Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Vita Italian Bar & Grill -- 3101 W Temple Ave Pomona, CA 91768

My Meal Cost: $71.18 plus trip. Health Rating A. Yelp 4 stars

One of the nice things about being retired is that we can just "decide" to go to lunch at a nice place on a Monday afternoon. This week, the Lovely Mrs. C and I were doing errands and decided to go to the new restaurant at the DoubleTree hotel on Temple near the Pomona-Diamond Bar border. For those who wonder, this is in Pomona.

I had originally heard that it was going to be a fine dining place and said so in a Facebook posting. In the comments on that post, a snarky commenter suggested that this place would be "basically an Olive Garden." Well it's not. The people, who I know who had been there, confirmed it and recommended it.

Most of Vita's food is sourced locally with produce from Cal-Poly and other local farms. Cheese is from Pomona cheese maker DiStefano, and they try to get as much from local sources as possible.

Their executive chef, David Wolfskill comes with a background of over 30 years cooking in Spain and 15 years of apprenticeships in numerous top restaurants throughout San Francisco. Chef David’s most recent assignment was as the Chef de Cuisine at the historic Millennium Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles overseeing the iconic Hotel's 5 restaurants, including, Smeraldi's, their tribute restaurant to modern Italian cuisine.

Vita is Italian for "to be alive" or life. The place is an upscale restaurant with a modern look but with warm wood accents. This restaurant was the only Pomona restaurant (and the farthest east) during the recent DineLA Restaurant Week with a prix fix menu during the week of July 13-27. I had hoped the lovely Mrs C and I might be able to do that but things didn't work out.

Upon arriving (without reservations--manageable on a Monday afternoon) we were seated by the maitre d'. Our waiter arrived shortly after with water and asked us about drinks. Again, we had no reason not to, so we each ordered a glass of the house sauvignon blanc. A very nice, cold white wine with a strong citrus taste (Mrs. C suggested lemon, I suggested grapefruit). It was very good on a hot summer afternoon. When the wine came we were also provided bread, both a crispy flatbread and a pillow of soft ciabatta. A dipping bowl of extra virgin olive oil and vinegar was provided. Since the Lovely Mrs. C is allergic to olives and olive oil, she asked for butter and was cheerfully accommodated.

When it came time to order, I had decided to order two items from the "Taste" section of the lunch menu. The first item that I knew I wanted was the Herb Arancini. Arancini are traditionally made from left-over risotto, which is formed in a ball with something in the center (in this case herbs, sometimes it's a small meat, mushroom, cheese, or other "something") then breaded and deep fried. The result should be a crunchy crisp outer coating with a creamy risotto interior. This was served with a Basil gorgonzola and chili oil dipping sauce and lived up to my expectations in all ways.

The second item that I had settled on was the DiStefano's burrata. Burrata is a small ball of fresh mozzarella cheese with fresh cream in the center. Since I had heard of DiStefano's and that they were known for their burrata, I was really looking forward to trying it. Unfortunately, after I ordered, the waiter came back to inform us that they were out of the burrata, major disappointment. Because I had my heart set on that, I really didn't have a fall-back so asked the waiter what he thought would go well with the Arancini. He suggested the crispy polenta--not something I would necessarily have chosen on my own. This was fingers (about the size of steak fries) of polenta which had been fried so that there was a slight crispiness to the outside but the center was creamy corn-meal goodness. This came on a cast iron platter with Wild mushrooms, melted DiStefano's scarmoza cheese, fresh herbs, and a chianti vinegar. The fried polenta enhanced the experience of the mushrooms and cheese which in my mind was the overall flavor profile. While not something that I would have originally chosen, it is definitely something I would have again.

The Lovely Mrs. C decided on the Wild Mushroom Ravioli. This was prepared with thyme, chianti pickled shallots, black garlic, and porcini cream. In addition, there was a pool of extra virgin olive oil surrounding it. The olive oil was problematic and I asked the waiter if we could get it changed out, but Mrs. C not wanting to make a fuss, insisted that she could eat round it, and did so. However, the waiter was fully amenable to redoing it had she not insisted that it was OK. In addition there were shavings of parmesan cheese over the top. She reports that the mushroom ravioli were excellent and the porcini sauce was a perfect complement.

Since we were in such a beautiful locale and had no further obligations for the day, we decided to look at the dessert menu. Usually we look at it and then decide to do something when we get home. But this dessert menu had some real temptations. My recommendation is that you not look at the menu unless you're prepared to order! We were totally drawn to the Chocolate-Dark Cherry Bread Pudding with salted butterscotch, candied balsamic and young mint. This came with a scoop of espresso coffee ice cream drizzled with the candied balsamic sauce. The cherries were on the bottom and had an almost scorched flavor which combined with the sweet/salty caramel and the cinnamon of the bread pudding. With the cool sweetness of the ice cream and chocolate, this was one scrumptious way to end a meal.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Day Day's BBQ and Wafflehouse -- 994 E Holt Blvd Pomona, CA 91767

My Meal Cost: $18.55 plus trip. Health Rating A. Yelp 4.5 stars

It's been a while, but with the Lovely Mrs. C on her annual family camping trip I ventured off on my own to one of the Pomona restaurants that's been on my list of "must visits" for some time now.

Day Day's BBQ & Wafflehouse is a place that a lot of folks have recommended to me. I've had some of their catering at the Library Trivia Bee and the city Holiday Party so was somewhat familiar with their food but what you get from catering is usually not exactly the same as going to the restaurant.

Day Day's is located in a building on Holt just east of Reservoir at the corner of Loranne. They are nestled between the liquor store on the corner, and a Pupusa place. Parking is in front of the building on the street and is somewhat limited. As you can see from the image above, their sign is quite small and is overpowered by the liquor store next door so you might drive past it without really seeing it. You will want to make the effort to find it though.

The interior is very homey and comfortable with brown upholstered booths which would seat four and a couple of larger booths. They are a dine-in restaurant but also do take out if you'd like.

I arrived for lunch at about 11:30 am and it appeared that I was their first customer of the day but over the course of my lunch the place quickly filled up. I was greeted cordially and told to "sit anywhere." The waitress came over with menus right away and asked for my beverage order (unsweetened ice tea) and was back with it in short order.

Looking over the menu I decided that I really didn't want to choose from their "available all day" breakfast menu, which certainly looked good and included their signature chicken & waffles, but would prefer more of a mid-day meal. Their lunch menu included a number of sandwich options, including an interesting looking Po Boy, lunch chicken, hot wings, 'Nique's links, which all sounded good, but I was still interested in making this my "meal for the day" and looked at the dinner side of the menu.

While the full dinners included ribs, combos, gumbo, and seafood among others, I decided that I really wanted to try some of their fried chicken with a couple of sides, so I ordered Grandma Pang's Southern Fried Chicken. For my sides I ordered their greens (which I loved at the catered events) and, a personal favorite, red beans & rice.

The chicken had very crispy skin and moist, tender meat. My meal came with a breast, thigh, and leg. On the breast was a large piece of  "extra" skin (probably from the back which wasn't on the breast) which was crispy and crunchy and tasted a lot like chicharones. The only problem for me with the chicken was that it was a bit on the salty side. This is probably good when you have it with waffles and add in the sweet maple syrup, but bordered on overpowering on its own.

The greens were as good as I had recalled, and were devoured. Unfortunately, for me, the red beans and rice were a little disappointing. When I was in college I worked in the French Market restaurant at Disneyland, and while they didn't serve red beans & rice, I knew about it from our daytime house band, The Delta Ramblers, which featured dixieland jazz legendary clarinetist Joe Darensbourg as the leader. He ended each set with his theme, which he had written called L-O-U-I-S-I-A-N-I-A. The final line in the song was "Eatin' red beans & rice in Paradise, Lou-easy-an-i-a." 

Since in my youth I don't recall anywhere that served that dish it wasn't until I went to New Orleans for the 2000 Mardi Gras, that I was finally introduced to it. Now it is my go-to side at Popeye's and whenever I'm in a creole/cajun restaurant, and I make it at home as well. The best part of red beans & rice is the flavor of the ham hocks or other pork. This was missing in the version at Day Day's which, without it was somewhat bland. I did add some Louisiana hot sauce to it which made it good, but I was disappointed that my favorite was less than hoped for.

Having said all that, the experience was good, the food was overall excellent, and I'm sure I'll be back to try some of their other specialties soon.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Pomona Valley Mining Company -- 1777 Gillette Rd Pomona, CA 91768

My Meal Cost: $133.65 for 4 plus trip. Health Rating A. Yelp 3 stars

Photo from Yelp
This past week has been one of a lot of dining out with an anniversary dinner (Pasadena), theater dinner (DTLA), wife's birthday dinner (Pasadena), and dinner with a couple of friends (Claremont), all fine dining experiences outside our fair city. So it was with interest that I got an email from local newspaper columnist, "Scoop," asking if I'd be interested in joining him (he does a weekly restaurant review on his blog), and Johnny Diner from The New Diner blog, to experience Pomona Valley Mining Company together. So what is it like when food writers get together? We ate, we talked, we left and wrote.

Pomona Valley Mining Company sits on top of a hill north of the 10 Freeway at Dudley. It has a large electronic billboard out front which is very visible from the freeway. After driving up a very steep road you come into the large parking lot. This particular weekday evening it was about half full of cars which means that they must be doing some pretty decent business.

The building itself is a theme type building of an old mining operations. Think something you might see at Knotts Berry Farm ghost town. It has lots of rustic mining paraphernalia and and an entrance that resembles the opening of a mine shaft, meaning you walk down some steep stairs to get to the dining room.

I've been coming here since the early 70s so none of this was new to me. This is a favorite banquet spot in town and I believe that the last couple of times I've been here have been in the banquet rooms (upstairs or parking lot level) where we didn't order off the menu. They also have a full bar which back in the 80s when the Lovely Mrs. C and I were dating was an occasional stop to listen to live bands and have an evening drink.

The dining room itself has floor to ceiling windows on the south side overlooking the south Pomona Valley across to Elephant Hill and toward the east to the downtown skyline. Oh, and you can watch the cars and trucks whisking briskly past on the freeway. It is a pleasant ambiance for a date night (or to dine with food bloggers -- really?).

The Lovely Mrs. C was also invited to join the group so it was Scoop, Johnny Diner, me, and Mrs. C. The waitress was very quick to come by and inquire about drink orders. For some reason the "guys" in the group all only ordered water (I must have been all wine'd out from those previous dinners), while The Lovely Mrs. C had lemonade (this was a really lively crowd).

Once we had given our orders, we were given a basket of cheese bread (very good) and directed to the full Salad Bar, a feature that is not found in too many places any more. They had a good selection of lettuces, seafood salad, fresh veggies, and toppings such as peanuts, sunflower seeds, bacon crumbles, and a good number of dressings as well, more than enough to satisfy your inner herbivore. They also had three soups as part of the salad bar, while Scoop, Mrs. C and I only had salad, Johnny Diner also added a small bowl of clam chowder.

The Lovely Mrs. C ordered her favorite rib-eye steak with steamed veggies. Scoop had the most expensive dish of the three of us ($34) with a filet mignon steak with mushrooms and butter and mashed potatoes. Johnny Diner (who if you read his blog you'd know is a Pescatarian, which means that he doesn't eat meat but does eat seafood) and I both ordered the Shrimp and Scallops Scampi, he had it with rice pilaf and I, being the spud lover that I am, had the mashed potatoes.

The Lovely Mrs. C liked her steak but found that it didn't rise to the level of the previous week's steak in Pasadena. She felt that, while it was the proper doneness (medium rare), it didn't appear to have been grilled at high enough heat so there wasn't the crustiness to the outside.

I didn't hear any complaints from Scoop who is fairly quiet so I'm not sure how he felt about his meal, although I'm sure we'll learn when he writes about it on his blog. However both Johnny Diner and I were puzzled by our Scampi. My experience with Scampi is that it's usually served in a butter sauce with lemon and garlic. This was served in a bechamel sauce (flour, butter, and milk or cream) which was underspiced. No lemon, no garlic. A lemon wedge accompanied this and helped a little, but the bechamel was very floury and detracted from the grilled, fairly large, shrimp and scallops. The scallops themselves were the large ones which I personally find to be less flavorful than the smaller scallops, these seemed to lack flavor but it may have been a result of swimming in the bechamel sauce. The potatoes were adequate.

All in all a very pleasant dinner, with good company and decent if not overly exciting food. I'm sure I'll be back. Although I don't think, from a food perspective, that we went wrong going to Pasadena for our special occasion dinners.

As we were leaving Pomona Valley Mining Company, we spotted a coyote running across the parking lot.We followed it part way down the steep hill from the parking lot before it disappeared in the brush. It certainly added that bit of ambiance that an old mining camp might have had, but wasn't quite the wild life we had found at the Pomona Valley Mining Company in years past. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Metro Ale House & Grill -- 197 East 2nd St Pomona, CA 91766

My Meal Cost: $28.55 for 2 plus trip. Health Rating A. Yelp 4 stars

Lovely Mrs. C and I decided to go downtown for lunch on Monday. Our idea was to go to the Rookery (a favorite for burgers) but found that they were closed on Mondays (don't you hate it when that happens?). So we crossed Garey and headed over to the Metro Ale House.

Metro Ale House is located on Second Street in the "Antiques Row" section of downtown right next to the Locust St. Plaza. In a historic building, the Ale House is a three story brick structure with outside seating along second street as well as locust plaza.

In the past we've been to events on both the second and third floors with the upper floors available for banquets and special events. There is also a basement tavern with pool, darts, and TVs. On the street level is the main dining room with a 31 foot long full bar which features 40 beer taps for most any taste.

There are the ubiquitous large screen TVs throughout the dining area for those who want to add this to their spot for catching an important game.

Their menu is fairly extensive and includes some "local flavor" items such as the loaded Pomona fries (Seasoned fries loaded with tender shaved pepper pastrami, melted provolone, diced pickles and yellow mustard). They have 15 items on the appetizer menu for those who want "bar" food. They also have a selection of pastas, a pita pizza, soup, salad, 11 sandwiches, 8 burgers, 4 chicken dishes, 3 different steaks, and 4 different seafood items. Their menu has identified which items are appropriate for vegetarians, a nice plus. They also have sides, soft beverages, and a separate desert menu.

Since we were planning on burgers for lunch, that was the direction we went. The Lovely Mrs. C opted for the BBQ burger, while I decided on the pastrami burger. Burgers are made from freshly ground beef so you have the option of how you would like your burger cooked. Mine was a perfect medium rare with a nice warm red center. Side options are fries, onion rings, fried zucchini, fried pickles, or a side salad. We both decided that this was to be a fries meal.

The fries were extra crispy with a good creamy center. Done perfectly! The burgers came on a brioche roll. The BBQ burger had cheese, bacon, and a smokey BBQ sauce. The pastrami burger came with excellent quality pastrami, provolone cheese, pickles, grilled red onions and mustard. These were definitely 2 napkin burgers (or more). The burgers were about 4" high and we both cut ours in half to facilitate eating. My only complaint is that the cook seemed to have a heavy hand with the salt shaker. But perhaps that's a ploy to sell more beer. Not too bad, but if you're on a low sodium diet you might want to mention this when you order.

In addition, the meals came with a pickle slice and the pastrami burger with 2 pepperoncinis. For beverages the Lovely Mrs. C. ordered a diet coke. When the waitress brought it, she noticed that it didn't seem to have any bubbles. Mrs. C tasted it and confirmed that there was no carbonation. The waitress took it back and came back saying that the diet coke seemed to have a problem and asked if she would like anything else. Mrs. C. decided to have a regular coke this time out. I had iced tea.

The service was excellent. The Lovely Mrs. C. often complains that wait staff seems to ignore her and doesn't refill her drink while they "fawn" over me (I think she exaggerates, but it's how she feels). She was extremely happy with the level of service she received here.

A great addition to the downtown Pomona dining experience.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Food Truck Thursdays -- Richeeze -- Fairplex, Gate 1

My Meal Cost: $16.40. Health score 92.0. Yelp 3.5 stars

Continuing my adventures while the Lovely Mrs. C is off with her family, I decided to take advantage of a fending for myself situation by partaking of the options at Food Truck Thursdays at the Fairplex, prior to going off to Old Stump Brewery to support the Pomona Valley Film Society's screening of The Outsiders, in their parking lot. It was to be a parking lot evening.

I'm not really a fan of these food truck roundups where you have 8 plus food trucks to choose from. It was easy when I was working in Downtown LA to come across an interesting food truck and sample something new or intriquing. But the idea of going from truck to truck trying to decide which one(s) to try is daunting to say the least.

On this particular Thursday there was quite a variety: Wasn't really in the mood for wings so passed by LA Wing Company; Me So Hungry looked interesting but not interesting enough to capture my dollars; Boba ni Taco could have been interesting but I had Mexican food for lunch; Deli Doctor promised New York style delicatessen dishes, but I just wasn't in the mood for pastrami and if I were I'd probably have gone to The Hat; Or should I opt for a unique quesadilla from the Cheddar Wheel truck, no; and B&W didn't seem to have their act together so I wasn't even sure what was on the menu which the owner said was "in the works;" the line for the really popular Cousin's Maine Lobster truck was a deterrent although it could have been an interesting choice. 

So what did I choose? I decided on Richeeze, a grilled cheese and mac & cheese truck. I was swayed by an interesting menu item, Jalapeno Popper grilled cheese. This was what I look for in a food truck, an item that I've never seen before with the promise of something special. I also ordered their mac'n'cheeze nuggets. I added to that a can of diet coke (this is a truck after all).

So what is the ambiance for food truck dining? Why shaded tables on blacktop, of course, with thin plastic table cloths to make it seem like they might be clean (?). At least there were a lot of tables so that you didn't have to hover until someone else decided to leave. And they did a fairly good job of providing shade.

There was even a DJ spinning tunes and giving diners an opportunity to win prizes by answering such question as "At this year's fair, coming in September, what kind of insect can you get deep fried?" Someone won a prize for knowing that it was crickets. Sigh . . .

Also in the parking lot was a separate "Fair" booth selling beer as well as a kettle corn booth and a cobbler booth.

So how was the meal? The sandwich was excellent with melted pepper jack cheese, slices of Jalapeno, and tomato on sourdough bread. The menu says that they are stuffed jalapenos, but what I had on mine were just slices of jalapeno, not at all large enough to be "stuffed," but it still worked. I did somewhat expect the jalapenos to have some of the breading of a "popper" which would have added a nice textural element, but again, it was delicious with the cheese overpowering any spice, so for me the pepper level was perfect.

The mac'n'cheeze nuggets, which are mac and cheese formed in a ball, coated and deep fried, then topped with some more shredded cheese were heavenly with the creamy mac & cheese in the center oozing from a crunchy/salty coating. Mac & cheese hand food, what could be better?

The food trucks will be there for the next couple of weeks through Aug. 17 and then will take time off during the Fair, Sept. 1-24 (Sept. 1 is Pomona Day). Couldn't find the information on whether they return in October or if they don't return until next Spring, but this might be a good time to give it a try if you're interested.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Mix Bowl Cafe -- 1520 Indian Hill Blvd Pomona, CA 91767

My Meal Cost: $11.42 plus tip. Health Rating A. Yelp 3 stars

The lovely Mrs. C is off camping with her family so I have a week to fend for myself. As good a reason as any to indulge in some food that she is not crazy about. So my first choice is a place where First Daughter and I usually go when she's in town visiting. Mix Bowl is our go-to place for bonding without mom, although mom did join us on our last trip there and found several items on the menu that she not only felt she could eat, but that she actually liked, but still not a place she would embrace wholly.

Mix Bowl is in a former fast food place. This is also the place where Daily Bulletin columnist David Allen wrote in 2009 that he had tried all 144 items on the menu over the previous few years (don't we love food obsessions?). I'm sure he's been back. The current menu lists 113 numbered items (including the beverages) but I counted another 37 items which seem to be sub-items from the numbered items which are designated with a letter (A-D). This brings the total to 150.

The inside has been remodeled a few years ago and they've taken out the big fish tank in deference to additional tables. There are both tables and booths in this sit-down, full service restaurant. As you might guess the food is Thai, which includes a lot of spicy dishes designated in the menu with a chili. They also have an asterisk which indicates dishes which "most order," a nice guide for those who are unfamiliar with Thai cuisine.

Dining here with First Daughter we order "family style" and share three to four items one of which is usually an appetizer. Of this variety of dishes, some I've really liked and some a little less so, but everything has always been very fresh and well prepared. Because I was dining alone this time, I decided on the ever popular (even if now somewhat boring) Pad Thai. This is a noodle dish with tofu, veggies, and in this case bean sprouts, chicken and shrimp, in a fish sauce based sauce giving it a nice punch of umami (that earthy taste that has been added to sweet, salty, sour, and bitter). This is not one of the spicy selections but is one of those indicated as "most order."

Looking over the beverage menu I knew from experience that I wasn't a big fan of Thai Iced Tea (or coffee) which comes with cream and is highly sweetened (both also can be ordered with Boba). Not wanting to do "Lipton" iced tea, I decided to try the Ice Chrysanthemum Tea. Not a good decision as, while it didn't have cream, it was way over sweet and I'm sure that my blood sugar suffered tremendously.

Word of Warning: They do not take credit cards. They do take ATM cards but if you do opt for that you'll have to pay at the counter so they can capture your PIN number. Only a minor inconvenience but one you should be aware of. You can add your tip with an ATM if you so desire.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Mr. D's Diner -- 401 E Foothill Blvd Pomona, CA 91767

My Meal Cost: $38.19 for three with coupon plus tip. Health Rating A. Yelp 4 stars

We have a friend who we try to get together with periodically for dinner, I'll call him Thor. This time we decided to go to Mr. D's Diner on Foothill. Mr. D's has two locations, on Foothill in La Verne, which used to be a Denny's Diner, and this one in Pomona which used to be a Carrows.

Everything here is  classic diner from the food to the decor. The north dining room has a large mural with a Route 66 theme that includes classic cars and Elvis, James Dean, and Bogie sitting around a camp fire. Just about anything you'd want to see in a diner.

The extensive menu offers all of the things you'd expect in a diner; breakfast which includes standards: omelets, scrambles, breakfast burritos, crepes, waffles, and a selection of eggs bendict dishes (have had breakfast here and it's substantial and filling), lunch sandwiches and half pound burgers, love the beefeater sandwich (sliced roast beef and swiss cheese on grilled sourdough with au jus) which comes with fries and soup or salad.

Seated at a formica topped table, we each ordered our meals. Thor got the ground sirloin steak dinner which included veggies, mashed potatoes and gravy, a toasted roll and lots of sauteed onions and mushrooms. The lovely Mrs. C opted for a chicken salad. I ordered a meatloaf dinner off the senior's menu (yup, I'm THAT old :-). In addition to the senior menu, they also have daily specials (the meatloaf is the Sunday special for $9.99--the same as on the senior menu). Mine came with mashed potatoes and brown gravy with mushrooms (also smothering the meatloaf) as well as steamed veggies and a toasted roll. The dinners also came with soup or salad, I opted for the salad while Thor got the corn chowder.

Lovely Mrs. C. didn't order a beverage this time but went with water, Thor and I both had a refreshing iced tea on this warm summer day.

Each of us declared the meal to be good and filling. Thor had a discount coupon so our total bill came to a little less than if we hadn't used the coupon (I think it was $5 off).

The service was friendly and efficient. This is a place that we've gone to a number of times and one that we expect to go back to many more times as well.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Pomona Fish Market -- 295 South Park Ave Pomona, CA 91766

My Meal Cost: $19.79 for two. Health Rating A. Yelp 4 stars

I was at the Cheers event at Fairplex a week ago and several people asked me how this blog was going. I mentioned that I had last reported on Chino's Riverside Grill but then realized that I haven't been here in a while and need to get back to POMONA! Especially since we took a few days and went up to the central coast area and visited wineries and had also some great meals at restaurants and really needed to get back to writing about home.

So I coaxed the Lovely Mrs. C to accompany me for a "blog lunch." We discussed several places that I have been wanting to visit or re-visit and write about and finally landed on Pomona Fish Market as a destination.

Pomona Fish Market is located in the downtown area on Park between Second and Third Streets. It's an unassuming building but with a great iconic neon sign making it almost impossible to miss.

One of the things that I love about Pomona is our diversity and for a Friday lunch at Pomona Fish Market it was fully on display. African-American, Hispanic, and Asian customers (as well as our pasty white faces) were in and out in a constant stream during our visit. The place is a fresh fish market where you can purchase fish from the deli case or order cooked fish at the counter.

There are a few tables in the cramp space as well as a couple of picnic benches just outside. We decided on this particular day that it was too sunny, with not enough shade, outside so we chose a table inside.

We opted for the lunch special which included 4 pieces of fish, with a choice of Cod, Red Snapper, Tilapia, Swai, Buffalo, Cat Fish, or Sand Dabs (Dabs are only 3 and $2 extra on this special). It also includes 3 fried shrimp, 3 hush puppies, a generous serving of French Fries and a canned or bottled beverage. They also have salads or you can get individual servings of shrimp or other seafood items including oysters.

The fish is coated in corn meal and deep fried to a light golden brown, making the crust crunchy but the fish inside is moist and tender. Mrs. C had the Cod and I opted for the Red Snapper. Both were excellent. The shrimp were fairly small shrimp (although they do offer jumbo prawns separately) but a nice addition to the fish. The hush puppies were fried corn meal with little bits of Jalapeno, onion and probably something else that I missed. The little golf-ball sized balls were a little more done than the fish batter but were still crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside with a nice corn and pepper flavor (very mild although I ended up with two of Mrs. C's). Fries were OK. The plate also came with a spicy vinegary hot sauce and a thin, runny, tartar sauce. I would have liked more of a shrimp cocktail sauce for the shrimp, but the tartar sauce, while not the usual texture, was actually quite good.

Again, while we we ate there was a steady stream of customers both to dine-in and for takeout. A great addition to places to pick up something for those days we don't want to cook. Very different from Mr. Fish on Garey reviewed as part of my Eating Garey Avenue. Not really better or worse, but decidedly different.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Riverside Grill & Bar -- 5258 Riverside Dr Chino, CA 91710

My Meal Cost: $63.57 for two plus tip. Health Rating A. Yelp 4 stars

OK, so this is a blog called Dining in Pomona, and, if you were observant, you may have noticed that this place is in CHINO? What gives?

The raison d'etre of this blog is to promote Pomona business and to get people to contribute to our local economy. So why a place in Chino? The way I choose to justify it is that it is owned by our Lincoln Park neighbor Rodrigo Avila, so I know that at least some of the money comes home. It may be a stretch but it's my blog, so . . .

Located near the intersection of Riverside Drive and Central Avenue in Chino, the Riverside Grill is a wonderful spot for a good meal. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I've been there for lunch and the selection of sandwiches, salads, appetizers, and burgers is quite extensive. They have limited indoor seating, but they have a fully covered patio which is where we usually try to dine.

On Fridays and Saturdays they have live music. We've seen folk singers and light rock in the past. This particular Saturday evening we heard vintage music from a duo with guitar and woodwinds (clarinet and saxophone). They played some great jazz standards and easy listening classic rock. AND they were not so loud that you couldn't enjoy your dinner and light conversation.

On this particular Saturday evening, there was a special 2 for 1 (at that time it was a Wednesday and Saturday special) which included most of the items on their somewhat smaller dinner menu (13 items). 

Restaurant critic Allan Borgen said of the Riverside Grill, ". . . the portions (are) large and the prices are almost dirt cheap considering the quality of the dishes that are served . . . This restaurant is an outstanding restaurant for that outstanding casual gourmet quality meal." 

The lovely Mrs. C and I both opted for the Ribeye steak. Hers medium rare, mine rare. This meal came with a salad, rice pilaf, and steamed vegetables. We also ordered a bottle of Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel wine. They are really known for their beer bread, while it wasn't part of the special,  it is included if you order off the regular menu. You've got to try it at least once, it's well worth it.

First out was the salad which was a nice combination of greens with red onion, sliced mushrooms and I had a nice creamy blue cheese dressing. The Lovely Mrs. C had hers with the Italian dressing.

The steak was done just the way that we both ordered, grilled to perfection. The rice had peas and carrots and the vegetables were well steamed, not too soft, but with a slight crunch to them. The wine was excellent for those who like a full-bodied red wine.

Comfortable outdoor dining, in a lovely setting, good food, good wine, and listenable music. We will certainly be back for more. And, if you go, please say hello to Rodrigo and maybe see if you can coerce him to open a clone in our fair city.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Onishicho Ramen -- 504 E Foothill Blvd Pomona, CA 91767

My Meal Cost: $15.87 plus tip. Health Rating A. Yelp 4 stars

The Lovely Mrs. C is out of town visiting her sister in Northern California. So I have a few days to explore and catch up on some personal stuff as well as completing a "honey do" list given me before she left (did I remember to water? hmmmm). Since the heat spell of last week seems to have subsided for the moment, I decided to try a place that I had been intrigued by for some time.

Onishicho is located on Foothill Blvd, between Garey and Towne (which it has to be to be included as being in Pomona) just across the street from Mr. D's Diner (a future entry I'm sure). This is in an old fast food place that had, and still has, a drive-thru window. The signage makes that name hard to figure out since they've replaced the "i's" with a knife and fork and the "o" with a clock face. Confusing and intriguing. But since Ramen is an old standbye on a cold day it seemed to be a good idea even for a day that, while not cold, is at least not hot.

The interior has booths and tables and is nicely appointed if not really fancy. There are some Japanese elements around the room but the soft drink dispenser in the dining room makes it immediately feel as if it's an order at the counter type of place. But it's not! Upon being seated "take a seat anywhere" you're brought a menu.

When I arrived at about 12:30 on a Saturday afternoon, about half a dozen tables were occupied. By the time I was finished about 1:30, the place was empty.

On yelp there were comments about the wait staff not speaking English. I must say that my waitress seemed to struggle with language, but a little patience and the right attitude created a good experience. Just be prepared, it might mean pointing at the photos in the menu and gesticulating options, let it be part of the fun.

Perusing the menu, it is mostly Ramen dishes with a number of appetizers such as gyoza, tempura, and spring rolls. They also have bentos (a divided Japanese "lunch box" with a variety of items, which would have been my go-to for lunch but for this post I wanted to try the ramen). The ramen's can be customized with extra toppings or taken as-is. Some have flat noodles, some have straight noodles, some have wavy noodles and some you can specify which type of noodle. 

Since this was my first time there, I decided to go with a combination which included any style ramen, fried rice, and a salad. I also ordered diet coke. There are other combinations as well. For my ramen, I chose spicy miso. There are also vegetarian options including a veggie ramen.

First came the salad. A nice mixture of greens with small pieces of tofu and tomato tossed with a somewhat sweet creamy sesame dressing. One of the condiments on the table was a shaker of sesame seeds so I was able to add extra sesame but it wouldn't be required, it was quite good as it came. Also on a separate plate was a mound of fried rice with a small amount of pickled ginger. The rice was a little bland and a little dry. However it did make a good counterpoint to the ramen, so it worked.

The ramen had tofu, really tender chunks of beef, green onion, corn, bamboo shoots, thin pieces of some kind of mushroom, and a boiled egg which had been soaked in soy sauce, giving it a gray color (one person on yelp called this an old rotten egg, but it's just not something you might be used to, and the color could be off-putting, but it was quite good, with a little saltiness). This one came with straight noodles and a large piece of nori (dried seaweed).

The ramen was quite good. It would have been a little too spicy for the Lovely Mrs. C, but I didn't find it uncomfortably hot. Everything blended and eating the noodles and toppings the heat was very background, however, using the spoon to drink some of the soup, it was spicy enough to send me to the fried rice or pickled ginger for a cool down. 

Knowing that, unlike Italian spaghetti, you're supposed to slurp ramen noodles, I did so (you always want to be culturally correct whenever possible), which makes it a lot easier to eat with chop sticks.

They have a drive-thru for to-go orders, or they will deliver, for when you just have to have that ramen fix. I anticipate that this will be a place that I will return on a cold rainy day for the comfort of steaming hot soup/ramen.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Cachanilla -- 305 E Holt Ave Pomona, CA 91767

My Meal Cost: $16.30* plus tip. Health Rating A. Yelp 4.5 stars

I decided to start this newly imagined blog with a restaurant right here in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. This has been our go-to Chinese restaurant for a couple of years now for dine-in or take out (They even deliver in the neighborhood but we haven't taken advantage of that yet).

The restaurant is described by our server as American Chinese by way of Mexicali. This is, in many ways, the kind of Chinese food that you probably grew up with. All the standards are here, several different fried rices, egg foo young, chow mein, chop suey, fried wonton, wor wonton, egg drop, or hot & sour soups, etc. However, it is American style Chinese as filtered through a decidedly Mexican setting. I've learned that Mexicali has a huge Chinese immigrant community and this is where the name and history of this place comes from. The dishes at Cachanilla subtly reflect the influences of Mexican ingredients and spices just as "chop suey" joints reflected what was readily available in America rather than traditional Chinese ingredients and spices. The menu includes dishes with such traditionally Mexican ingredients as cilantro and jalapenos. This is not one of the trendy hipster places, which trend to be the very authentic places in San Gabriel or Monterey Park.

This particular location, on the northeast corner of Holt and Palomares has a long history as restaurants. When I moved into the area in the 1980s it was La CabaƱa, it morphed into a series of Mexican restaurants including El Molcajete. Then it became a Chinese buffet restaurant which couldn't decide on its hours and didn't seem to know what its market was. 

Then came Cachanilla. When visiting you will see a clientele that is a mix of Asian, Hispanic and Anglo. The correct mix for this diverse neighborhood. This is a restaurant that ideally mixes cultures to create a dining experience that is welcomed by all groups who seem to experience a little bit of home and their own history.

A remodel of the interior from the original Mexican restaurant created an inviting space with booths for four (or two) and large round tables for larger groups with a lazy Susan in the middle, and private rooms. It evokes a fresh modern Asian vibe.

While for my reviews I'm usually dining by myself or with the Lovely Mrs. C, I decided to post on a meal that was a very large group meal. I'm very involved with the Pomona Library. As a Library Trustee (city commissioner), president of the Pomona Public Library Foundation, and a member of the advocacy group SOPPL (Support Our Pomona Public Library--the green shirt people). I tend to have a lot of meetings and events surrounding the library and its issues. 

SOPPL has for some time now been holding their monthly lunchtime meetings at Cachanilla. The Lovely Mrs. C and I often dine there but with only two it's quite a different experience than sharing with a large table.

For this meeting there were about 10 of us. We've developed a system where each person orders one item and then the table shares. I tend to wait until last to order so I can add something that is a little different than some of the other things ordered (there's nothing worse than when 3 people all order kung pao chicken). As an example, if no one has ordered a veggie dish, I'll order the green beans (excellent) or the mixed vegetables. This system also means that you might get exposed to something you might not have thought of trying. That happened a few months ago when someone ordered the pea plant leaves which were excellent. For this month's meal I ordered the Walnut Shrimp.

The walnut shrimp is lightly battered shrimp in a sweet creamy honey-based sauce with toasted walnut halves. An excellent take on this dish. Other items that we had included the cream cheese and crab filled fried wontons, kung poa chicken, kung poa beef, chicken chow mein, mushroom chicken, chicken fried rice, salt & pepper shrimp, and steamed rice (and I must be forgetting something). Because it was an exceptionally cold day in May, I eschewed my regular iced tea for hot tea.

The food has always been excellent. It's a wonderful place to stop for that warming, filling, bowl of wor wonton soup on a cold day, or that take out fried rice for sitting in front of the TV after a rough day. I've also, on several occasions seen groups such as Pomona PD or city public works holding celebratory lunches, a good sign that it has wide appeal. 

Being a neighborhood place, and holding monthly meetings means that the staff knows our group and is very friendly. They bend over backward to make everyone feel at home even when it's just you or just you and a friend. When you arrive they have some small item to start your experience with. In this case it was fried wonton pieces with a plum dipping sauce. Other times it has been roasted salted peanuts. At the end of your meal there is always some fresh fruit and (recently added) fortune cookies. The fruit at this meal was sweet navel orange wedges and it has been watermelon slices in the past. Just a little something to put the finishing touch on what is always a great meal. 

They definitely deserve their 4.5 yelp stars (I'd give them 5 based on what they are and the quality and service) and I know I'll continue to come back both for the monthly meetings and when I get an urge for Chinese.

*Note that in this case, the price is not for the full meal but for my portion (they're great about letting each one of us have separate checks--the group has been as large as 15-18 in the past). So that's the price for the Walnut Shrimp and hot tea.

Vita Italian Bar & Grill -- 3101 W Temple Ave Pomona, CA 91768

My Meal Cost: $71.18 plus trip. Health Rating A. Yelp 4 stars One of the nice things about being retired is that we can just "d...