Mr. Morris, tear down this mall!

Much has been discussed at San Bernardino City Hall about the fate of the Carousel Mall.

But what does this have to do with Dine 909?

Here’s my proposal: Keep the parking structure, the Andreson Building and the Harris’ building. Tear down the rest and put in restaurants.

Why restaurants? Because (despite a few notable exceptions) they seem to do well in this town, as anyone who’s had to wait an hour to get into the Hospitality Lane Olive Garden on a Tuesday night can attest.

Not just any restaurants, however. Let’s put in restaurants that people are otherwise driving half an hour or more to go to.

We could start with a few of my favorites from L.A. and Orange County. How about the cousin to Redlands’ Macaroni Grill, Maggiano’s Little Italy. For those who haven’t been to Maggiano’s, it’s upscale (but not pretentious) family-style Italian dining, with a little bit of a retro feel. Usually I head to the one in the Grove near Farmer’s Market in L.A., but they’re also in Woodland Hills and South Coast Plaza. Oh, and Las Vegas, too.

For a more casual Italian experience, we could have a Pasta Pomodoro. I’ve been to both the West Hollywood and Orange locations, as well as the one in Woodland Hills, which has since closed. I’ve always found the food at Pomodoro to be fresh and tasty.

One of my favorite chain restaurants that’s only in L.A. is the Grand Lux Cafe, found at the Beverly Center. This Cheesecake Factory-related chain (same founder) has only 13 locations, and that’s their sole California location (although there’s two in Las Vegas, in adjoining casinos!), but wouldn’t it be a coup to have them open a location in downtown San Bernardino? Take that, San Francisco!

Another great Italian option would be Il Fornaio, whose closest location is in Old Town Pasadena.

Speaking of Pasadena, there’s a McCormick & Schmick’s seafood restaurant there, as well as seven other spots in L.A. and Orange counties, but none in the Inland Empire.

If it’s steak you’re craving, there’s a Ruth’s Chris Steak House here in the I.E., but way out in Palm Desert. They also have locations in Anaheim, Irvine, Beverly Hills and Pasadena (again?).

Another restaurant with a I.E. desert location (Rancho Mirage) and L.A. and Orange counties is Roy’s Hawaiian fusion restaurant.

I’d also include the Lazy Dog Cafe, whose sole Inland Empire location is down in Temecula.

I might even go so far to include restaurants that are on the cusp of the driving limit, such as the Cheesecake Factory, P.F. Chang’s and Yard House, all of which have locations in both Victoria Gardens and Riverside.

They don’t all have to be sit-down restaurants. I’m open to including fast-food places like Rally’s and fast-casual spots like Pei Wei.

And if they want to incorporate county offices or a “lake and streams” water feature la The River at Rancho Mirage, feel free.

It’s just unbelievably sad that in a the downtown of city of 200,000, you can count on one hand the sit-down restaurants that serve food after 6 p.m.

Heck, even the downtown Starbucks closes at 9 p.m.

Oh, and if my restaurant idea takes off maybe we can persuade Laemmle Theaters to buy the old CinemaStar building.

A fella can dream, can’t he?

  • Anonymous

    I completely agree with your article. This city needs some vision to rejuvenate the downtown area. Your proposal to bring an influx of restaurants sounds wonderful, although I have no idea how it could be done. Another thought – Old Spaghetti Factory in the old Carlos O’Brien’s location. The few old buildings that remain in this city can and should be upgraded and renovated, then some can be converted into great restaurants.

  • RossS

    I was driving down E St. on Sunday. Driving past the McDonald’s museum, I had the very similar thoughts as the article. Nowadays, San Bernardino is known for Route 66 and the city where a few of the major players in fast food started. It’s got some beautiful old buildings. It’s also got more than it’s share of blight. So, I agree. Tear down the mall, try to put some kind of destination that would bring folks in year round. SoCal, cars and classic fast food could do that. Why not put in a drive-in car hop fast food joint on that lot? Build retro fast food joints. The McDonald Bro’s, the Bakers, and the Bells all started out here. Heck, they all went to High School together! The McDonalds museum on E St is pretty lame, build a retro McDonald Bros drive-in up there! Not to slam the Juan Pollo owner, but he isn’t doing it any justice. Arrowhead Ball Park down the street the other way could be a big part of the project. So could the mostly empty auto center. I haven’t even mentioned the Orange Show. There’s alot to work with, it just needs people with passion, vision and a desire to grow. Oh yeah, and money too..lot’s and lot’s of money. Maybe San Manuel is looking to expand?