Restaurant of the Week: Andy’s Burgers, Ontario

Andy’s Burgers, 310 E. Holt Blvd. (at Plum), Ontario; open daily 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; also 4603 Riverside Drive, Chino

Andy’s has been in Ontario since 1969, founded by Andy Poulos, whose family still runs it today. A recent video in City Hall’s Made in Ontario series tells more.

The original location was a drive-in a couple of blocks east on Holt at Sultana that was displaced in 2004 for an apartment project. But the new Andy’s opened immediately in a brand-new building at Plum. City planners said at the time that they made Andy’s move the original grill, grease intact, to ensure the burgers tasted the same. I was never clear if they were kidding, but it was too good of a story to ruin if it wasn’t.

Anyway, I’ve been to the new Andy’s once or twice over the years. Recently I was downtown on an errand, had missed lunch and thought I might as well eat at Andy’s.

Andy’s is one of those burger places with a sprawling menu. The menu board is probably 15 feet long and you could spend much of your lunch break reading it and weighing your options. Of all the luck, nobody was ahead of me and the counterwoman immediately greeted me and asked if she could help me.

What the hell, I ordered a burger combo ($7.29): burger, fries, soda, as if I had to tell you.

It was a substantial sandwich, and even though the burger wasn’t hand-pattied, it had grill marks and was served on a seeded bun with a giant sheaf of iceberg lettuce, tomato slices and thousand island. The fries were hot and crisp. I didn’t leave hungry.

The menu has breakfasts, other hot sandwiches, Mexican food and more. A now-retired city planner used to rave about the hot chicken salad, which was pieces of steaming-hot grilled chicken atop a bed of iceberg lettuce. It was protein-heavy, let’s put it that way.

At lunch, I caught up on two or three issues of the Chino Champion that I’d brought. The restaurant was moderately busy even at 3 p.m. and was clean, if a bit characterless.

Even in the heart of downtown, two blocks from the epicenter of Holt and Euclid, it’s a slightly challenging location.¬†Outside, a man asked for money for a $20 cab to take him to San Bernardino. I gave him a buck and resisted the urge to tell him to take a bus.

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Restaurant of the Week: Chapala Restaurant

Chapala Restaurant, Bar and Grill, 1542 W. Holt Blvd. (at Benson), Ontario; open daily, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., except Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

You could date your longevity here by whether you know the low, long building at Benson and Holt as Last Round, or Las Playas, or Antonio’s, the latter of which occupied the corner for a few decades until the mid-’00s. The latest restaurant and bar is Chapala.

I learned of its existence from a rare mention of an Inland Valley restaurant in the Times food section’s news briefs column. The paragraph cited Chapala’s ceviche towers, tortas ahogadas, birria de res and handmade tortillas, plus mariachis on Friday and Saturday. To be clear, the Times didn’t visit; the mention was merely a rehash of a news release.

Still, I was impressed by the savvy of a local restaurant able to insert itself into the Times. So when a small group wanted lunch in Ontario, I chose Chapala. It’s named for a city in the Mexican state of Jalisco by a lake, accounting for the restaurant’s lighthouse logo.

The building has two halves, a restaurant side and a bar side. We checked out both and both were empty at 1 p.m. on a Thursday, perhaps not the best sign. We were seated in the bar area. I counted nine TVs, so it’s probably a fun place to unwind after work and watch sports.

Two had shrimp tacos ($2 each), said to be “all right” but served on cold tortillas. Handmade, but cold. Someone else got carne asada tacos ($1.55 each), which he said were “good.”

I had a chicharron torta ($6.75), decent but unexceptional.

The asada guy also got a shrimp cocktail ($13). He said the shrimp had been frozen and thawed in the cup, which might have accounted for the watery cocktail sauce.

Perhaps we came at the wrong time and ordered all the wrong things. But for what we experienced, Chapala was disappointing. On the bright side, we weren’t disturbed by the conversation of other diners.

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Column: ONT taking steps to replace long-broken escalator

Did you know an escalator at ONT has been broken for six months? And if you did, did you know the escalator has its own Twitter account? (Probably you didn’t; it has only 92 followers.) Having taken the stairs myself coming back from my recent vacation, I write about the situation, which is not escalating, in Sunday’s column, along with items about a conversation on “Jimmy Kimmel” about Ontario, a Mini Cooper in the news in Rancho Cucamonga and more.

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Restaurant of the Week: Omni Deli

Omni Deli, 402 S. Milliken Ave. (at Brickell), Ontario; open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday, closed weekends

Located south of the 10 Freeway in a business park, Omni Deli opened in April. It’s open weekdays only, gearing itself toward nearby businesses, there being no residences nearby. A friend heard about it and suggested we meet up for lunch.

The area doesn’t have much ambiance; the business next door is named Cheap Fingerprints. But the deli is clean and new. Its walls are decorated with¬†B&W photos of generic people enjoying themselves generically, so bland as to be comical.

Omni sells 13 sandwiches, eight kinds of burgers, seven salads, five kinds of pizza, plus breakfast burritos and a half-dozen random entrees, among them hot dogs, buffalo wings, baked zitti and poke bowls. They’re eager to please.

A half-sub is $6, a large is $9. We got half-sandwiches. Above, the Godfather, with roast beef, mozzarella, garlic butter spread, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles and pepperocini on a roll. He liked the Boar’s Head meat and the toasted roll.

Meanwhile, I had the Italian, with capicola, salami, mortadella, provolone, lettuce, onions, tomatoes and pickles. It was a good sandwich on a soft roll.

If you’re in a certain radius of Omni Deli and like deli sandwiches, you might want to give it a try. And they’re friendly: The woman behind the counter went table to table and offered free ice pops. Like I said, eager to please.

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Column: Ontario couple traded up by moving one house over

I write about Pat and Virginia King, who gave up their Ontario home 39 years ago to buy the house next door. After that come a bunch of items from Pomona involving Mexico Lindo, the redwood grove, an art exhibit, two Big Boys and the 1956 Pomona High fire, plus a plug for my next author talk and a note that I’m leaving for vacation, all in Sunday’s column.

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ONT’s old terminal

As mentioned in Sunday’s column, I was at Ontario International Airport’s old terminal last week, and I don’t believe I’d been there other than a couple of mid-’90s flights. Here are a few photos that may bring back memories — in which case, please share them.

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Restaurant of the Week: Golden Corral

Golden Corral, 1640 E. 4th St. (at Baker), Ontario (also at 2037 Rancho Valley Drive, Pomona); open 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday and 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday

(It’s schedules like the above, by the way, that make me regret my policy of typing out restaurants’ business hours.)

Buffets’ heyday might seem to have come and gone, with the late, and lame, HomeTown Buffet driving the final limp celery stalk into any remaining interest. But along comes Golden Corral, the North Carolina-based chain that has made a big entry into California.

I was only mildly curious about Golden Corral. I’m not a buffet guy. But a week ago, three members of our newsroom, which was practically the entire newsroom, were all going to the Ontario location for lunch and invited me to join them. Why not? I knew I’d never go on my own.

When you enter, you get your tray and your self-serve drink before you pay, which probably cuts down on cheating from those who would claim they would only get a water while later secretly filling up on soda, and plenty of it. Lunch is $13, with drinks extra. I actually did get water. A server stopped by our table a couple of times to offer refills, since you can’t get them yourself, so be prepared to tip a dollar or two.

There’s oceans of seating, and a weekday lunch does not seem to be the busy time. I’ll bet weekends are a different story. There are five areas for food: Greenhouse (salads and fruit), Smokehouse (Southern/BBQ), Hacienda (Mexican), Grillhouse (chicken and fish) and Brass Bell Bakery (dessert).

One colleague went all-Southern (see above), which she called a Southern potluck: fried catfish, hush puppies, popcorn shrimp, fried okra, mashed potatoes with sausage gravy, fried chicken, “Bourbon St. chicken,” pot roast and a roll. She liked it and singled out the popcorn shrimp for being more shrimp than batter.

My first plate, above, was, to go clockwise from left, toasted ravioli, pulled pork, fried shrimp, hush puppy, fried fish, Bourbon St. chicken, collard greens and rice. Not bad.

Another colleague had fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn and green beans. Taking after the “Southern potluck” diner, he declared: “My course is Sunday afternoon at Aunt Bea’s house.”

He said his strategy is to try to get seven courses, but not seven plates, represented. The fourth in our group said he looks at buffets as a competition: “Oh, David got the clam chowder. I need to get that.”

It’s hard to photograph a buffet, especially when you’re 1) trying to be subtle about it and 2) not trying that hard to begin with. But here’s one view.

The dessert area included a chocolate fountain, soft serve ice cream, hand-scooped ice cream (which the staff serves), cookies and brownies. I had a chocolate pudding, which was pretty good.

Overall, my friends were satisfied. The competitor did his best to keep up and, sated, spent the afternoon struggling to stay awake. Golden Corral is all right for what it is. As a non-buffet guy, it’s hard for me to imagine going back. It wasn’t that good. But it’s definitely of better quality than HomeTown. If you’re a buffet guy or gal, you might like it.

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