Restaurant of the Week: Cup Noodles Shop

Cup Noodles Shop, 9783 Base Line Road (at Archibald), Rancho Cucamonga; open 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday to Tuesday, closed Wednesday

A Rancho Cucamonga-area diner interested in Chinese food ought to make a beeline for the southeast corner of Base Line and Archibald, where a 99 Ranch market is the centerpiece of an L-shaped plaza devoted to Asian-oriented businesses. I’ve been to most of them, but it’s hard to keep up as the operators and names turn over.

Cup Noodles Shop opened in mid-2018. A friend who’s become enamored of the place invited me to join him for lunch recently. And no, despite the name, they don’t serve instant soup. They did bring our water in these funny Lego-like cups.

The menu is mostly noodle soups, served in cups. We perused the menu at length and ordered three dishes: No. 16, pickled pork with leak noodles ($9.75), with an upgrade to cut noodles ($1), No. 8, ChongQing cold noodles ($8.85), both pictured below, and red chili chao shou ($9.38), not pictured.

We liked both noodle dishes, with the cold noodles being an interesting change, but the handmade noodles in the pork soup — see my bowl of it below — were the clear winner, wide and stretchy. I’m a fan of wontons in red chili oil and the version here matched up.

Also, the soup cups were adorable.

The small restaurant also has milk teas and desserts, including cakes in the shapes of cartoon pigs and dogs. An open-minded child might find this place even more delightful than an adult.

In the plaza, I spotted one restaurant I’d never noticed before that seemed to be devoted to spicy food and two others whose names have changed since my last visit. A hobbyist could do worse than to try to stay on top of things on that corner.

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Restaurant of the Week: Mica’s Peruvian Fusion

Mica’s Peruvian Fusion, 8421 Haven Ave. (at Civic Center), Rancho Cucamonga; open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday, to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 8 p.m. Sunday

I’ve eaten a few times at Mica’s Peruvian Sandwiches, a cubbyhole of a restaurant on Archibald Avenue at the railroad tracks in Rancho Cucamonga, but I had not been to the full-fledged, sit-down version, Mica’s Peruvian Fusion over on Haven Avenue. It’s in the sleepy strip of businesses south of City Hall and the courts that’s now slightly less sleepy after the dead J.C. Penney Outlet next door was turned into the Haven City Market food hall.

But after a movie at the end of the year, two friends recommended we eat at Mica’s. It’s several times larger than the other Mica’s, but still modest. At dinner time it’s dimly lighted and somewhat atmospheric. There’s alcohol: sangria, cocktails, wine and Peruvian beers.

I had the lomo saltado ($12), steak with onions and tomatoes on fries, with a side of rice in case you wanted more starch. We shared some fish chowder ($13.50) and one got a dish that I can’t positively identify in retrospect based on the menu descriptions. So I’ll scratch that photo.

Because I didn’t get an interior photo or prices off the menu in such an offhand dinner, a few weeks later I returned for a weekday lunch with another friend. The menu has appetizers, soups and salads, chicken, beef, seafood and five meatless dishes.

He got the spaghetti a la huancaina ($14), roast beef on pasta with huancaina sauce, kind of a spicy pesto. I got picante mariscos ($14), calamari, shrimp and mussels in a creamy pepper sauce with potatoes and rice. I took home half of mine for a whole separate meal.

Service was slow, with our server apparently thinking someone else had taken our order for a long stretch. “Not the place to go for an express lunch,” my friend observed. But we were in no hurry.

We’re not sure why the name has “fusion” in it, since the offerings seemed like straight Peruvian food to us. We liked it just the way it was.

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Restaurant of the Week: Just Vegana

Just Vegana, 180 E 6th St. (at Garey), Pomona; open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday

In the former Sabor Mexicano spot across from City Hall, Just Vegana is part of the vegan-Mexican trend. In fact the restaurant is about four blocks from Borreguitas, another vegan-Mex spot previously featured here. Something is afoot, and it’s plant-based.

I met an out-of-town friend here for breakfast recently. Except that since it was a weekday, Vegana doesn’t serve breakfast, just an early lunch. They only have breakfast on weekends.

We ordered at the counter. I got an al pastor torta ($11) and an agua fresca ($4); he got four tacos ($10): al pastor, asada, pollo and chorizo. We took our seats and soon the food arrived.

He was impressed, and he’s an omnivore. He said the chicken was right, the asada a bit salty, the pastor a bit sweet, and the chorizo “really, really good. It’s got that grease. It’s amazing.” Overall, his verdict was “awesome.” As you can see, they didn’t skimp on the faux meat. It looks like eight tacos’ worth of fillings.

I polished off my torta. Taste- and texture-wise, I never feel like vegan meat is the same as the real thing, but I can appreciate it. Also, the bread was great. My agua fresca — guanabana flavor — was refreshing. There’s a salsa bar too.

Kind of amazing that vegan Mexican in Pomona isn’t simply an option itself, but that diners have several options for where to get it.

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Restaurant of the Week: Dumpling Village

Dumpling Village,  7203 Haven Ave. (at Base Line), Rancho Cucamonga; open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily

I don’t know how town planners would feel about a village constructed out of dumplings, but it’s a pleasant prospect for the hungry. Dumpling Village doesn’t put the concept to the test, as it’s the name of a restaurant rather than a descriptor of a complete community. Friends and I had lunch there on a recent Saturday.

It could easily be, and perhaps once was, a fast-casual restaurant based on the counter arrangement. But no, you take a seat and peruse a laminated menu on which you can indicate your choices with a marker.

We ordered six items: a chives and egg turnover ($4.50), a green onion pancake ($4.50), lamb and pickled vegetable soup ($10), pork and shrimp dumplings ($9), vegetable dumplings ($8) and orange chicken ($11).

The server cautioned us that the soup would be “sour.” That only emboldened us. We liked it.

The pancake, turnover and dumplings were all enjoyed. We engaged in some good-natured ribbing of the fellow who came to an authentic Chinese restaurant and ordered orange chicken, as if he were at Panda Express. But it was tasty, and what was on the plate looked much better than in the photo on the wall. How often does that happen?

We all liked the experience. The vegan in our group said the food was “decent,” but a little bland, which she said isn’t unusual for vegetarian items.

“Dumpling Village is a wonderful addition to the Rancho Cucamonga culinary community,” one declared. “I say that as a proud Rancho Kook.”

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Restaurant of the Week: Nguyen’s Kitchen

Nguyen’s Kitchen, 4021 Grand Ave. (at Pipeline), Chino; open 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Nguyen’s is a recent addition to the Chino Spectrum shopping center, over in the food section at Grand and Pipeline, where there’s a Starbucks and a half-dozen casual restaurants clustered around a fountain and outdoor seating. It took the place of the area’s only Jollibee.

With a hankering for Vietnamese food, I drove down for lunch on a recent Sunday. It’s inviting inside with a lot of wood and deep booths, some that seat two and others that might seat eight, plus tastefully framed and matted Vietnam photos. The menu is simple, with a few sandwiches, noodle dishes and rice bowls, hardly a dozen items all told.

I ordered the grilled pork sandwich ($7), cajun fries ($4) and a peach lychee tea ($3.50) and took a seat. The fries came out first and merited their own tray. They were delicious, with chunks of roasted garlic, and plentiful. They’d have made a meal on their own or have been good for sharing. My sandwich was ready as I was polishing off the fries, and at that point I almost didn’t need the sandwich anymore. But I ate it anyway, of course.

It was a banh mi, for those who know their Vietnamese food, but not named as such: grilled pork on a roll with carrots, daikon, cucumber and cilantro, and likewise delicious. And the tea tasted strongly of peach.

I’d return here as the noodle and rice dishes — including garlic noodles or rice with chicken, pork, bulgogi or shrimp — also sounded appealing. The hip-hop radio station was turned up a bit loud, though. Nguyen’s has locations in Costa Mesa and Orange. Surprisingly, Nguyen’s is the second Vietnamese restaurant in that corner of the Spectrum. Pho Grand is just across the patio.

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Restaurant of the Week: Poke Bistro

Poke Bistro,  11819 Foothill Blvd. (at Rochester), Rancho Cucamonga; open daily 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. except Sunday, closed; also at 2570 S. Vineyard Ave., Ontario

A former newsroom colleague used to talk up Poke Bistro, saying it was a little different than most poke restaurants, with a more Hawaiian touch. As often happens, it took me a year or two to get around to trying a recommended restaurant. I guess I’m (wait for it) poky. Anyway, I met a friend for lunch at Poke Bistro, in Rancho Cucamonga’s Masi Plaza, in mid-December.

The interior is rather minimalist, for good or bad, but the service was friendly, with the man behind the counter going over the menu and offering suggestions.

We each got bowls ($10). Mine, above, had Hawaiian tuna, spiny tuna, spicy salmon, plus cucumber, ginger, seaweed and wasabi. His, below, had Hawaiian tuna, Hawaiian salmon, scallops, cucumber and seaweed. We each got a sparkling grapefruit soda, which was delicious and provided a sharp contrast to the fish.

Aside from the Hawaiian-marinated salmon and tuna mentioned above, the menu has udon and ramen bowls and a shrimp tempura burrito, an interesting-sounding cultural mashup. So, it’s still a poke place, a trend that’s probably peaked, but Poke Bistro isn’t bad.

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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: Clyde’s Hot Chicken

Clyde’s Hot Chicken, 8790 Central Ave. (at Richton), Montclair; open daily 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Clyde’s opened in a former Fatburger just above the Metrolink tracks in Montclair in October 2019 and almost immediately was doing more business in a day than Fatburger was likely to have done in a month. (I like Fatburger but it just has not been able to get its act together in the 909.) This is the second Clyde’s; the first is in Fullerton.

My first visit was at 3 p.m. on a Sunday, when there were a surprising number of customers for the middle of an afternoon. Several groups entered after me. Employees shouted “Welcome!” at each of us.

The menu has chicken sandwiches, fried or grilled, chicken strips and hot wings, all in the Nashville hot chicken style. Heat levels are Naked (no spice), Original (hot and sweet), Hot as Cluck (hot) and 1930 (ghost pepper and cayenne).

I got the Clyde’s Original combo ($9) with the Original heat level, which is very mildly spiced. The chicken comes on a brioche bun with slaw and pickles, just how I like it, and the combo has crinkle-cut fries, nice and crisp, and a soda. Darned good. There’s a cup of completely unnecessary sauce, although I do dip my fries in it.

On two subsequent visits, I got the Skinny Chick combo (same price), with the chicken grilled, not fried. Also tasty, and better for you, but without the satisfying crunch. I also tried the mac salad as my side once, and that was fine too. Other sides are waffles and slaw, and they make a breakfast sandwich, the Early Bird. I should try the Hot as Cluck spice level, just to try it, but I’m no spice fiend.

(Subsequent to writing this post, I ordered a Skinny Chick and asked for the Hot spice level, but that sandwich is only available as Naked or Original.)

Being on the border of Montclair and Upland, but definitely within Montclair, there’s decor for each city using historic photos. Montclair is, alas, relegated to the back, by the restrooms and kitchen entrance. Vintage photos include two drive-ins, the interior of Montclair Plaza and an ad urging then-Monte Vista residents to vote for the name change to Montclair. Spoiler alert: It did.

Upland images are in the dining room and include the depot, the trolley and the old Upland College. Clyde’s also has a patio and a drive-thru.

Clyde’s is a nice addition to Montclair and I’m pleased they were able to clean the stink of failure from that building. Maybe they had it ritually cleansed with sage. Or cayenne.

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Restaurant of the Week: Paulie’s Pizza Pub

Paulie’s Pizza Pub, 247 N. 2nd Ave. (at 9th), Upland; open 11 a.m. daily until midnight Monday to Thursday, 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 p.m. Sunday

Paulie’s took the place of the all-ages music venue The Wire in the heart of downtown Upland after a protracted renovation in early 2016. Needing dinner before a recent council meeting, I headed there to check it out. And there’s a lot to check out.

There’s exposed brick, hardwood floors, vintage signs for such products as Quaker State Motor Oil, a Vote Against Prohibition mural, a miniature fire escape against one brick wall for urban ambiance and B&W framed photos of rock singers, among other things to marvel at.

The front is a bar, with small solo tables facing the bar; after a narrow space with two-person tables and an unused upright piano, there’s a dining room with tables for small groups. You get the impression Paulie’s has been there forever, not four years (albeit in an early 20th century building).

I got a Don Vito sandwich ($11), meatball and sausage with mozzarella, romano and marinara on French bread. It’s all kind of baked inside the bread. That was a good but unusual knife-and-fork sandwich, and big enough that I took some of it home. It fortified me for the council meeting.

I’ve been back twice since, splitting a medium vegetarian pizza ($25) with a friend on one visit. It had tomatoes, onions, peppers and mushrooms. The crust was thick and crispy. As my friend put it: “I’m not usually one of those people who say ‘I like the crust.’ But the crust was really good.” The pizza was large enough (as a medium) that there was some to take home.

Third visit, I got the Knuckles Chicken Parm sandwich ($11), with chicken, marinara, provolone and garlic bread. You won’t be surprised to hear that I took some home. A different friend got the Mad Dog hot sub, with ham, turkey, roast beef, provolone and au jus. “It’s really good,” she said, “if you like meat dipped in meat juice.” That was a compliment.

Also, if you go, check out the restrooms. The men’s has celebrity police-booking photos.

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Restaurant of the Week: Haven City Market

Haven City Market, 8443 Haven Ave. (at Arrow), Rancho Cucamonga; open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

After a couple of years of construction, the former J.C. Penney Outlet store opened in October as Haven City Market, a food hall. It’s like a mall food court without the mall, with (at this writing) 25 vendors selling entrees, desserts and beverages, and no retail or services.

It’s only the second food hall in the Inland Valley, after Cravings by 99 Ranch in Chino, putting us as usual far behind LA and Orange counties. Haven City isn’t far from our newsroom and so I’ve made a point of going multiple times. As with Cravings, it makes more sense to write about the food hall as a whole rather than individual spots.

The developers have done a nice job in making the hall inviting. There’s varied styles of seating throughout rather than the monotony of everything looking alike. One area has two ping-pong tables. Some spaces are Instagram-friendly, because that’s almost a requirement now.

Salted caramel cone from Cauldron with Instagram-friendly background

And there’s a sprawling patio area for warm days with shaded umbrellas and fake turf. I found that a welcome place to eat in October and November.

Most of the food stands are not recognizable names, which is good. Burgerim stands out as a “what is this doing here” chain, but their slider concept at least works from the small-bites angle. The majority of the offerings are Asian, primarily Korean and Japanese, but other cultures are represented too.

Shrimp roll and cajun fries from Shrimp Shack

I’ve enjoyed a shrimp roll ($10) and cajun fries ($4) at Shrimp Shack, a Japanese pancake ($8) at Oko Yummy, the yellowtail and white tuna sushi ($13 combined) at Shokunin, the adobo elote cup ($6.50) at Ibasa, the pork belly grilled cheese ($14 with fries and soda) at Belly & Snout and a shrimp, pork and kimchi rice bowl ($7.40) at On + On. A friend joined me at Ibasa and liked his al pastor, carnitas and tri-tip tacos.

For dessert, I’ve had a nitrogen ice cream salted caramel cone ($6.75) at Cauldron, a blood orange popsicle ($4) at Popbar and a Reese’s churro with ice cream ($9) at Churro Bar.

Reese’s churro and ice cream from Churro Bar

And I’ve had a strawberry fruit tea with boba ($4.50) at It’s Boba Time, which also sells macarons. My friend got a beer at Native Son Alehouse (price not noted) and said it was quite good, “aside from being served in plastic,” like at a ballpark.

It’s possible to combine foods or drinks from three or four places in one meal, besides sharing with friends.

My favorites of the above would be Shrimp Shack, Ibasa and On + On. The other meals were fine to greater or lesser degrees but perhaps not enough to draw me back. Overall the offerings are a little hit or miss, but that’s probably to be expected. The only meal I didn’t like was an under-grilled chicken kabob meal ($11) at Baba K, which came with no tahini and no fork. I was reduced to pulling the chicken apart with my fork and fingers. But to make up for some confusion on their part at the register, they gave me a free falafel, which was better than the meal I’d paid for.

On + On mini-sized bowl

I’d had the idea of eating at every spot, but that proved too ambitious as well as a little nutty. Plus I don’t need Fire Wings or Oke Poke. But I’ve been to 11 vendors out of 25, a fair sampling.

Haven City was packed from Day One, and I’ve been told it’s especially so on weekends. It’s been great to see so many cars in the parking lot of what had been a dead business and so many people of all ages inside. Will the all-food concept sustain itself? We’ll see. Out here in the suburbs, we don’t have enough buzzy hangout spots.

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