Posted October 1, 2007 in Eats

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.)


BC Café

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.


Hawaiian Blues

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.


Cowgirl Café

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.

Cha-Cha’s Tacos

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!


Louisiana Seafood

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.


Huqqa Hut

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).

Taco Station

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.

Pho Saigon

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.


Mitla Café

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.


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