The Right Type

Posted April 16, 2009 in Eats

Many a pub, restaurant or Fine Dining Establishment trying to hedge its bets, offers a bit of one or two dozen of the other. Witness the dive bar that tries to serve up California cuisine and drives up the price of hooch only to offer up mediocre salads and couscous, or the upscale place that tries to have “band night” and ends up with trashed upholstery along with an exodus of regulars who won’t be back soon. Yes, it takes a unique desire to make all aspects of an eclectic enterprise work, an exceedingly arduous task The Press Restaurant in Claremont pulls off rather nicely. In fact, the Press might be the best example in the IE of a restaurant/bar that is all things to all people.  


This diversity starts with the layout of the place, originally built in 1920 as a building to keep the printing presses for the Claremont Courier. The entrance leads into the bar area, with a long inviting bar itself, the kind a person can spend a few hours with and not notice the time has gone by. During the day, the bar is dark with tiny twinkling Christmas lights; at night it’s lit up a bit more, resembling its patrons. Adjacent to the bar is the dining area, set side for larger parties, dinner and band performances, while a string of lunch tables trails around the outside of the dining area, serving to divide the Press into three distinct sections, each different and making the place seem larger overall.  


And while the diversity might not be that pronounced in the clientele—college professors and undergrads, grad students and post-docs—it does give each area of the Press its own vibe. There’s the lunch crowd, serious, older and seriously overqualified when it comes to doctorates. This is followed by the happy hour crowd, there to nosh on the innovative, yummy appetizers and enjoy a cordial or two. And lastly, the dinner crowd, which on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights subtly melds into the crowd already there to hear the musical acts, again a varied mix, from traditional (and not-so) on Thursdays to a Skittles-like selection the rest of the weekend running the gamut from alt-country through indie and bluegrass to punk.  


Oh, and they serve up some food here too. And yes, the cuisine is a grab bag as well. Take the nachos for example—if nachos can be considered artisan, well these are.  They start with a thick rugged tortilla chip, a hefty sucker with a real hint of gravitas, the Olivier of salsa delivering devices. Said chips are then smothered in black beans and a cheddar cheese very far removed from the stuff one normally finds, as well as generous shards of scallions thrown into the mix. Like the rest of the appetizers you walk away without the greasy bloated feeling you can get from pedestrian pub food.  


Another appealing aspect of their menu is the plethora of vegan and vegetarian options. There are salads of course, with the Tuscan Bean one of the standouts, all greens, tomatoes, white beans and basil. There are several veggie sandwiches—on a recent stop I had the Veggie BLT, which is artfully done, relying on the faux-bacon to carry it through, as it does. If that’s not sufficient, the Press also offers up a vegan Thanksgiving meal, which is served all year. Being as diversely funky as the Press though they serve up a wide array of meals for the carnivorous too, like strip steaks and mahi-mahi tacos. News of the eclectic offering of the Press is nothing new to Claremont locals obviously, but might be enough to tempt a newcomer to jump off Indian Hill Blvd on the 10 and pop on over to Harvard Avenue to give the Press a try.  It’s choice-a-licious. (Bill Gerdes)


The Press Restaurant, 129 Harvard Ave. Claremont; (909)625-4808,; Mon. 8AM-12AM, Tues.-Wed. 11AM-12AM, Thur.-Sat. 11AM-1:30AM, Sun. 5PM-12AM; Tues.-Fri. 21+ after 9PM; AE, M, V


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