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Restaurant of the Week: Luna


Luna Modern Mexican Kitchen, 7881 Monet Ave. in Victoria Gardens, Rancho Cucamonga

Luna opened in April in a long-vacant spot previously occupied by Candelas and Wapango. There’s only one other Luna, in Corona. Some friends and I checked out the VG version recently for lunch.

It’s very stylish, with high ceilings, long corded fixtures and a light display in the bar area. We were seated in a half-oval banquette.

I have to do this from memory because I can’t find my notes (!), but off the lunch menu, we ordered (pictured in descending order below) a chopped salad, a Cabo roll (prawns, cheese, avocado in a tortilla), mole poblano chicken enchiladas and, for me, the pipian de puerco (pork loin in chimichuri sauce). (None of the prices are online, but the plates were around $12 to $18.) One got a drink, Luna’s signature, named El Pepino (about $8), from the extensive tequila list, and two of us ordered dessert: warm butter cake and deep-fried ice cream.

We all liked our items, and the friend who got the salad couldn’t help but be impressed by the presentation, a hat-like oval. All the dishes were plated well. Service was attentive and helpful and felt genuine.

You can get tacos or burritos here, but Luna is more of a modern, upscale take on Mexican cooking that presents new or altered dishes. It’s worth a try.










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Restaurant of the Week: King’s Fish House


King’s Fish House, 12427 N. Main St. (Victoria Gardens), Rancho Cucamonga

King’s is one of the original tenants from the launch of Victoria Gardens in 2004. It’s a chain with just 11 locations in Southern California, Nevada and Arizona, the nearest one being in Corona. I’ve eaten at the VG one a few times over the years, usually when someone else is buying. (I ate there once with my parents, for instance.)

An editor owed me lunch recently after losing a work bet and, wanting to pinch his wallet a little but not too much, I chose King’s.

It’s in a prominent place, on the corner where many turn for the parking garage, and there’s plenty of seating, including a bar and a covered patio. The interior looks the same as I remember it, vaguely Art Deco. They were having a lobster promotion and a salmon promotion too.

The menu has grilled seafood, a few sandwiches, salads and small plates, an oyster bar and even sushi, with lunch entrees running $14 to $24, dinner up to $30.

I got lobster bisque ($5.75) and cedar plank salmon ($21). The friend buying my lunch opted for fish and chips ($16.50). He liked his dish. The bisque was a bit sweet, as the server had warned, due to cooking sherry (ooh la la). But it was fine. Ditto with the salmon, rice and veggies. The glaze wasn’t my favorite. But then, the whole lunch was all the sweeter because I wasn’t paying.

Still, maybe I missed my chance by not getting filet mignon and lobster tail ($45) or at least dessert. I am merciful in victory.





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Restaurant of the Week: Septembers


Septembers Taproom and Eatery, 6321 Haven Ave. (at Lemon), Rancho Cucamonga

In the old McAlan’s Pub building in the Trader Joe’s and Vons centers, Septembers is a welcome gastropub with local brews and better than average food, concentrating on classic American sandwiches.

Reader Dave Paniagua, who had earlier drawn my attention to Ontario’s Corner Deli, alerted me to Septembers, and since I’m now a regular at Corner Deli, I took his tip seriously.

Septembers is quiet on a lunch hour, with a few people around the bar and only a few diners. They have beer and wine, plus some cocktails. The interior is pleasantly industrial, with high-top and regular tables under an exposed ceiling, distressed wood walls and corrugated steel accents.


Virtually everything on the menu was potentially of interest to me.


Well, not nachos, but you get the idea. It’s a a well-designed menu, too, isn’t it?

They have several set lunch specials, all for $8. First time I got one of those, a grilled chicken sandwich with fries. It was good enough that I returned the next week to order off the regular menu. I got a sloppy joe — how often do you see that on a menu? — that was made with chuck and brisket on a long roll ($14, first photo below). An excellent version of the old-school classic. The criss-cut fries, with your choice of seasoning (I got sea salt and vinegar), were addictive.

Next visit I got a shrimp po’boy ($14, second photo below). Served open face, it was overstuffed and strictly knife and fork. Good, yet maybe too much of a good thing. The side of mac and cheese was excellent.

I’ve gone back three times since, making this one of the best-researched Restaurant of the Week posts ever. The Italian panini melt ($14) was a little boring and so big I couldn’t finish it even if I’d wanted to. The classic burger ($11, third photo below) with onion rings was very good; two onion rings don’t sound like much, but they were very large. That time I finally had room for dessert, getting the apple crisp a la mode ($5, bottom); as you can see, they didn’t skimp on the ice cream. And most recently, the fish and chips ($12) were meaty.

I’m not a drinker, so in that sense this may be the most poorly researched Restaurant of the Week ever, but I can tell you they have local brews such as Dale Brothers and Hangar 24. Margaritas are $3 on Mondays, wines are $3 on Wednesdays and you can get a $6 sampler paddle of beers on Thursdays.

If no dish has wowed me, everything has been solid, and my impression of the place is positive. I appreciate that the chefs are using quality ingredients and raising everything up a notch. A sandwich and an iced tea will set you back about $20 with tax and tip. If you can splurge a little, it’s worth it.





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Restaurant of the Week: California Pizza Kitchen, Victoria Gardens


California Pizza Kitchen, 12517 N. Mainstreet (in Victoria Gardens), Rancho Cucamonga

CPK was one of the original tenants at Victoria Gardens upon the center’s 2004 opening and more than a decade later, it’s still serving up barbecued chicken pizzas and more.

I’ve eaten there a few times, in part because it’s one of the most affordable sit-down restaurant at the VG. Recently I had dinner there and figured, well, why not take photos and write a Restaurant of the Week? CPK is pretty much the same everywhere, but we’ve only got two of them (the other one is at the Shoppes at Chino Hills) and the VG is a popular spot. Besides, I like CPK.

The menu has small plates, salads, soups, pastas and various pizzas, both usual and unusual, with gluten-free crust an option. And they have alcohol.

I got the wild mushroom pizza (price forgotten, but about $14), which has four types of mushrooms and two types of cheese, and I got it on whole wheat crust, which I’m not sure I’ve done before. That was a good move and made for a heartier crust. If you like mushrooms, this is a pretty good pie. Feeling flush, I spent $1.50 on a few drops of truffle oil; to be honest, any difference in taste to the pizza was negligible.

Service was friendly. It was a Monday evening, early, and the quiet was welcome. The faux rock wall, broad booths, focused lighting and open kitchen with a counter for solo diners add up to an ambience that could almost be described as swank.



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I’ve wanted to try the Thin Mint milkshake at Lazy Dog Cafe, a seasonal offering, but didn’t get to it last year. Last week, with the shake back on the menu, I went to the Rancho Cucamonga location (11560 E. Fourth St.) and ordered one with my lunch.

They’re $5, with $1 going to the Girl Scouts. It was as tasty as it looks, with a single Thin Mint cookie on top. The only slight disappointment is that the few crunchy bits at the bottom, which I’d assumed to be crushed cookies, were pieces of ice. Whaaaa? Whatever, I still recommend it. The shake is available through March 25.

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Restaurant of the Week: Lucille’s BBQ


Lucille’s BBQ, 12624 N. Mainstreet (at Eden), Victoria Gardens, Rancho Cucamonga; also 4611 Chino Hills Parkway (at Ramona), Chino Hills

Lucille’s, a barbecue chain, was one of the original tenants when Victoria Gardens opened in 2004. And it’s still there, while adding a location in Chino Hills. Did you know the Signal Hill-based chain is owned by the same people behind the coffee shop chain Hof’s Hut? The gauzy story on the Lucille’s website about its origins under “Lucille Buchanan” is actually fiction, as the company admits. Ha ha!

I don’t feature chains here very often, but when there’s only one or two local locations, I’ll do it. In this case, a group of friends was celebrating a couple of birthdays recently at the VG, so I was there anyway. It was a Saturday night and the place was jammed.

Lucille’s is colorful and corporate-kitschy, with neon signs outside and quaint-looking advertising-type signs inside: “Good choices: FDR & BBQ,” “Was one mint julep the cause of it all?” The booths have coat racks and hanging lamps reminiscent of mid-century diners. But many employees wear earpieces to receive orders from their BBQ Overlords, or maybe Memphis, so it’s not quite cozy.

The food’s pretty good, actually. One of my friends swears the jambalaya is the best he’s ever had. My experiences there have been solid. The menu has barbecue, Southern specialties, sandwiches and salads.

That night I had a decent half-rack of St. Louis ribs ($24, below) and two sides: cheesy grits, boring, and collard greens, surprisingly good. When you’re done, they give you a hot towel, like at a Japanese restaurant, and that’s a nice touch, and better than Wet-Naps, for cleaning sauce off your hands.

I went back for lunch a few days later to try something else, getting a pulled pork sandwich ($12, below) with more of those greens. It was a meaty sandwich and I ate some of the pork with a knife and fork. This was a good choice.

There’s an adjoining bar, the Flying Pig Lounge, where they have a band every night playing blues. Otherwise, the sound system has blues, of the sleek B.B. King and Eric Clapton variety. They probably don’t know who Peetie Wheatstraw is.

We don’t have a lot of true Southern restaurants out here (J&J’s in Pomona is my favorite), making Lucille’s a credible barbecue spot by default. It’s a cartoon version of the South, sure. But so what? Cartoons are entertaining, and as chains go, Lucille’s is benign, and even fun.




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Restaurant of the Week: Gyu-Kaku


Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ, 7893 Monet Ave. (at Versailles), Victoria Gardens, Rancho Cucamonga

Gyu-Kaku (pronounced “gyew-kah-koo”) is a mainstay of Victoria Gardens, located between JC Penney and Fleming’s Steakhouse on the south end of the outdoor mall. I’ve been there a couple of times over the years but never for my blog. It’s not conducive to solo dining, although that can probably be done. When a Japanese American friend suggested dinner, I thought of Gyu-Kaku.

Reservations are generally a good idea here. Another good idea is to go during happy hour, which ends most nights at 6:30 (hours here), because most of the food is $1 off. Tables have charcoal grills, much like Korean BBQ restaurants, but here they leave you alone to cook your own food. You order a few meat or vegetable items, or a multi-course fixed-price dinner, and as the items arrive, you get to work.

We had prime kalbi short rib, N.Y. steak, shrimp, pork belly, chicken thigh, scallops, asparagus and spinach ($3 to $10 each), enough for a filling meal. Each was delivered with a verbal instruction, such as “five minutes on each side.” My friend set the timer on his cell phone. Tongs are provided.

So it’s a little bit of work, and you wonder how much to tip. But it’s also participatory and fun. The food was tasty, with the scallops being our favorite. The only item we didn’t like was the pork belly, possibly due to bum instructions: Five minutes on each side rendered the pieces crispy beyond recognition. The result was like burned bacon. Everything else, though, was spot-on.

It was a good outing. “It’s very social,” my friend said approvingly. Also, the restaurant is open late: until 10 p.m. daily and 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Give it a try. It’s even open on Christmas.

Below: wrapped spinach on the grill with shrimp, short ribs and steak waiting; below that, scallops and pork belly.




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Restaurant of the Week: The Supreme Plate



The Supreme Plate, 9849 Foothill Blvd. (at Ramona), Rancho Cucamonga; closed Sunday and Monday.

New Orleans-style food is hard to come by in these parts, if we politely overlook Popeye’s. Then the Supreme Plate opened in a lonely stretch of Foothill Boulevard east of Archibald. It’s tucked away in a fairly dismal shopping center, Plaza de las Brisas, whose anchor tenant is a charter school. (It also has the very good vegan restaurant Bright Star and Competitive Edge Cyclery.)

Reader Bill Velto raved to me about the Supreme Plate or I might never have learned it existed. Even knowing where it was, I couldn’t find it at first; the only sign is painted on the door and window.

The interior is mostly nondescript too: stackable chairs, black vinyl tablecloths, minimal decoration other than an excellent mural in street art style. The staff, though, is gregarious, with Deep South accents.

The menu is almost entirely seafood: plates and po’ boy sandwiches featuring shrimp, oysters, crab, catfish and red snapper. My first visit, I got a catfish po’ boy (pictured below) with a side of Cajun fries and a soda for $10. Good stuff, although my preference is for a filet, not a series of nuggets.

I returned for dinner one night and brought a friend. I got the jambalaya ($11, pictured below middle), loaded with chicken, sausage, shrimp and more, and half of which I took home for a second meal. He got a shrimp and oyster po’ boy ($13). “You pay more, but you get more,” he said, taking home half his sandwich. “I was going to offer you half, but it was too good. I want it for lunch tomorrow.” Well, he was honest.

The oysters looked so good falling out of his sandwich, I went back for my own shrimp and oyster po’ boy (pictured at bottom). Those were some mighty oysters. The staff is small and my sandwich took a half-hour to arrive during lunch hour, as a few people were ahead of me; you might call ahead or visit at an off-peak time.

I’ll keep going back. They’ve got sides like cheesy grits and sausage, hush puppies, red beans and rice, and more, as well as gumbo on weekends and oxtails with rice. I hope this place succeeds — there are always customers, a good sign, and it currently has a five-star rating on Yelp — because it’s a good addition to the area. The Supreme Plate is supreme.




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Restaurant of the Week: Sub Zero Ice Cream and Yogurt


Sub Zero Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt, 10590 Town Center Drive (at Haven), Rancho Cucamonga

I’d never heard of or noticed this place, but DebB mentioned Sub Zero in a blog comment recently. Sub Zero uses a similar liquid-nitrogen process as the new N7 Creamery at Victoria Gardens. Rancho Cucamonga is practically all-nitrogen, all-the-time.

So I ate lunch at Panera at Haven and Foothill one recent afternoon and then drove north in search of Sub Zero, which is past where you’d think it would be, above the Town Center shops and behind the Mobil station in a small building with no other tenants.

Inside it’s a clean, modern space. I was the only customer at the moment — a few more came before I left — and an employee explained the process. They make their own ice cream in front of you, mixing the flavors in a bowl and then quick-freezing it with nitrogen from a giant tank. Sub Zero is coming up on its second anniversary in Rancho. The Utah-based chain is in seven states. Its founder has a chemistry background.

The menu has 55 flavors, plus mix-ins, or you can simplify things by ordering one of the combinations. Overwhelmed, I did so, getting the Bernoulli Brulee, with caramel, dulce de leche, vanilla and cinnamon flavor, Heath and Twix added. A small was $5.80 and came in a waffle bowl inside a cup.

She mixed the cream and ingredients in a bowl, telling me the ice cream is creamier in their process because it doesn’t have air bubbles. The nitrogen blast had a dry ice effect as vapor swirled around the counter. Perfect for that Halloween spirit.

I shot a video. (It came out sideways. Forgive me. But you’ll get the idea.)

Three scoops of ice cream was a lot for a small size. It tasted pretty good. Actually, I’m very happy with simply having someone hand-scoop my ice cream, and U look askance at Cold Stone and the whole mix-in trend, so I’m not sure I’ll ever go out of my way again to come here. (Although my receipt offers $1 off my next visit.) But the novelty was fun.

Now that I seem to be taking Rancho’s nitrogen ice cream parlors in chronological order, I’ll get to N7 sometime.




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