Blinded by the bistro on Main Street and it’s amazing array of sandwiches, pastries, bread varieties and breakfasts, many of us fail to realize or forget that Simple Simon’s runs a bakery as well. Fortunately, our readers remembered. The bakery is where all of those unique and tasty breads, cookies, muffins and pastries come from. Visit the bakery and you’ll never buy your bread at the supermarket again. The cakes are also both wickedly decadent and sublimely refined. (BG)
Simple Simon’s Bakery, 3830 Jurupa Ave., Riverside, (951) 341-0080.
Slow cooked barbeque that melts off the bone, onto your fork and in your mouth is said to be a staple of the South, but ’round here, Hickory Joe’s BBQ hits that same spot. Legend has it that Hickory Joe never told a soul the recipe of his delicious sauces. It was only after his death that relatives found the recipes and made Hickory Joe a name in the Inland Empire. Whatever the tale is, fact is Hickory Joe’s is Southern comfort barbeque prepared far from the South. (LL)
Hickory Joe’s Smokehouse BBQ, 120 Hidden Valley Pkwy., Norco, (951) 273-7427; www.hickoryjoesbbq.com.
Red Hill Coffee Shop
There’s nothing fancy about Red Hill Coffee Shop, but what the place lacks in décor it makes up for in eats. The mom-and-pop style restaurant focuses on serving up some good old-fashioned breakfast: eggs, bacon, sausages and pancakes. From its red-checkered décor to its friendly staff and large portions, Red Hill is one of those hometown spots you can roll out of bed and go to; it even has a set of regulars that arrive every morning. But be warned: This little place only holds 40 people and is cash only! (LL)
Red Hill Coffee Shop, 8111 Foothill Blvd. Suite C, Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 985-3816.
With its giant orange exclamation mark, Eureka Burger is a burger plus bar experience that wants to be heard, and in the Inland Empire, we hear ya! This unique burger bar offers a variety of burgers from the classic cheese burger to the Loma Linda veggie burger and the onion-loaded cowboy burger. It also offers a good assortment of craft beers including some from the local—and this year’s Best Brewery—Hangar 24. (LL)
Eureka!Burgers, 345 Pearl Ave. Suite 130, Redlands, (909) 335-5700; www.eurekaburger.com.
Chilitos Mexican Grill
With a motto like “freshness you can taste,” why even think about the roach coach. When it comes to grades for quality, you wouldn’t want your Mexican food any other way. Killer burritos (two varieties alone of carne asada, Baja-style fish or veggie with roasted chiles), asada nachos to die for, and a salsa bar that spans the capsaicin spectrum from tame to fiery, Chilitos has twice the cojones and value of the cheapest Don Jose entree and it rarely disappoints. (Nancy Powell)
Chilitos Mexican Grill, 3847 S. Pierce St. Suite F, Riverside, (951) 509-1002; www.chilitosmexicangrill.net.
BEST CHINESE RESTAURANT
Situated on Hospitality Lane in San Berdoo, this nicely decorated Chinese restaurant’s hospitable to both the mind and the stomach. That’s ’cause this veteran of the IE (it’s been around for ages) is equal parts consistent and commodious. There’s fine fare for just about every mouth—the beef, chicken and shrimp are supremely grub-worthy and the vegetarian dish selections are vast and offer flavor combos that are hard to beat. Are your chopsticks ready? (JC)
Lotus Garden, 111 E. Hospitality Ln., San Bernardino, (909) 381-6171.
BEST COFFEE HOUSE
Back to the Grind
It’s an art gallery, a venue, a meeting room, a study area, a place to unwind after work, a place to jumpstart your day—it’s Back to the Grind. For years this coffee shop has been more than just a coffee shop. Back to the Grind was founded as a community coffee shop, and, true to its roots, it has been serving the Riverside community since 1996. The large room with plenty of seating area plus patio out back has been a gathering spot for a variety of patrons in Downtown Riverside. Sometimes this vintage spot gets more action than the bars across the street. Not surprising since Back to the Grind serves a good variety of drinks from smoothies and teas to lattes and that good old-fashioned cup of Joe. (LL)
Back to the Grind, 3575 University Ave., Riverside, (951) 784-0800;
New York Delight
If the big boys in blue camp their asses out here, you know that it has gotta be good. First off, they get their own namesake sandwich—a heaping behemoth of roast beef, turkey and ham on Wedge bread called the Pomona Police. Pack in the homemade sweets and neighborly service, and New York Delight shows that you can leave your heart in New York, all without stepping past the confines of your own backyard. (NP)
New York Delight, 310 S. Thomas St., Pomona, (909) 868-6518.
Phood on Main
Phood on Main kicks serious boo-tay for gobs and gobs of reasons; their lunches are plain yum and affordable, dinner entrees can be food-of-the gods-type experiences—but a tad pricier. Then there’re the desserts. Wowza. I’m not a huge sweet-tooth guy, but even I go a bit weak in the knees for the chocolate mousse amaretto and their red-velvet cupcakes were cupcakes before cupcakes were cool, or something like that. Chef Marla Cohen knows her way ’round a pastry. (BG)
Phood on Main, 3737 Main St #100, Riverside, (951) 276-7111; www.phoodonmain.net.
BEST FARMERS MARKET
Riverside Downtown Farmers Market
Remember the line from the Gene Wilder Willy Wonka? “The raspberries taste like raspberries, the snozzberries taste like snozzberries?” Lately when the Weekly goes to the supermarket the snozzberries taste more like plastic than anything else. But at the Downtown Farmers Market the fruit still tastes like, well, fruit. Which is sorta the idea isn’t it? This is the place for fresh fish, artisan olive oils, bread from the bread guy and a nice array of flowers, though I wouldn’t eat the latter. (BG)
Riverside Downtown Farmers Market, Riverside, located between 5th and 6th streets along the Main Street Pedestrian Mall; www.riversideca.gov/arts/farmers-market.asp. Saturdays, 8AM-1PM.
BEST FRENCH RESTAURANT
Christophe’s Restaurant & Lounge
This hip and trendy steak house in downtown Upland has redefined what fine dining means for the masses. Credit goes to owner Christophe Jardillier, a master of his domain and the Jean-Luc Picard of his eponymous culinary starship, an expert purveyor of classics from the European continent and beyond. With live music Wednesday through Sunday nights in the adjoining lounge and a wine and spirits list that lightens the occasion, Christophe’s may just be the opportune place to take your romance to the next level. (NP)
Christophe’s Restaurant & Lounge, 296 N. 2nd Ave., Upland, (909) 256-4327; www.christophesrestaurant.com.
BEST FROZEN YOGURT
Yogoo A La Mode
Yes, yes, we hear you. The frozen yogurt phase is almost as annoying as the cupcake frenzy, and it’s only a matter of time before we see Top Chef: The Frozen Season. Still, frozen yogurt is yummy, healthy until we load it up with accessories, and refreshing on a hot day, which in the IE means always. Readers voted Yogoo the best and they’re spot-on. If you’re on yogurt overload, belly up to one of their amazing gelatos. (BG)
Yogoo A La Mode, 7890 Haven Ave. Suite 8, Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 484-1820; www.yogooalamode.com.
BEST GREASY SPOON
Mr. T’s Family Restaurant
Mr. T’s has been an institution in the courthouse district for decades—and, yes, it is a true greasy spoon, but in a kick-ass breakfasts, coffee so awful that it’s great, burger and burritos, tasty fries, delicious onion rings, shakes, syrupy soda and attentive, friendly service sort of way. It’s the perfect spot for that Sunday hangover; there’s enough grease to soak up the remnants of that fifth of Maker’s Mark in no time. (BG)
Mr. T’s Family Restaurant, 4307 Main St., Riverside, (951) 781-8707.
BEST ICE CREAM
It appears that no matter how frigid the weather, how sweltering and oppressive the Inland Empire’s heat waves nor how penniless many in the area have become, there’s usually a line of notable length outside the service windows of Handel’s. Bottom line: People want a great lick off the cone, they want an amazing shake (seriously, the addiction is scary), and they don’t mind joining the waiting crowd for their turn at sweet supremeness. (FLA)
Handel’s Ice Cream, 373 S. Mountain Ave., Upland, (909) 946-9077; www.handelsicecream.com.
BEST INDIAN RESTAURANT
I would guess that Haandi won the top slot with our readers because of its incredible diversity—this is not some Indian place where you walk out with your mouth aflame, with little sensory memory of what you’ve just purported to enjoy. No, Haandi offers up fairly mild food from Northern India in a relaxed and pleasant setting. But this mild food (which they can make spicier by request) is yummy and varied. In fact you could spend a very appetizing month working your way through their menu, but for those of you who don’t have the time . . . try the Tandoori chicken and the lamb curry, and, hell, probably all the curries and the appetizers like the veggie samosa are also worth a shot. Maybe you better just try the whole menu, which is affordable if you do it right, since nothing here is priced outrageously. We at the Weekly agree with the reader’s choice wholeheartedly. (BG)
Haandi Indian Restaurant, 7890 Haven Ave. Suites 15-16, Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 581-1951; www.haandiindiancuisine.com.
BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT
What can you say, really? Mario’s almost gets taken for granted. Very often I wind up going there as a default option; then wind up going through the same epiphany that, yes, Mario’s may very well be the best restaurant in the Inland Empire. The bar, the patio and the music all make it a draw, but it’s the food, the food that draws us back—elegant and sublime Northern Italian perfection. The food is the result of chef Leone Palagi of course, and I can’t say I’ve ever had a mediocre, let alone a bad, meal here. But equally important is the way the other two Palagi brothers, Arrigo and Andrea, manage the bar and the floor. Anyone who has lived in Riverside for a while has a classic Mario’s night and a classic Mario’s story. Go and start yours. (BG)
Mario’s Place, 3646 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside, (951) 684-7755; www.mariosplace.com.
BEST JAPANESE RESTAURANT
Sakura Ichi could easily have won for best sushi too—it’s worth hitting their all-you-can-eat sushi bar, but there’s so much more going on here. Sakura has a cool bar area, and a loaded and varied menu. For an appetizer, try the cream rock shrimp; they’re scrumptious. If you’re in the mood for something light, try the tasty garlic albacore salad. Or if you’re up for something heavier, their steaks are awesome. At Sakura you can’t go wrong. (BG)
Sakura Ichi, 101 W. Mission Blvd. #101, Pomona, (909) 865-2059; www.sakuraichi.com.
BEST LATE NIGHT EATS
Not on any level to be confused with the Taco Tia chain, Tio’s Tacos is an amazing place: the art work on the patio created by owner Martin Sanchez remind us of a Gaudi transplanted to the Southwest, while the menu is eclectic and creative. But the best part of Tio’s is the closing time, 11 p.m. Sunday thru Thursday and a truly outstanding 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday night. Why piss off to Denny’s after the bar when you can head to Tio’s instead? (BG)
Tio’s Tacos, 3948 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside, (951) 788-0230; www.myspace.com/tiostacos.
BEST MEDITERRANEAN RESTAURANT
Aladdin Jr. Restaurant & Café
In the mood for a little baklava? Well, you voted and Aladdin Jr. is the spot for some good Mediterranean eats. With over 50 dishes, Aladdin Jr. offers plenty of delish choices. But the restaurant doesn’t stop there; it also offers hookah. It’s the one-stop place for lamb kabobs and flavored tobacco even Agrabah would approve. (LL)
Aladdin Jr., 3161 North Garey Ave., Pomona, (909) 593-3887; www.aladdinjrrestaurant.com.
BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT
This longtime area pair—there’s one in La Verne and another in Pomona—dish out a bevy of incredible Mexican dishes. For those seeking that authentic taco stand feel, the La Verne location (just north of the dragstrip) is your destination. But the Garey Avenue eatery in Pomona has an accompanying Mexican bakery, so fresh treats always await after you clear your plate. As for the food, we can only hope heaven serves burritos this great. (Waleed Rashidi)
El Merendero, 242 S. Garey Ave., Pomona, (909) 620-1411; 1910 Fairplex Dr., La Verne, (909) 593-7078.
So what’s the secret to Pho Century’s pho? It’s the broth, man. Flavorful. Delicious. Perfect. And—and this is important—very low on the MSG. And that’s saying something since I’ve been to quite a few pho places in the IE. Once you team up their broth with the fresh rice noodles, sliced beef (these guys are definitely not stingy with the meat) and then proceed to go crazy with the basil, you’ll forget there ever was such a place called Westminster. An excellent stop for this authentic Vietnamese comfort food. (GD)
Pho Century, 1244 W. Foothill Blvd., Upland, (909) 985-2881.
Let’s not even discuss their wicked brilliant strombolis—just take our word that they’re near-high art. No, let’s examine two of their pizza options. First the Meat Deluxe, which comes with salami, pepperoni, hamburger, bacon and Canadian bacon. DeMatteo’s doesn’t eff around. The Gourmet Veggie is just that—gourmet—with red or white sauce, red onions, artichoke hearts, basil olives and other tasty treats. If anyone tells you we don’t have quality pizza pies round these parts send um to DeMatteo’s. (BG)
DeMatteo’s Pizza, 7030 Magnolia Ave., Riverside, (951) 682-6198; www.dematteos.com.
Maybe it’s the fact that it hasn’t been around as long as some of the other big boys on the block or maybe it’s simply the fact it’s in Chino, but Owen’s sometimes gets forgotten in the list of great restaurants. But no more. Readers of our humble Weekly have named Owen’s as Best Restaurant and no wonder. Award-winning chef James Kelly serves up modern takes on classics with a whimsical touch that even extends to the menu; their current version offers a salmon number called “The Camping Trip.” (BG)
Owen’s Bistro, 5210 D St., Chino, (909) 628-0452; www.owensbistro.com.
BEST ROMANTIC RESTAURANT
Duane’s is the über-classic romantic dining spot in the area, old school in a way that works—quiet booths that give off an intimate vibe. Plus, the restaurant itself is the only one in the IE to win a triple-A Diamond rating. The menu is not only excellent, but reliable. A steakhouse that offers up delicious other options, Duane’s is the place to pop that bottle of champagne or the question or maybe both. And their new fixed-price menu makes amor affordable again. (BG)
Duane’s Steakhouse at the Mission Inn, 3649 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside, (951) 784-0300; www.missioninn.com.
BEST SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
Reliability is what you get at the Market Broiler. You know the service is going to be excellent. You know that if you’ve got kiddies, there’s something for them on the menu. And you know you’re going to be eating fish that’s not only fresh but also well prepared, along with some yummy sides. Plus, the mini-fish market they have on site is amazing and equally worth a visit. (BG)
Riverside Market Broiler, 3525 Merrill Ave. Riverside, (951) 276-9007; www.marketbroiler.com.
Despite the fads, styles and other sundry waves of culinary fashion, the steakhouse refuses to go quietly into that cholesterol-raising, artery-clogging good night. Places like the Sycamore Inn are the reason why. They’ve got other stuff on the menu, but let’s face it—you came here for beef and a decent portion of it too. The Sycamore delivers: pepper steak, rib chop and good old prime rib too. It’s guilt-free, old-school dining at the Sycamore Inn. (BG)
Sycamore Inn, 8318 Foothill Blvd., Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 982-1104; www.thesycamoreinn.com.
BEST SUNDAY BRUNCH
Okay, at $36 for adults and $20 for kids we’ll admit it’s pricey—but it’s the Mission Inn Sunday Brunch, bro, not the Hometown Buffet; there’s a certain “worth it” factor at play here. For one thing, it’s in the courtyard off the Mission Inn, one of the more spectacular venues to share a meal in our area. The menu is new too, so if you haven’t been for a while it’s time to come back, grab a mimosa and enjoy. (BG)
Sunday Brunch at the Mission Inn, 3649 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside, (866) 724-7445; www.missioninn.com. 9:30AM-2:00PM.
There are scads of sushi joints these days in the IE, with some quite terrible, many mediocre (often due to the quality of their fish) and just a handful of great spots. Then there is Sayaka in Colton. This is sushi nirvana, with everything expertly prepared in an artistic way, well presented, and served up in a space both chic and comfortable. Go, bring an appetite, sit at the bar and get your sushi on. (BG)
Sayaka Japanese Restaurant, 1060 Mt. Vernon Ave., Colton, (909) 824-6958; www.sayakajapaneserestaurant.com.
BEST TAPAS/SMALL PLATES
I lived in Spain in the mid-’90s. Occasionally, okay daily, I miss it, and when I do I head to Sevilla’s. And when I do I generally avoid the main dining hall and head upstairs to the wine bar for tapas and a glass of tinto. They get tapas right here; items like the mushrooms, the small helpings of paella and the Tortilla Espanola, are all faithful and interesting versions of what one might find in Spain—all without the twelve-hour flight. (BG)
Café Sevilla in Riverside, 3552 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside, (951) 778-0611; www.cafesevilla.com.
BEST THAI RESTAURANT
Mix Bowl Café
From its modest façade, it’s hard to imagine this being the Best Thai Restaurant in the IE. But readers voted and the fast and fresh eatery makes the cut. The restaurant serves traditional classic dishes like Pad Thai and Pad Kee Mow and then mixes things up in other plates like the Pad Kee Mow Spaghetti and Heaven Noodle. Its décor is simple, but its menu is large like most Thai restaurants. (LL)
Mix Bowl Café, 1520 Indian Hill Blvd., Pomona, (909) 447-4401; www.mixbowlcafe.com.
BEST VEGETARIAN/VEGAN RESTAURANT
If you ain’t down with the carne this place really is an Oasis, a great food stand, let alone a vegetarian one. Oasis has a small but diverse menu, successfully pulling off the mixed kitchen and turning out fantastic vegetarian versions of American and Latino foods. The short list of what’s great has to include the Steak Burger, the pupusas and the tamales. They now offer breakfast, too. It’s also worth noting the prices here are as groovy as the food. (BG)
Oasis Vegetarian Café, 11550 Pierce St. Riverside, (951) 688-5423; www.oasisvegetariancafe.com.