Restaurant of the Week: Twisted Sage Cafe

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Twisted Sage Cafe, 433 E. Foothill Blvd. (at Dixie), San Dimas; open daily 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.

You may have to twist your car a couple of times to find Twisted Sage, which is in a white Spanish-tile office complex a few blocks west of San Dimas Canyon Road. But my friends and I did a U-turn one recent Sunday and circled back.

Twisted Sage is a popular spot, and for good reason, one of those rare places out here that does what so many hip spots in LA do: local produce, sustainable, green practices, reclaimed wood, made from scratch, etc., etc. People were lined up out the door to order at the counter; there proved to be exactly the right number of tables.

We had a French toast plate ($8, below), which uses French bread and comes with homemade jam; bacon waffle ($5.75), slices of bacon surrounded by waffle; and veggie wrap ($8), wrapped in a spinach tortilla, with a side of mac and cheese ($1.50). We weren’t wowed, but we liked our meals. The ambience is lively: forest green walls, stainless steel tables and chairs, salvaged decor, interesting accent pieces.

I returned for lunch a couple of weeks later. The menu has salads, sandwiches, panini and wraps, as well as a few specials, recently including a couple of burgers. I got the seared ahi tuna salad ($15, middle). Besides four thick slices of tuna, the salad has mixed greens, slaw, cucumber, radish, avocado and a cucumber wasabi dressing. I would have preferred a vinaigrette to a cream dressing, but the salad was good.

After hearing good things about the biscuits and gravy, I came back for breakfast and got that as a plate ($11, bottom). I don’t typically like biscuits and gravy, as the sauce is like a white mass of goop to me, but the Twisted Sage version was delicious: a cornbread-like biscuit topped with housemade-sausage gravy. They’re not on the regular menu, but they’ve been offered as a special in recent weeks. They came with eggs, crisped potatoes and bacon. Delicious.

I felt like I’d finally ordered the right thing. I ate on the rear patio, which I didn’t know existed on previous visits, picnic and bistro tables arrayed in a relatively secluded spot.

Ultimately, then, a thumb’s-up for Twisted Sage. The concept may outpace the results at times, but I like the concept, and you might too.

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Restaurant of the Week: Clayton Brewing Co.

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Clayton Brewing Co., 661 W. Arrow Highway (at Bonita), San Dimas

Clayton was the site of a recent birthday dinner among a group of my friends, which offered the chance to get the opinion of multiple people. It’s a gastropub near the 57 Freeway in a center that also has a Boot Barn and Red Robin.

While they serve beer and wine, and there’s a bar, Clayton is open only until 10 p.m. daily (8 p.m. on Sunday), so it feels more like a restaurant than a bar. Indeed, the brightly lighted interior was sedate on a Friday night last month, most tables filled, sports unfolding silently on the TVs, people enjoying themselves, but not too much, if you know what I mean.

The menu has sandwiches, burgers, salads, flatbread pizzas and pasta. (It also has an unfortunate typo: “South of the Boarder.”)

Among the items we tried: white truffle garlic parmesan cheese fries ($8), addictive; wings ($9.25), scarfed up by a wings connoisseur; seared ahi salad ($13, below), which the foodie whose birthday it was really liked; Santa Fe rolls ($9, bottom), deemed good, but bready; lobster burger ($13), grilled lobster with slaw and bacon, which got a mixed review, great for the sandwich, but poor for the soggy bun; and a half-sandwich (chicken caprese, dull) and soup (lobster bisque, rich; combo $10).

They brew their own beer, with the Mt. Baldy Blonde and Hop Stompin’ IPA said to be pleasant surprises, very tasty; they also offer microbrews.

Service was friendly and patient with our large group and our separate checks. It’s not Back Abbey, but Clayton, discovered through a Yelp search, was a good find.

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Restaurant of the Week: Phillys Best

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Phillys Best, 4320 E. Mills Circle Road (at Milliken), Ontario; also 4047 Grand Ave. (at Pipeline), Chino; and 806 E. Arrow Hwy. (at 57), San Dimas

Phillys Best (note shameful lack of apostrophe) is a chain of cheesesteak shops with 20 locations in SoCal, including three in the Inland Valley (see above). Because the number is so limited, Phillys Best qualifies under my ground rules here of focusing on mom and pop or relatively scarce chain restaurants.

I’ve been to the Phillys Best on the periphery of Ontario Mills a few times over the years. They have a range of steak sandwiches, hoagies, burgers and chicken sandwiches.

I visited this week for a mushroom steak with cheese ($7.50). It’s a hearty sandwich and like the others is served on a soft Amoroso brand roll from Philadelphia. I see in the fine print that the cheese is American and that you can substitute provolone or Wiz, as in Cheez Wiz, which cheesesteak-wise is technically more authentic, albeit disgusting.

They have above-average fries ($2) and, for people with East Coast tastes, Wise brand chips, Tastykakes and Frank’s Soda. The decor is sparse but includes boards listing Philly natives and Philly trivia and a blowup aerial photo of the city.

I haven’t been to Philadelphia and can’t judge how the cheesesteaks here compare, but they taste pretty good to me, and the result seems a lot more Philly than, say, Sbarro is to N.Y. If you’ve been, what do you think?

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Restaurant of the Week: Pinnacle Peak

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Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse, 269 W. Foothill Blvd. (at Cataract), San Dimas; also in Colton, Santee and, believe it or not, Shanghai

I’ve passed Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse and its covered wagon sign many a time on Route 66 but had never ventured in until a recent visit with three friends. The restaurant, the first in a mini-chain, opened in 1967. It’s in a ranch-style building with a cow statue on the roof. They’re famous for their Western atmosphere, affordable steaks and no-tie policy, the result of which is hundreds of sliced neckties hanging from the rafters.

The interior has dark wood paneling, a cowboys and Indians motif, hanging lanterns as lights and red checkered tablecloths. Some of the seating is picnic style. We got a table.

I got the 8-oz. sirloin with baked potato ($19) and my friends got a full rack of pork ribs ($18.50), barbecued chicken ($11) and half-pound Wrangler burger ($8). The entrees came with a serviceable salad. My steak was delicious — steaks here are grilled over mesquite charcoal — and perfectly sized for a good but not heavy dinner.

The chicken was tender and moist and the barbecue sauce tasty. The burger was enjoyed. The ribs weren’t bad but were coated in a thick, goopy sauce. “It’s ribs at a steak place,” someone said with a shrug. We finished off the meal by sharing an apple cobbler a la mode ($5), which was very good. Check out the menu here.

Overall, we liked the experience, atmosphere and food, so-so ribs aside, and the price was right. Service was attentive and friendly. Tables get complimentary bread and a bowl of beans.

Why there’s a Pinnacle Peak in Shanghai, I don’t know, but if I’m ever in China, I’ll have to visit it. Not only do they clip ties there, but they have “swinging saloon doors” and their own mechanical bull.

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Restaurant of the Week: Roady’s

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Roady’s, 160 W. Bonita Ave. (at Monte Vista), San Dimas

Roady’s is an old-fashioned diner in downtown San Dimas. It was introduced to me years ago by reader Gene Harvey and I’ve gone back a half-dozen times since then. I even had a birthday lunch there with friends a couple of years ago.

This time I invited blogger Mike Tanner of the Dinerwood site to meet me there. I’d never met him, but I like his stuff and he’s proved he’s willing to drive out here, producing reviews of Flo’s, Brandon’s, Red Hill Coffee Shop, Stevie Dee’s, Joanne’s Cafe, Corky’s, Mission Family Restaurant and maybe even a few other local staples among his usual L.A. fare. He was game and we met at Roady’s last weekend.

I asked Mike his definition of a diner. “First off, It has to have a counter,” he told me. It ought to have breakfast all day, or at least through lunchtime. It ought to have pie. Whether newfangled or original, the diner ought to have a certain diner vibe. And there can’t be any seafood, Tanner said, unless it’s fried, or unless it’s on the menu but no one orders it.

Roady’s meets all his definitions. There’s a counter when you walk in, and a pie case. Breakfast is served all day. With the comfortable booths, giant windows, wood paneling, experienced waitresses and American Indian art, the vibe is near-perfect. As for fish, I wasn’t paying close attention, but I’m pretty sure no fish escapes the kitchen unbattered.

I ordered a patty melt ($6.85) with cole slaw as my side. The vinegary slaw was above average, the sandwich superior as well: burger, rye, grilled onions, cheese, pickles on the side. Mike had the chuck wagon breakfast ($6.45), two biscuits atop two scrambled eggs, gravy on top and, riding shotgun, two pieces of bacon and two sausage links. He liked it.

For the day’s pie selection, Roady’s had apple, cherry and lemon meringue pie. Mike had a slice of apple and I had lemon meringue ($3.45 each). Darn good pie.

It was a hearty lunch, a chance to exchange views with another blogger, make a new friend and, for a few moments, share the self-consciousness that comes with snapping photos of your food.

If you dote on diners, Roady’s is a must. And so is Dinerwood. Here’s Mike’s piece on Roady’s; we timed our reviews to coincide. Synergy and pie? Wow.

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