Restaurant of the Week: Juancho’s, Upland


Juancho’s Mexican Cuisine, 2440 W. Arrow Route (at Monte Vista), Upland

There’s a Juancho’s in Ontario, which I’ve heard is good, and now there’s a larger, nicer one on the border of Upland and Claremont, i.e., Upmont, in a center by the colleges and next door to Noodle World Jr.

I’ve been there for lunch twice and had a favorable impression both times.


There’s a main dining room and a smaller bar area with a couple of booths and a couple of tables, separated from the main room by a faux-brick archway. While the dining room is kind of a big box, there are pleasant touches: heavy wood tables and chairs, faux plaster walls, slow ceiling fans and subtle lighting, plus some interesting tile murals.



The first visit, a friend from the colleges got shredded beef flautas (pictured above), while I had an asada torta (pictured below), both ordered off the lunch menu and both $7. We both liked our food, and my friend was impressed that my torta didn’t fall apart in my hands.


Maybe three weeks later, I returned on my own and got the Juancho’s burrito with carnitas, again off the lunch menu and priced at $7. This was good too. There are better burritos, but you’d have to drive two, three, maybe four miles to find them. Juancho’s has fancier furnishings than many Mexican restaurants too, akin to Tio’s Tacos.


My only regret was I forgot to eat the orange slice.

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Restaurant of the Week: The Sand Witch


The Sand Witch, 1208 W. 9th St. (at Mountain), Upland

I’d heard of the Sand Witch, a little shop tucked between a Chevron and an auto repair shop, but hadn’t gone in until recently, even though a friend recommended the panini sandwiches ages ago.

Despite its neighbors, it manages to be a cute place that takes the “Witch” part of its punning name seriously: The interior colors are black and shades of orange (orange is the new black, if you hadn’t heard), there’s cartoony witch-themed framed art and the menu boasts items with supernaturally punning names, such as Chicken Presto (it has pesto), Harvest Moon, Cobb Web Salad and such.

All this isn’t overbearing, which is a relief, and thankfully the ban-Harry-Potter crowd isn’t picketing. The Sand Witch sells cold sandwiches, paninis, oven-toasted sandwiches, salads and a couple of daily soups “from the cauldron.” There are four vegetarian sandwiches, a fact many will appreciate.

I got a tuna melt ($7), which some of you will recall is my baseline sandwich at places that serve them. It was a panini, and it was only average, with the tuna salad a little watery. But then it had tomato and bits of celery, a nice touch. I had a coupon for a free soda and side with sandwich purchase and got potato salad, which was fine.

Admittedly underwhelmed, I felt like I should give them a second chance. A few weeks later, I got a half-and-half combo, where you can get any two of the following: a half sandwich, half salad or half soup. I got the deviled egg salad and loaded baked potato soup ($8.38), this time using a $2 off coupon.

Decent sandwich and soup, the latter with bacon, cheddar and scallions, and better than the panini. I wouldn’t recommend driving across the valley to eat here, but it’s a local option if you’re in the area. Also, the radio was turned up way too loud. You’d think they’d have a playlist devoted to “Witchy Woman,” “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” and Stevie Nicks, but no.




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Restaurant of the Week: Padua Pasta Makers


Padua Pasta Makers, 300 E. Arrow Highway (at 3rd), Upland; closed Sundays

Two friends teamed up to open an Italian market in March, after more than a year of work and a failed crowd-funding campaign. But that didn’t deter them. Padua Pasta Makers took over a former dance studio, which operated as a cleaners prior to that, that now is a gleaming, tiled shrine to Italian food.

There’s a deli counter with meat and 18 kinds of pasta; refrigerator cases with pre-packaged pasta and sauces made onsite; shelves and tables of canned tomatoes, olives and olive oils; and fresh bread, baked daily. Also, a light fixture made, upon closer inspection, from utensils.

You can get hot or cold sandwiches at lunchtime, 6 inches for $6.50, 10 inches for $8.50. I met a couple of friends there for lunch recently and ordered the Padua Special, the 6-inch version, with mortadella, salami, capocolla and provolone. I got it as a box lunch for $9.50, which gets you a soda, a tiny salad (I chose pesto pasta salad) and a piece of chocolate, not to mention a box.

The sandwich was quite filling, and I ended up taking half of it home. Should they make a 3-inch version? You might be better off skipping the box, as the extras may not feel worth $3. (Although the small piece of chocolate was awfully good.) I’ve meant to go back and buy pasta or sauce to go and will have to do that.

The business is evolving: When I was there late in August, they’d just got their beer and wine license, and they’ve added more dine-in tables because people want to eat there. And I can’t blame them: It’s lovely and sparkling, almost like a tea room. Also, the bathrooms may be the nicest in all of Upland. One friend said: “It’s like a men’s room in a Manhattan hotel lobby.”

Nothing but the best for the City of Gracious Living.





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Restaurant of the Week: Upland


Upland, 345 Park Ave. South (at 26th), New York City; open daily for lunch and dinner, with brunch on Sundays.

This will be a little different: a Restaurant of the Week post about a different part of the country. But under the circumstances, it works, as Inland Valley types are flocking to NYC’s Upland. Heck, more locals may find this post of practical value than some of my writeups on obscure noodle shops in Chino Hills.

Rather than create a “Restaurants: New York City” or “Restaurants: Anywhere But Here” category, I’ve simply slotted this in “Restaurants: Upland.” If it’s in the name, it counts, right?

First off, Upland is the subject of my June 24 column, which can be read here. In brief, Upland is the brainchild of an Upland-born chef, Justin Smillie, who makes his living in Manhattan. It opened in October 2014 after weeks of anticipation and has received a warm welcome from customers and many reviewers. I read about it in the New Yorker, a national publication.

(The magazine referred to Smillie’s home region as California’s “badlands.” Is that what we are? “That wasn’t very fair,” Smillie told me good-humoredly when I brought it up. “They probably haven’t even been there.” Later I noticed that the restaurant’s interior designers used the same phrase in an interview.)

Anyway, Upland is hot, a phrase probably never before applied to anything other than the city’s summertime temperatures. As my Brooklyn friend Matt, who hails from the City of Gracious Living, put it to me: “I don’t remember ever needing a reservation at a restaurant in Upland.”

I got in for lunch with a couple of days’ notice during my recent New York vacation. I met my friend Lesley from Queens, who is originally from Rancho Cucamonga. There are a lot of Inland Valley expatriates.

For us locals, there’s a weird thrill to walking up to the restaurant, which is on 26th no matter what the address says, and finding the name “Upland” on the awnings and vertical sign. Good spot for a Daily Bulletin on Vacation photo.

The menu at Upland changes monthly. Here’s what is being served in June for lunch.


The entryway has jars of lemons, a nod to the real Upland.


It was the tail end of the lunch hour when we arrived. The dining room has a lot of copper, green and oak, with a high ceiling, very pleasant, as well as a bar with four sides of seating, apparently popular with the after-work crowd. We ordered hamachi tartare ($18) as an appetizer and two entrees: mussels ($18) and sausage and kale pizza ($19), plus for dessert, a rhubarb and almond tart ($10).

The cooking has been described as California-Italian, with a lot of seasonal dishes and ingredients plus excellent pastas and pizzas, which are more Neapolitan than New York. We were very satisfied with our meal, and the service was cheerful and chatty.




Near the end, I had to identify myself because I had an appointment with Smillie, a communication that, as I feared, resulted in having the meal comped. Oh well, it was vacation. As in the previous time or two that’s happened at restaurants, I’m disclosing that fact here.

The decor includes drawings of California produce (grapes, figs, lemons, artichokes) on the walls near the ceiling and a lot of green, which Smillie said reminds him of Etiwanda besides being his favorite color.


It seems like there’s probably always one or more dishes with lemon, and June’s menu boasted the Upland Cheeseburger (“grass fed beef, american cheese, peppadew peppers + avocado”), of which Smillie told me: “I wanted to riff on the Double Double.” At $20, it might be double — double! — the cost of the most expensive burger in our Upland, but that says more about us than it does about the restaurant.

If you go, you might get to meet Smillie (pictured at bottom). And you can always ask for server Julia Tetrow, mentioned in my column as being from Redlands.



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Restaurant of the Week: Genoveva’s


Genoveva’s Mexican Food, 273 E. 9th St. (at Third), Upland

Replacing La Palmita, a long-lived but tired restaurant across from the Grove Theatre in downtown Upland, Genoveva’s opened in April. The owner, Hilario Rodriguez, has years of restaurant experience and is known downtown from his days managing Molly’s Souper.

A friend and I ate there after the Christmas parade. The restaurant was nearly full, including the large patio, on that sunny afternoon. The interior is much as I remembered it from the La Palmita days — tile floors, arches over the entrance to the tiled patio — but maybe cleaner and brighter.

I had a breakfast dish, chilaquiles ($9), which are scrambled eggs with lightly fried tortilla strips and green salsa (or red, your choice), rice and beans on the side. The sides were nothing special, but the entree was pretty good. It was also pretty big, and I took half home.

My friend got a bowl of albondigas soup ($7), which he said was excellent; he’s also had the menudo, of which he said: “It’s a clean menudo as opposed to a greasy menudo.” So noted.

I returned a few days later to try a lunch entree, ordering a carnitas burrito ($8). You could get a burrito of equal or better quality at dozens of other places around the valley, but it was tasty, and also large, and I took home one-third. My two meals turned into four.

Genoveva’s is said to use family recipes from the state of Puebla, although the menu is made up of fairly standard items other than a pollo en mole. Genoveva’s isn’t as good as Elvira’s nearby in Upland, but it’s not bad, and it’s a nice addition to downtown.




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Restaurant of the Week: Original Red Devil Pizza



Red Devil Pizzeria, 907 W. Foothill Blvd. (at San Antonio), Upland

Sometimes these Restaurant of the Week posts come about by happenstance. I drove one lunch hour to the Upland Town Square shopping center, the one with a Sprouts market, to try out Tao Thai. But this was the day after Thanksgiving and neither Tao Thai nor Loving Hut a few doors down were open.

I almost left the center to look elsewhere but decided to try Red Devil, just paces from where I parked.

Red Devil is almost cavernous in size, with Coors streamers, pennants of NFL teams and picnic-style tables. It’s designed for Little League teams and football watching. But it turns out they have some great lunch specials, all priced at $5. Five dollars!

I got a slice of pizza, salad and soda, $5.40 with tax. The salad was decent: iceberg, cheese, tomatoes and black olives. The slice was wide, soft and thick. I got mushrooms as my topping. It’s not my new favorite pizza in town, but it was acceptable. And the price was outstanding.



A few days later I returned for another $5 lunch special. This time I got baked ziti, garlic bread and soda. Tasty and filling.


My only complaint is that all three TVs, spread around the room, were tuned to “Days of Our Lives”; seated in the middle of the restaurant, with the same dialogue coming from three corners of the room, seemingly a split-second apart, I had to move closer to one TV or risk my brain exploding.

(Note: This is not a real complaint, although it’s true that the effect was annoying.)

I don’t know how long they’ll keep the $5 price, but right now it’s one of the best deals around.

How does Red Devil relate to Sal’s Red Devil in La Verne, there since 1973? Not at all, apparently. Covina’s Red Devil opened in 1966. Two brothers split off to open Barros and Lamppost. This Upland location was a Lamppost until 2010, when the family took it back and opened the second Red Devil. They call themselves The Original Red Devil Pizza.

Now I still have to try Tao Thai, if I can keep myself from veering back into Red Devil for a cheaper lunch…


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Restaurant of the Week: Petrilli’s Pizza


Petrilli’s Pizza, 110 S. Mountain Ave. (at 9th), Upland

One letter can make a lot of difference. Petrilli’s isn’t Petrillo’s, which is a San Gabriel Valley institution, with locations in San Gabriel and Glendora. But it used to be. The Upland storefront opened as a Petrillo’s circa 2004 but changed a letter the following year. (A close look at the sign hints that the “o” may have been cut in half.) Someone who knows more about Petrillo’s could probably explain, and if so, please account for Mama Petrillo’s in La Verne, Rosemead and Temple City, whose connection to the main operation is nebulous.

Located at the north end of the Dollar Tree and Fresh & Easy center, Petrilli’s is takeout only, except for a lone table. That, a soda case and a TV are about the only adornment. A friend who produces the New Diner blog, and one of his friends, met up with me there recently for dinner and snagged the table.

We ended up getting two pizzas: a medium specialty ($23.75) and a small three-topping veggie with mushrooms, onions and jalapenos ($14), because a small pizza was half-off that night with purchase of a medium or large. The menu has a few sandwiches and salads, and lasagna, but it’s mostly pizza.

The specialty had sausage, mushrooms, pepperoni, salami, onions and green peppers and was enormous. So were the toppings. As my friend said, “Those are some of the biggest pieces of sausage I’ve ever seen,” and I agreed. The medium was cut in squares, not triangles, and encompassed 16 pieces. Two of us ate less than half.

We liked our pizzas, but we weren’t totally sold. The crust was crunchy and a little boring; my friend left all the edges on his plate, piled like chicken bones. It was a heavy pizza, probably double the usual amount of cheese, loaded with toppings, a little hard to pick up and eat, the opposite of the type of pizza I usually get. It was extreme, even a little freakish, like the giant horse at the county fair.

I took home seven pieces and got four more meals out of them. I’ve never had anything quite like Petrilli’s — well, except for my single Petrillo’s experience — and it’s hard to imagine returning. But it’s some people’s favorite pizza, and I won’t fault them for it.

* The New Diner’s post can be read here.



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Restaurant of the Week: Ashirwad – The Blessings


Ashirwad – The Blessings, 583 E. Foothill Blvd. (at Fifth), Upland; closed Mondays

Vegetarian restaurants in these parts are unusual enough, but this one is devoted to vegetarian Indian food. Blessings — the full name seems to be Ashirwad – The Blessings, middle punctuation uncertain — opened in 2012 in a strip mall in Upland. Its specialties are foods from West and South India, but without lamb, chicken or other meat.

Two friends who’d had an enjoyable meal there invited me to join them for a return visit. Blessings is nothing fancy and feels almost temporary, with practically no decor, cheap tables and chairs, foam plates and plastic utensils. Needless to say, though, the food (see the menu here) is mostly unknown unless you’re a devotee of all things India and is thus of high interest.

We shared three items: pani puri ($5, below left), small puff pastries which you crack, fill with spooned-in potato cubes and eat in one bite; khichdi kadhi ($7, below top), a stew of rice, lentils and vegetables, kind of spicy; and masala dosa ($5.50, bottom), an enormous crepe rolled into a funnel the size and shape of a megaphone, inside of which is spiced potatoes and onions. That and the pani puri were our favorites. I also had a salted lassi ($3), a foamy yogurt drink.

We didn’t get dessert, but the restaurant makes its own non-dairy ice cream, one scoop at a time, to order.

The main item on the menu that I recognized was palak paneer, a spinach, cheese and rice dish, but the version served here was not to my friends’ liking on their previous visit, and while we were there the table next to us sent theirs back. So, take your chances with that.

The restaurant seats about 16. Half-filled when we arrived at 7:15 p.m., it was full, with maybe eight people waiting inside and on the sidewalk, at 8. Service, by the owner, was disarmingly friendly and humorous. A small selection of Indian history, literature and philosophy books were lined up on the counter for the curious to read.

What they’re doing is very different, but it’s a good advertisement for both vegetarianism and Indian food. May they continue to be a blessing.

* Update: LA Weekly put Ashirwad in its Best of 2014 issue: “Best Reason to Head to Upland.”



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Restaurant of the Week: Charlie’s Stars and Stripes



Charlie’s Stars and Stripes American Deli, 296 N. 2nd Ave. (at C), Upland

After a couple of high-profile failures on the southeast corner of 2nd and C, Christophe’s and Aria, the folks at JD Allison’s, a sports bar on the southwest corner, took over the spot across the street and opened it last October as bar and grill with a military theme. It’s named for a relative who died in 2012 in Iraq while serving as an Army medic.

The interior is more welcoming to the general public than might be feared. There is red, white and blue, but you don’t feel like you’re eating inside a giant flag. The decor is fascinating, actually: old recruiting posters, memorabilia, maps and framed servicemember photos. There’s a wall devoted to them, with photos brought in by customers, and the effect is respectful and participatory.

Now to the menu. It’s mostly sandwiches, including hot dogs and burgers, with some salads, stuffed baked potatoes and entrees. I had a lunch with friends in which we got pastrami sliders and corned beef sliders ($9 each; pastrami is pictured below) and a buffalo fried chicken salad ($10, below), all of which met with our approval.

I returned another day for lunch and got a Pearl Harbor burger ($10, below). (Many of the menu items have military-themed names.) This was a hand-packed burger, probably one-third of a pound, and very good, with grilled pineapple and onions, Swiss and teriyaki glaze.

There’s a full bar, and they have happy hour and dinner specials, the most notable of which may be Monday’s $5 steak night. I went back for that: You get a small salad, a smaller steak and a loaded baked potato (pictured at bottom). Service was slow and with an iced tea, tax and tip I paid $10, but it’s still an amazing deal.

Charlie’s is a decent option downtown, and you’ll feel like you gained entrance to a VFW, only with better food.





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Restaurant of the Week: The Hat

kramer hat 009

The Hat, 857 N. Central Ave. (at 11th), Upland

I hadn’t been to a Hat in years, and that was at Victoria Gardens, so when a friend invited me to lunch at the one in Upland I agreed immediately. The location is funny, a somewhat desolate stretch of Central Avenue, but that may accentuate the novelty of the inviting sight of the broad windows and neon sign, especially at night. What is this doing here?

(It was worth doing this Restaurant of the Week solely for an excuse to return at night for a photo!)

They do have nine cold sandwiches, but the Hat is known for its pastrami dip, burgers, hot dogs and chili. It’s a popular spot despite (or because of) the location, with a steady stream of cars in the parking lot and the drive-through.

My friend had the cold ham and Swiss ($5.60, below), which he swears by. I got the signature pastrami dip ($8, below that). It’s a good sandwich, and there was so much loose pastrami that I could have made a half-sandwich out of it. Wonder if I could have bought half a French roll?

My friend praised the chili cheese fries, which I hadn’t had. I returned a few weeks later for that ($6.60) as an entree. Not my healthiest meal, obviously, but the chili is pretty good and ladled generously. I ate about two-thirds and took the rest home, where I got two small meals out of them.

The Hat was founded in 1951 in Alhambra. Upland’s location, which opened in May 1987, was the third and at that point was in unincorporated territory; it’s since been annexed into Upland. Jerry Cook, the general manager, opened this Hat and is still there daily, touching tables and chatting with customers. The chain now has 10 locations.

One thing I love is the guy behind the counter in Upland who calls out order numbers. He has no microphone. His lungs provide the amplification. He just bellows in what sounds like a Swedish accent, but almost certainly isn’t. “Nomber vorty-twooo-ooh!!” His volume and urgency make you hop to it — an action you would be unable to take after being weighed down by your meal.





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