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 Cabaña, 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.