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Claremont Colleges area visit - please advise

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Chowhounder from Portland, Oregon on a 4 days college visit with daughter. (Claremont colleges, Occidental, and Redlands) Any suggestions, especially within the Claremont area or 20 minutes drive. Interested mostly in good hole-in-the-wall food finds of any type for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Also, one night of upscale-non-pretentious top food.

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  1. I went to CMC - the Village in Claremont has great places - Walter's (Afghan) was the most popular, Harvard Square, the Press, Tutti Mangia, La Piccoletta, Some Crust Bakery has amazing pastries (I loved their bluberry danishes).

    5 Replies
    1. re: ali

      Just a minor point. Walter's has some Afghani dishes, but I think it would be incorrect to call the place Afghani. It's great for a sunday brunch.

      1. re: Peter

        Yes, they do have other types of food. I doubt that the crab sandwich that I like to get there is Afghani. It is kind of a California fusion with a bunch of Afghani dishes on the menu. The Afghani burger is also really good. It is somewhat upscale for dinner, so they pull it off really well. When my husband first took me there I thought Afghani? This ought to be interesting. But it was well done and Walter's has become a favorite place to go!

        1. re: Peter

          IIRC, their corn chowder is terrific.

          1. re: Peter

            Yes, my bad. I just wrote Afganhi b/c that's what they are advertised as. But they have WONDERFUL food, a lot of it non-ethnic, and their brunches are really yummy - waffles, pancakes, etc. The Afgan fries are a must!

          2. re: ali

            Really glad you mentioned Walter's! Walter's is a definite favorite of mine. We usually go for lunch because of our budget but dinner is good too. They also have a great brunch on Sunday. My husband (who went to college in Claremont so he knows the spots) took me there on one of our first dates. Very nice atmosphere if you sit outside. I always get the bowlanies appetizer and I also buy a bottle of the mint chutney to take home when I go.

            Link: http://www.elmerdills.com/restdetails...

          3. Hi, I'm a student at the Claremont Colleges and here are some of my favorites.

            THE VILLAGE
            This is the cluster of shops and restaurants immediately west of Pomona College. It's an area of about six blocks bounded by Indian Hill on the west, Harvard Avenue on the east, and runs from First street to Fourth Street. Walk and explore this area and you'll find enough restaurants to keep you entertained for a couple of days.
            My suggestions, in order of preference:
            - La Piccoletta. Pure and simple Italian. The menu each night consists of an appetizer (~$10), one pasta with a choice of four sauces (~$14 for a half portion, ~$15 for a full portion), and a selection of desserts flown in daily from Milan (~$7). Small selection, high quality. Each entree comes with a complimentary beverage including wine, a small green salad, and bread. The decor is rustic, restaurant is small and romantic with only about 6-8 tables. Problem 1 is that the location is so tucked away that few people know about, but if you're up for a hunt, the trip is worth it! Here's what you do: Find Heroes Restaurant at 131 Yale Ave on Yale and Second. There's a walkway between Heroes and Powell's Hardware on the other side (you'll see a mural by the walkway). Go down the path to find yourself in a parking lot-the restaurant's on the southwest corner of the parking lot (to your front toward the left) There's no sign, but there's a mural on the building, it's painted to look like villa or something. Problem 2 is that it is closed on weekends for private parties.
            -Viva Madrid: Spanish tapas. Website linked below with online menu and directions. It's one big dimly lit room cluttered with Spanish artifacts, the kind of place where all the silverware is individual and everyone gets a different napkin holder. Try the sangria, stick to the tapas. I recommend the gambas ajillos, a basket of bread to soak up all the sauces, cheese with steamed strawberries form the specials menu, queso con quince (manchego cheese with quince paste-delicious-don't see it on the online menu, ask about it perhaps), the gazpacho (it comes with a real garlic-lover's garlic bread with real minced garlic on top, none of this garlic butter stuff), toasted bread with cabrales cheese and red wine marinated pears.
            -Kinya: newly opened Japanese restaurant on the corner of Indian Hill and Bonita. Good sushi, with some great sushi dinner/lunch deals.
            -Saca's: Mediterranean food. Pretty hole-in-the-wall, pretty cheap, pretty good shawerma, falafel, hummus, and tabouleh. 248 W. 2nd st.
            For breakfast, check out Full of Life Bakery on 333 Bonita Ave., Some Crust Bakery on 119 Yale Ave, and 42nd Bagel Street Cafe on 225 Yale Ave.

            ELSEWHERE within a 5-10 minute drive.
            Should you feel like driving a bit, here are some places I think are worth the trip, and that are a bit more unique.
            - German Deli on 983 W. Foothill Blvd at Mulberry st. Drive East on Foothill, pass Mountain Ave, turn left at Mulberry. Very homey, wonderful service (the owner, Kristine, is like the aunt who always wants to feed you). A little deli selling German treats and goods with a seating area of 4-6 tables with German postcards and family pictures tucked between the tablecloth and glass. They do an awesome Ruben sandwich, the bratwurst meal with two sides is a consistent favorite, the german potato salad is commendable (just a hint of spiciness) although the other sides (spaetzle, sauerkraut, red cabbage) are wonderful as well. I've tried much of their sandwich menu and they're all good.
            -Pho Ha at 695 Indian Hill Blvd. Go south on Indian Hill, pass Kingsley, turn right into the strip mall, before Holt st. Hole-in-the-wall, cheap Vietnamese place. Don't miss their egg rolls which they wrap in lettuce leaves (not to be confused with spring rolls). Noodle soup with beef is popular, or try a vermicelli for a fresh, light noodle dish with lots of veggies.
            - Patty's Mexican Food, 1332 N. Towne Ave. Go west on Foothill, Towne should be the second major street after Indian Hill, it's on the northest corner of Towne and Foothill. I've never been but it's popular with students, a friend says it's a good hole-in-the-wall type place.
            - Inka Trails for Peruvian food at 1077 Foothill Blvd. It'll be on your right immediately before Towne Ave if you go west on Foothill. Nicer decor, intimate dining experience.

            Hope that helps, have a great visit!

            Link: http://viva-madrid.com/

            6 Replies
            1. re: sagehen47

              Posts don't get better than this! Great job!

              1. re: sagehen47

                I agree w/ elmomonster, great overview of Claremont!! We've enjoyed Viva Madrid many times but don't get the oxtail unless you want to be surprised by the taste of cloves and other REALLY strong spices in this dish which I feel is a bit of an acquired taste.
                A bit further west on Alosta/Hwy 66 in Glendora, there's a student favourite for fresh strawberry donuts called Donut Man. Strawberries are in season, hence a great time to get them. This item is seasonal and after the strawberry season's over in summer they also make a wicked fresh peach donut.

                1. re: sagehen47
                  Robert Thornton

                  I've wondered where La Piccoletta is. Thanks.


                  1. re: sagehen47

                    i'm a fellow sagehen, class of '04! and La Piccoletta is great although when I tried to go there last fall with my brother (Pomona class of '07, maybe you know him?) it was closed because the chef had died. i don't know if it has reopened?

                    1. re: themirthmobile

                      FYI La Piccoletta has been sold twice in the last 2 years. It's open now but is nothing like it was at all. Memoriesssssssss

                    2. re: sagehen47

                      La Piccoletta was wonderful but it has changed hands and sadly is not good at all. I went to Mudd and ate there as much as I could, they knew me by name by the time I graduated in 05. I am glad to have eaten there when it was great and it WAS GREAT.

                    3. For your higher-end dining choice, there are two or three places in that part of the world that I favor.

                      First is probably Brasserie Astuce (see link below). Surprisingly well-executed classic French cuisine. If this place were in West L.A., it would cost twice as much. It won't knock your socks off, but it is reliable and fairly authentic, and a fairly good deal. The coq au vin, cassoulet and choucroute garnie are real winners here. There is an adjacent wine shop that has a good selection of French wines. Some are on the restaurant's wine list, but the ones that aren't can be purchased (priced very reasonably) and consumed at the restaurant for a corkage of $10.01. Lots of wines in the shop that are in the 15-20 range, so you can have a very decent bottle of wine with dinner for $30 or less. A good selection of wines by the glass is available too (since it sounds like you'll be the only one of age).

                      It's on Foothill Blvd./Route 66, just west of Towne, in Pomona (practically on border w/Claremont, less than 10 minutes from the colleges).

                      In the town of La Verne (next town west of Pomona, less than 15 minutes from the colleges) is a reliable Italian called Cafe Allegro. Small place. Good food. In the heart of old La Verne.

                      If you wanted to venture a bit farther west to Glendora, less than 20 minutes from the colleges, you'll find Chelsea (Route 66 at Lone Hill). Reliable California/New American (some steaks, some pastas, pizzas, & an Asian-inspired dish or two).

                      Link: http://www.brasserieastuce.com/

                      1. On the edge of town, near Target on Foothill Blvd in La Verne, is Bangkok Blue (http://www.bangkokblue.com/) for Thai food or Sanamluang on Indian Hill (Pomona, south of 10 freeway). Aladdin for middle eastern on Garey (south of Foothill, technically Pomona); Euro Cafe for Portuguese specialties at lunch (Baseline and Mills in Claremont).

                        In Claremont village, Yanni's for Greek, definitely Some Crust for pastries and Peet's coffee, Walter's for lots of different food, including Afghani, and a typical college town feel.

                        Link: http://www.cs.hmc.edu/restaurants.html

                        1. A few ideas -
                          like Viva Madrid.
                          Haven't been to Walter's. If they have afghan food, try the aushak. And the polos (rice dishes).

                          Brasserie Astuce is good food, the setting is like a Carrow's they've cleaned up.

                          For redlands, I suggest you post on the california board. I think the mission inn in riverside is fun, but there are a few nice places in Redlands. More luck posting there, or posting a separate request here, with ATTN: CHINO WAYNE in the title, and a redlands quesiton.
                          For Oxy - make a post entitled, places in Eagle Rock and Highland Park, college trip. Because you're only getting Claremont responses here.
                          I'd say for Oxy, drive the 15 minutes and go to Cinnabar in Glendale. It's nice, and you can order 1/2 orders of the entrees and get a nice selection. Lovely room.
                          933 S BRAND BLVD
                          Two fun ideas -
                          1. Cal Poly Pomona has a hotel school. The restaurant is a good training ground for the students. The food is good, but it is a school. It's called the restaurant at Kellogg ranch. See link below (long url). Maps.yahoo.com can show you how to get there.

                          2. Get in the car and drive up Mills to get to mount baldy rd and go up the mountain. There's a little lodge at mount baldy village (burgers and such nothing fancy) or higher up at buckhorn lodge. If you go to the end of the road, there's a chairlift and a ski area. The fun thing is that it's about half an hour from the Claremont COlleges. You could also go the other way and hit newport beach in about 40 minutes.
                          for info on Mount Baldy from sunset magazine.
                          The three lodges, acdg to mount baldy types (for light meals) are as follows
                          "However, there are 3 lodges in Mt. Baldy: the Snowcrest Lodge located at the top of Mt. Baldy, the Buckhorn Lodge and the Mt. Baldy Lodge located in the village"
                          a little googling can get you better info. I just think a drive up would be a kick and show off the area a little.

                          Also, be advised oxy to claremont is at least 40 minutes with good traffic (taking the 210 fwy which turns into the 134 and getting off the fwy and down to the college the right way, 33 miles), and redlands is almost the exact same distance east of claremont. Consider flying to Ontario if you can, as it might be better to be based near Claremont and do a trip one way and then the other. IF you're up for it, the san gabriel valley between oxy and the claremont colleges has tons of wonderful Chinese food from every region imaginable (even a chicken dish based on Uyghur food from Xinjiang). Just ask for more specifics based on your interests.

                          Have a great trip.

                          Link: http://www.therestaurantatkelloggranc...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Jerome

                            cinnaabar has been dead for years

                          2. Thank you all for the amazing feedback! Looks like we will be eating non-stop. (In-between, I will be at the gym or jogging to burn off the calories.)

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: aristo

                              I'd be interested to hear your comments on wherever you end up going.

                              Even after having lived here for four years, I've learned a lot from this thread. Ah, the Inland Empire, ostensibly a vast dining desert and I'm always surprised when I find some hidden treasure.

                              Btw, below is the link to La Piccoletta.

                              Link: http://www.lapiccoletta.com/home.htm

                            2. You can go to Bert & Rocky's ice Cream!!!! You Lucky dogs!!!!

                              1. In Claremont: I can't personally recommend Walter's high enough. We know the owners and while some people may call the cuisine Afghani, I tend to call it Middle Eastern Fusion. There is little or nothing on the menu I wouldn't eat or recommend. It also has a full service wine and cocktail bar as well. Oh yes... and all the bakery and bread items are made on there.

                                If you're looking for basic burger, breakfast and chow, don't forget the Village Diner at the corner of Yale and 2nd. It's family owned and the food is basic-- but fresh and good. Also The Danson is good Mexican and Deli food-- and they too have a good cold beer and mixed drink. (You might need one after looking at the prices of some of the local schools!)

                                As you move East toward Redlands there are a lot of corporate type resturants at the Ontario Mills Mall and at Victoria Gardens. Victoria Gardens has Flemmings (excellent Steaks, but pricey,) PF Chang's (Asian) and Lucille's BBQ. All are good.

                                The other night we tried Market Broiler over in Ontario Mills Mall-- near the AMC theaters, after talking to a friend about wanting REAL SEAFOOD without the unmentionable filler meat found in many Red Lobsters these days-- The food and service was very good. I had the REAL Crab & Shrimp Cakes and they were excellent.

                                Also while you're in the neighborhood and headed into Redlands, remember the Morongo Indian Reservation and Casino are about another 20 miles East toward Palm Springs. This is a new facility with multiple resturants, entertainment and of course a real casino.

                                While you're in Claremont, you need a real Chinese fix? Come over to Diamond Bar where I live-- we have at least 15 excellent Chinese resturants. I highly recommend Mandrin Garden at the corner of Diamond Bar Blvd and Golden Springs in the Center.

                                Good luck!

                                1. Yes, I agree heartily about the Cal Poly student run restaurant--the dishes are fantastic, the prices low and the setting beautiful.

                                  You'll need to make reservations for lunch. Dinner is also served Friday and Saturday.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: SecretAsianMan

                                    As a Hospitality school alum, I have to thank the chowhounders for giving props to my favorite "best kept secret" in Pomona. We are graded tough on our kitchen skill and customer service out in the dining area. Our instructors teach us to run a tight ship with the best quality ingredients. There is little (if any) profit made on our labor of love. We only reap from the tips pooled out at the end of the quarter. Working the lunch class was the toughest (and most rewarding) six hours a day, five days a week class ever. Yes, other than lecture (another four hours) it was my only class one quarter.

                                    1. re: brekkie_fan

                                      I ate some of the best food there. Dined at Los Olivos and up the hill at the hotel area and always enjoy when you guys provided charcuterie or provided the food at any event.
                                      You guys do a great job.
                                      I know its a late comment but better late than never.

                                  2. I second Saca's and The Press. I suggest avoiding Full of Life. It used to be great, but it was absolutely horrible last time I was there (ownership has changed several idea).

                                    1. If you like street Thai, Mixed Bowl, in Indian Hill, south of the 10 Freeway, has good stuff.
                                      It looks like a neon burger joint, but they cook up some real hits.

                                      Their yen ta fo is my wife's Stateside favorite.

                                      1. Have always had excellent fish and like the pasta selections at the Press- definitely my favorite for dinner...like Walter's best for breakfast.

                                        For Mexican, head to Pomona. My votes are for El Merendero near 2nd for burritos, Mexico Lindo on Garey for combo plates (used to be Celito Lindo, not sure if affiliated with Mexico Lindo in Ontario). My favorite during college - Tropical Mexico on East End, south of Holt, just south of the train tracks- very traditional, basic mexican w/ great chile rellenos, margs., salsa (ask for habanero, excellent!), ranchero music on the jukebox, and true hole-in-the-wall ambiance,...frequented by Cal Poly students as well as neighborhood locals. (oh, can't recommend La Paloma on Foothill- very popular, but I find food is only okay, salsas are subpar)

                                        1. didn't Cinnabar close a few years ago?

                                          1. I have kids at both Claremont and Oxy and visit both weekly (good for me, probably not always for them, but they have not asked for relief yet).
                                            Cinnabar has been long closed. Near Oxy, Cafe Beaujolais is my best bet, on Colorado in Eagle Rock.
                                            Having systematically gone to every restaurant in Claremont Village, a few keep us coming back: Viva Madrid - as noted above - crowded and open only for dinner. Full of life Bakery - 333 Bonita has the best sandwiches around (Some Crust notwithstanding). Blue Hen is average to better Thai at cheap prices. Can't get into Walter's - only a few Afghan dishes and only average otherwise IMHO. Harvard Square is always good.

                                            1. THE BEST LUNCH EXPERIENCE YOU'LL HAVE IN THAT AREA..... the most unforgettable...... THE LEGENDS burger joint... with the GIGANTIC size burgers and fried zucchini dipped in juicy buttermilk sauce! Go get on Benson, foothill, or hop on the freeway... go to UPLAND, get off MOUNTAIN AVE, drive up to 16th street... it's THERE! THE LEGEND!

                                              1. To jump on the Walter's band wagon, I love it there, and I entertain business clients there often, I like the patio area too, and it's popular with local's for a reason. I also have been to most every other place mention, Viva Madrid is fantastic. Brasserie Astuce was a one time experience for me, unfortunately, I found the foud ok, and the wait staff snooty. I never went back, but maybe I'll give it another try soon. Redlands, oh, my alma mater.

                                                A lot of people talk about Joe Greensleeve's but I much prefer Citrone. Both are a little pricey, Joe's more so I find, but no matter how far I move from Redlands, I make it a point to go back to Citrone. Their food is fresh, delicious, the sauces they make for the entrees are phenomenal, I've never had a mediocre dish there, always been top notch. Excellent wine list too.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: odelotj

                                                  My boyfriend just graduated from Redlands, and although I live in West LA, I've visited him a lot over the years. Yes, Citrone is very good for more upscale dining. There is a sushi bar called Hello Sushi (in a strip mall near Nick's Burgers--I think off Redlands Blvd.) that's really good. I like Nick's Burgers for cheap and fast food, with better quality (lots of real avocado on their avocado burgers! delicious fried zucchini!) than most fast food places. The Eating Room has really good pastries and breads--I think they are only open for breakfast and early lunch though.

                                                2. Claremont is a food wasteland. I lived there for 3 years after having lived in some of the best food cities in the world and was miserable. The food in the village is not only awful but also overpriced. Most everyone I knew in those parts who had a clue, felt the same way. That said, here come the Claremont recs.

                                                  There are a few spots though, but it's much, much, much better to drive a ways to get somewhere closer to LA, like the SGV. Din Tai Fung, for instance, is definitely worth the drive. Babita is about the same distance as DTF down the 10 instead of the 210.

                                                  Closer still there's Sanamalung on Indian Hill in Pomona just south of the 10. It's actually truly great when you factor in the bang for the buck. It's much much better than it's Hollywood kin.

                                                  The only place that I still crave though is Donahue's Chicken, a fried chicken joint. The place is only take out. The sides suck. But people line up out the door waiting for their fix. They've got an awesome crust and two temperatures of oil thing going on. I don't think that it's every been mentioned on this board. But I am not going to tell you where it is other than to say that if you are driving from Claremont to the Pomona Arts District, you won't miss it. (1 or 2 blocks on Towne S. of the 10), big sign with a rooster on it.]

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: nhb2009

                                                    Actually, it's been mentioned quite a bit and is on Garey and not Towne.

                                                    1. re: JAB

                                                      Thanks for the clarification, I didn't mean to be so wrong or so cryptic.

                                                      But, what am I doing wrong here? I tried to search for it, and it didn't come up.

                                                      I guess that my searching skills on chowhound still need some work.

                                                      1. re: JAB

                                                        Searching for Donahue's on the LA board was a waste of time and bandwidth.

                                                        Is this the place: Donahoo's Golden Chicken? It took only a few seconds to find using anywho.com (searching on "chicken restaurants").

                                                        Evidently, there's a Donahoo's at 1117 N Grove Ave., Ontario, CA, but the third link in the chowhound database points to Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.

                                                        Needless to say, I have no idea whether these places are worth the trip -- just performing a public service.

                                                        Donahoo's Golden Chicken
                                                        1074 N Garey Ave, Pomona, CA 91767

                                                        Donahoo's Golden Chicken
                                                        5749 Mission Blvd, Riverside, CA 92509

                                                    2. If you've been to a Churrascaria go back to the board and have some fun at the places mentioned. BUT, if you haven't there's one just 15 minutes away in Azuza. Greenfields, use the search for address and revues. It's as good as any CHurrascaria I've ever been to. It's a buffet that comes to your table. They bring 15 different meats on skewers, some great some a bit chewy, some exotic, over to your table, then there's a buffet table in the center with a ton of vegetables, salad fixin's and other stuff so you'll fill up and not eat all their meat. If you haven't done one, this will be the diffenitive fun night out. Even if you hate it, the next time someone asks if you've eaten at a churrascaria, you can do the been there, done that, thing.