Restaurant of the Week: Owen’s Bistro


Owen’s Bistro, 5210 D St. (at 7th), Chino; 5:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; closed Sundays and Mondays

Considered among the Inland Valley’s finest restaurants since its opening in 2003, Owen’s Bistro is located across from the Chino Civic Center in a brick building that dates to the early 20th Century, and practically the only part of downtown that actually seems like a downtown.

I’d been to Owen’s only once, years ago, for a lunch; it’s a little out of my normal price range and I hadn’t had a reason to return until a friend suggested meeting there, which I was all for.

The restaurant is in a picturesque block in an otherwise-drab area of ’70s and later buildings; from the rear, the exposed brick and original painted advertising signs seem surprisingly urban.


The dining area has a concrete floor, brick walls, iron gates at each end and no roof, merely a curtained roof that retracts. It’s a unique space, with ceiling fans and space heaters to even out the temperature. An indoor lounge seats 20.

The menu is short, with seasonal items and local produce. Eight entrees range from $22 to $42, and there are appetizers, salads and a soup. We ordered bleu cheese toasts ($8), she got a frisee and walnut salad ($7) and I got the camping trip (!) ($23), salmon on a hot stone with potatoes and greens.


The toasts were the size of bruschetta but with bleu cheese and pears, delicious. The salad had feta, green apples and dried cherries and was enjoyed. The salmon came out sizzling in a bowl with greens and, thanks to lavender placed under the stone, was meant to have a “forest aroma.” I didn’t notice, but I did notice how good the salmon tasted. An unusual but tasty dish.



Two singers performed jazz to recorded backing, and it was so pleasant, and unobtrusive, not to mention taking place on the other side of the room, that I didn’t even notice the music was live for quite some time. A nice touch.

The service left a little to be desired, although at least it was well-meaning. The salad was requested to come out at the same time as my entree but came later, after a quizzical look from my friend when my food came out solo, and itself a bit late. Despite being told we could get to our 7 p.m. event with plenty of time, we didn’t have time for dessert.


Coincidentally, a work colleague ate at Owen’s not long before I did. He said he and his wife were told they would be seated soon by someone who disappeared, twice; a daughter and elderly mother got the same treatment. Once seated, his wife ordered the angus ribeye, which took so long to cook, someone came out to apologize for the delay. What arrived was so large it might have weighed two pounds. Most was taken home and provided three more meals.

It was perfectly prepared, and for $39, quite a deal, and he felt the same about his medallions of filet mignon, at $32, but the service, which included getting someone else’s bill, was more comical than desired for a nice evening out. “It was like nobody there had ever worked in a restaurant before,” he said.

There are those who say scoffingly that Owen’s is the Inland Empire’s idea of fine dining. The food in these twin experiences was very good, and we had nothing to complain about, really, on that score. The staff, though, seems a little disorganized. I recommend Owen’s anyway, but be prepared for things to go wrong.


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Restaurant of the Week: Table to Farm

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Table to Farm Dinners, Fairplex, Pomona

This will be a little different. For one thing, it’s fine dining; for another, my meal was comped, i.e., free. I always pay for these Restaurant of the Week meals out of my own pocket, but $75 was a bit much to absorb, so I took the Fair up on the meal (on their third invitation) rather than not go and not write about it. Take this writeup with all that in mind.

McKinley’s Grille, the Sheraton’s restaurant at Pomona’s Fairplex, has been growing produce on an acre in the FairView Farms area of the fairgrounds for its own use and last year began hosting outdoor dinners there on roughly a monthly basis — bringing, as the name suggests, the dining tables into the farm area.

I attended Aug. 19. So did a lot of people. After a writeup in the Bulletin’s Home & Garden section, attendance was 102, more than double the usual number.

After taking a tram from the Sheraton, you walk past the garden plots, where hors d’oeuvres and wine are offered, and then are seated at communal tables. Food is prepared on a grill a few feet away and in an enclosed kitchen. The effect is pleasingly rustic and yet it’s also fine dining, which this night included wine pairings, as a jazz duo played.

Dishes, to quote from the menu card, were Santa Barbara spot prawn with chili-fermented tomatillo; farm tomato with dill pollen, extra virgin olive oil, tomato tarragon jam and crisp pappadam; Hoja Santa steamed king salmon with Thai basil fig compote (pictured); Duroc pork belly with farm muscat grapes (pictured); Colorado lamb loin, farm eggplant and toasted sesame; and, for dessert, a cheese plate, farm strawberry creme fraiche tart and creme fraiche ice cream with ginger mint syrup (the syrup was missing, by the way).

Most of this was good to very good, the tomato appetizer, pork belly and tart being the standouts; the bread assortment was also excellent. The salmon was unseasoned and boring, the shrimp soggy. Two people who had the clam fritter hors d’oeuvre said it was rubbery and unpleasant. In another demerit, the plates given to two of us were dusty and we had to wipe them off with our napkins.

As a non-drinker, the wine pairings weren’t of interest to me. My friend was of two minds: Because the wines all came from the same winery in Paso Robles, there wasn’t a wide range; on the other hand, everyone received the equivalent of a half-bottle or more, which made the $75 price fair. Service was attentive and friendly, although most of the food was presented family style, and the wine kept flowing.

A couple from Chino Hills sitting next to us were there for the first time and were enthusiastic about the food (except the salmon) and the uniqueness of the setting. “It was absolutely worth it,” the man said.

A dissenting view was heard from a man who’d been to previous dinners, saying the usual $50 price was a great deal but that $75 that night was too much, especially without the usual individual service.

It’s a lovely setting, a novelty night out and a rare chance for fine dining in the Inland Valley, but the experience wasn’t without problems. You’ll have to decide for yourself if that’s worth your $75. The last dinners for the year are planned for Oct. 7 (details are here) and Nov. 4. Contact McKinley’s Grill at 909-868-5915 for reservations.

Next week in this space we’ll be back to regular-folks food, where we’ll all feel more comfortable.

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