Eden Garden Fusion Grill, 392 E. A St. (at 5th Ave.), Upland
Eden Garden, the third in a small chain of family-owned Mediterranean restaurants in Pasadena and Glendora, opened in summer 2012 on the edge of downtown Upland. The building, once a headquarters for the Lemon Growers Exchange, dates to 1932, has an Art Deco style and was recently restored.
For broader appeal, it’s not full-on Lebanese; they also have breakfast, pasta, seafood, steaks, burgers and buffalo wings. That’s evidently why they call it fusion, because aside from falafel spring rolls, none of the items really mix and match cuisines. But they do have a range of Lebanese items.
A Turkish friend and I had lunch there recently. We had chicken shawarma ($8, pictured above middle), a sort of chicken salad in a pita pocket, with fries; soujok ($10, top left), pan-seared Armenian sausage sauteed with onions and tomatoes; mutabal ($7, top right), a hummus-like dip made with eggplant; and, for dessert, knafe ($5, pictured at right), a piece of baked cheese with shredded phyllo dough.
We weren’t knocked out, but we liked each item. To quibble, there was too much tahini sauce in the shawarma, making it a bit messy, and the rosemary on the fries was distracting. The dessert was a standout.
The interior is sparkling and clean, the tall arched windows letting in lots of natural light. The upscale-diner seating (metallic red vinyl booths, black-and-white tiled floor, lots of chrome) is purposely all-American, probably more inviting to an Upland crowd, but it doesn’t seem to match the thrust of the menu. That split personality could help or hurt; one can imagine the menu leaning one way or the other in the future to reflect whatever clientele develops.
There’s also an expansive patio, at least equal in size to the dining room, for smoking, including hookahs at night, and entertainment, including belly dancers and music on weekends. Eden Garden is open until midnight Sunday to Wednesday and until 2 a.m. the other days, making it one of the few places in town for late-night eats. The restaurant has a full bar.
The Metrolink station is just yards away, and from our seat inside we could easily see and hear trains passing by beyond a retaining wall, a picturesque touch. The Istanbul Express is not among them.