Restaurant of the Week: Calle Ocho

Calle Ocho, 8880 Archibald Ave. (at 8th), Rancho Cucamonga; open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Saturday; closed Sundays

I heard about Calle Ocho from our Dine 909 columnist, who tweeted a mention of it a few weeks ago. Interesting that that would make two Cuban eateries in the same center, which is half automotive shops (and half, it sometimes feels like, businesses to patronize while your car is being smogged).

Not long afterward, I pulled into the center just above the railroad tracks with an eye toward eating again at Mica’s, the other Cuban spot, while taking a peek at Calle Ocho for future reference. But Mica’s was “closed for remodeling,” which often means a change of ownership. So I stepped into Calle Ocho.

The owner, or maybe co-owner, who was seated at one of the two small glass-topped tables, immediately greeted me and moved behind the counter. The menu is small: a few sandwiches, empanadas and coffees, including cafe con leche, some sides and some breakfast items. There’s a counter with a few more seats by the open kitchen.

I ordered the mainstay sandwich, the Cuban ($11), with roast pork, ham, Swiss, pickles and mustard, plus garlic fries and a Materva soda. Probably 15 minutes later, the sandwich was delivered.

This was an excellent sandwich, with the tender pork a standout. Very filling too. The Cuban soda was like a less intense Inka soda.

“You’re lucky you came in at this time,” the woman had told me after I ordered, which was around 1:30 p.m. “At lunch sometimes people have to wait 45 minutes for their food!” Prepare accordingly, or phone in your order to (909) 560-2925. Also, note that they’re open only five hours a day.

Calle Ocho, which translates to Eighth Street, seems like a relaxed, friendly place. A regular came in, sat at the counter and bantered with the woman and the cook, as if this were a bar. They gave as good as they got. When he complained that last year no trick or treaters came, she fired back: “Nobody wants to go trick or treating in Fontana. They come to Rancho. They don’t want to trick or treat where there’s no sidewalks.”

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Restaurant of the Week: Flamingo Palms

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Flamingo Palms, 11400 4th St. (at Pittsburgh), Rancho Cucamonga

Cuban restaurants have come and gone out here like the tide against the Havana shoreline, but Flamingo Palms seems to be succeeding. After a few years in Rancho Cucamonga in a charmless Archibald Avenue business park, the restaurant moved in April to a higher-profile location across from Ontario Mills, in a space that briefly housed a Camille’s Sidewalk Cafe.

I had dinner there with a friend recently. The interior has a modern ambience, with walls my friend described as “faux wood, faux terracotta and faux brick,” adorned with some not-bad art and two flat-screen TVs.

Having had a filling lunch, I opted for a light entree, the Flamingo salad ($9), with grilled shrimp and blood orange vinaigrette. Delicious, and with seven large shrimp, they didn’t skimp on the shrimp.

My friend had the arroz con pollo ($15), which he was warned would take 40 minutes. It arrived in a cavernous bowl (he took home half) and had rice, two pieces of chicken on the bone and plantains. He pronounced it excellent and said with satisfaction: “They took their time. They didn’t rush it.”

We also split an order of crispy plantain chips, called mariquitas ($5), which didn’t do anything for either of us.

Service was attentive, with both our server and the table busser inquiring how we were doing. You won’t think you’re in Cuba, but the music is unobtrusive, the food pretty good and the experience unhurried.

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