Maybe the Inland Empire isn’t known as the glitzy college town à la Westwood or Berkeley, but a starving student here eats infinitely better than at any other bear-tootin’ college town. Why else would carpetbaggers seek exile in the wastelands! Economics aside, wander north, south, east or west and you can’t help but find some form of sustenance at every corner, be it the Mexican, Chinese, burgers, or booze. Don’t’ forget that our proximity to Route 66 means that the quintessential staple of college life–the diner–is ne’er too far. Here’s a list of some of the finer, cheaper places for students to check out.
(On the relative absence of Chinese restaurants–if you’re lucky to retain the use of a car, drive west into the San Gabriel Valley for the real McCoy at drop dead prices. Any restaurant you step into will put to shame anything you’ll find on the average street corner.)
701 S. Indian Hill Blvd., (909) 482-1414; Daily, 6am-3pm
Awesome breakfasts, including the huge pancakes and the four-egg frittata stuffed with shrimp, potatoes, onions, avocado and mushrooms. The portions are generous enough to share with a roomie.
Hero’s Bar & Grill
131 N. Yale Ave., (909) 621-6712
Gourmet burgers by day, steak and seafood at night. Legal drinkers have access to over 40 beers on tap. One of the few late-night spots in the Village.
Saca’s Mediterranean Cuisine
248 N. Second St., (909) 624-3340
Fantastic Mediterranean fast food. The Shawarma platters come with hummus, fries, garlic sauce, pita and your choice of meat for less than $8 bucks. Cash only.
1280 E. Washington St., (909) 370-3100; Daily, 4pm-2am weekdays and 5:30pm-2am weekends
Just a 15-minute drive up the eastbound 91/215, it’s a chance to live out the Idol dream over bar food with a Hawaiian twist. Live karaoke every night, but limited to the 21+ crowd after 11pm.
2859 Hamner Ave., (951) 371-5465; Daily, 6am-2pm
It’s not uncommon to see lines tumbling out the front door and stretching across the parking lot during the breakfast hours. Do the Huevos Rancheros if it’s on special or get lost in the biscuits and gravy.
Three Square Bistro
140 Hidden Valley Pkwy. Ste A, (951) 272-9888; Open daily for breakfast and lunch; dinner on Fridays-Saturdays only
If you had a date and wanted to impress her, bring her to this trendy, upscale eatery. You’ll earn mega brownie points.
Zip Fusion Sushi
2560 Tuscany St. (across from the theater at the Crossings), (951) 272-2177
Looking for a weekend bite? Head down the I-15 south for afternoon Happy Hour and a movie. Load up on the half-price appetizers and sushi.
Kool Kactus Café
24957 Redlands Blvd., (909) 796-1545; Mon-Sat 11am-8pm, Sunday until 7:30pm
Located in a vintage 1911 garage, this place has been a favorite with locals for 20 years. Over 12 kinds of burritos and loads of veggie options, including the spinach mushroom burrito and mushroom enchilada for dirt-cheap.
26393 Redlands Blvd., (909) 799-0011; Daily 10am-9pm
Total hole-in-the-wall dive with outdoor seating and combo platters that won’t hurt the wallet.
The Royal Falconer
106 E. Orange St., (909) 307-8913; Daily, 11:30am-2am
Fish and chips and a pint of Guinness on tap . . . party on, peeps!
12625 Frederick St., (951) 653-4783
Seafood for under $10? You betcha! Call ahead for the fried catfish and fries . . . or be prepared to wait the good half hour.
2nd Street Bistro
171 W. Second St., (909) 622-6619
A trendy and open bistro serving French and Italian cuisine to locals and tourists.
El Merendero Mexican Bakery
301 S. Garey Ave., (909) 620-1411
If the bright colors don’t make you jump for joy, the giant burrito sure will. A cool $4 dollars buys you the giant burrito with beans and rice. Save the extra dough for baked goods or a spicy side of chili with jalapeno, cilantro and onions. Yum!
Donahoo’s Golden Chicken
1074 N. Garey Ave., (909) 622-3213
Flour-dipped chicken, seasoned fries and creamy coleslaw . . . the best fried chicken available in the IE.
Aladdin Jr. Restaurant
3161 N. Garey Ave., (909) 593-3887; Daily, 11am-2am
This vibrant Middle Eastern eatery is known for its amazing hummus and shish kabobs. Portions are huge and totally affordable. Want hookah? Take a seat on the patio.
Cuca’s Mexican Food
527 W. State St., (909) 335-9557
The Daily Special includes two items and a small drink for $2.49, or $2.69 if you want a shredded beef or chicken taco. Dinner plates are less than $5 bucks.
1385 W. Blaine St., (951) 276-9384; Daily, 12pm-10pm
The former hookah lounge is now a laid back, kitschy green family food joint with mouth-watering chicken masala and a nice weekday bottomless lunch buffet for $5.99.
Jilberto’s Mexican Food and Tacos
1635 W. University Ave., (951) 683-6748; Daily, 7am-12am
Three words–carne asada fries. A huge pile of carne asada is finished off by guacamole, sour cream and melted cheese will make the brain overload less burdensome.
Gus, Jr #11
1666 University Ave., (951) 784-4350
Think In-N-Out burger, but greasier and heftier than the Double Double animal style. Drive on thru for a chili cheeseburger and fries (under $5 dollars).
4088 Mission Inn Ave., (951) 782-8226
A funky, classy, retro joint located just outside of Downtown Riverside where employees dress like station attendants and the salsa reads like your gasoline octane levels. The prices are right too–a Taco Bowl sets you back a mere $3.89.
Dragon House Chinese Restaurant
10466 Magnolia Ave., (951) 354-2080
Take out Chinese and Friends re-runs over Orange Peel Chicken and Pepper Steak. Lots of choices for vegetarians, as well.
Taqueria Mi Ranchito
4724 La Sierra Ave., (951) 352-0528; Mon-Fri, 9am-9pm (until 10pm Fri) and Sun, 8am-1pm
BBQ pork tacos al pastor are only $1.30 while a two-pound carne deshebrada burrito rings in at a mere $4.25.
1450 N. University Ave., Ste. N, (951) 369-0306
Walk over to University Village and enjoy a bowl of chicken pho with fresh herbs ($4.99) or a vegetable and pork sandwich ($2.25). Cool off with an iced green milk tea.
602 N. Mount Vernon Ave., (909) 888-0460; Daily, 9am-8pm
This mom and pop shop has been in business for 70 years and serves up Sonoran, Mexican and American cuisine to locals at its home on historical Route 66. Lunch specials are $4.99, and most items can be had for well under $10.