[Desi]gn Cakes & Cupcakes
Desi, the CSUSB alum and the IE’s go-to girl for all things sweet, narrowly lost her bid to host the ESPYs on The Cupcake Wars, but those who have tasted the award-winning baker’s delights on the cupcake competition circuit know better. Desi’s “little pieces of Italian love” will soon delight a wider audience when she launches strawberry funnel, pumpkin and salted caramel cupcakes in addition to her already renowned mascarpone, and fig and almond biscotti cakes at her Oct. 4 grand opening. (N.P.)
12207 Central Ave., Chino, (909) 725-3482; www.designcakesandcupcakes.com.
Gram’s Mission Barbeque Palace
For the last 25 years, Riverside’s temple of Southern barbecue has dished up portion sizes as big in personality as the master ’cuer himself, Robert Bratton. And crowds near and far keep coming, for the Cajun chicken, meaty ribs, catfish, gumbo, mamma’s sweet potato pie kicked up a notch with a hint of citrus, chitterlings and (of course) the collard greens that come with every meal. What is Bratton’s secret weapon? His 86-year-old mother, the famous “gram” of Gram’s whose recipes serve as Bratton’s muse. (N.P.)
3527 Main St., Riverside, (951) 782-8219; www.gramsmissionbbq.com.
Corky’s Kitchen & Bakery
Corky’s is the Inland Empire’s answer to Cracker Barrel, a direct competitor to Denny’s and a place to soak up the nostalgic remnants of western Americana in air-conditioned obscurity. This greasy spoon (with locations in Corona, Eastvale, Rancho Cucamonga and Rialto) that was born and reared along the mother of all Southern California roads serves up hearty, home-style breakfasts—monster-sized pancakes and meaty skillet dishes—to weary travelers 24/7, who may leave bloated but resolutely sated in Fudge and Reese’s Peanut Butter bliss. (N.P.)
The Castaway Restaurant
The hilltop views of the San Bernardino Valley are breathtaking, the cuisine superb and the service top notch at The Castaway Restaurant, the long-time mainstay for the quintessential Sunday champagne brunch. Each week offers wonderful array of eats, from made-to-order pastas and omelets to a roundtable of seafood and carving station options, complete with decadent desserts to soothe the sweet tooth. If you want to impress Mom or the wife with a Sunday surprise, this place is it. (N.P.)
670 Kendall Dr., San Bernardino, (909) 881-1502; www.castawayrestaurant.com/castaway_sanbernardino.
Burger chains are a dime a dozen in the IE, except when it comes to Eureka! Burgers, a small, college-town joint that caters to burger sophisticates of the learned world, and with great craft beers to boot. One of the best is the Fig Marmalade Burger, the yin and yang of a bacon burger topped by melted goat cheese, spicy porter mustard-dressed arugula and onions, tempered by the sweet fig marmalade. Mix in the sports-bar and environmentally-conscious vibe and it instantly becomes the hangout. Eureka! is located in both Redlands and Claremont. (N.P.)
Rosa Maria’s Drive In
The garbage burrito was invented by—you guessed it—Rosa Maria’s back in 1975, after customers asked the owners to add lettuce and tomatoes in addition to the meat and beans. And the garbage burrito has been Rosa Maria’s landmark bestseller ever since, with customers ordering them by the dozen. This one-pound heart stopper of Gringo goodness combines chile colorado pork, beans, rice, guacamole, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and cheese into in a giant flour tortilla. With locations in San Bernardino, Highland, Redlands and Fontana, there’s plenty of burrito to go around. (N.P.)
Dhat Island is about as far from the Louisiana swamplands or the Caribbean as one could get, but nobody does Creole with as much fanfare and class in tropical ambience. Thick, smoky gumbo swims in a sea full of crab, shrimp and Andouille sausage, and the chicken fritters garnished with pickled chilies, fried okra and cornmeal-battered mushrooms are bomb. Such a meal would be incomplete without at least a basket of light, fluffy, sugar-dusted beignets served under a drizzle of dark chocolate. (N.P.)
509 N. Eureka St., Redlands, (909) 792-1717; www.dhatisland.com.
Not all Chinese restaurants are cut from the same cloth as its San Gabriel Valley brethren. Take Chu Cuisine, an imperiously decorated Chinese American restaurant in Rancho Cucamonga whose upscale grandiosity would impress for a date night. The honey walnut shrimp has received considerable mention—large, tender pieces of shrimp lightly bathed in a sweet and creamy dressing—as has the simple, but always filling, beef chow fun and the Chinese-Korean hybrid, Spicy Seafood Soup. (N.P.)
11334 4th St., Ste. 103, Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 980-6888; www.chucuisine.com.
Dripp is Occupy Coffee’s answer to big-box corporations like Starbucks and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, the 99 percent of coffee houses. The idea was sprung by Rabih Sater, a former energy industry employee who desired to build his fortune on Intelligentsia and Turkish coffee, roasted on and served from the best machines that money could buy. Nowhere in the IE does coffee work so symbiotically in steampunk meets boutique elegance, except in metropolis. And Dripp is that new metropolis. (N.P.)
13855 City Center Dr., Ste. 3015, Chino Hills, (909) 628-6384; www.dripp.com.
My Hero Subs #2
What the folks here make will be cheaper, tastier and fresher than anything Subway or Quiznos could conceive between two slices of bread. The aroma of freshly baked bread—crusty on the outside, but soft and yielding upon first bite on the inside—will draw you up to the counter even before you’ve decided on whether to pony up the pocket change for a roast beef, French dip or Italian. (N.P.)
1049 W. Mill St., San Bernardino, (909) 885-4994.
Le Rendez-Vous Restaurant
Set against the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains, this rustic and elegant French restaurant might be a trying stop after a day in the sun or snow, but its old-fashioned charm can’t help but make tired travelers fall in love all over again. Le Rendez-Vous serves a bevy of classic French staples, including beef bourguignon and escargot, coq au vin, crepes Suzette, Duck a l’Orange and a handful of scrumptious, perfectly-assembled desserts to sweeten the romance. (N.P.)
4775 N. Sierra Way, San Bernardino, (909) 883-1231; www.lerendezvousrestaurant.com.
Berries Frozen Yogurt
When life imitates art, you know you’ve got something good going. So when you walk into Berries, all you have to do is study the tapestry of creamy, mouth-watering concoctions on the wall, point to the one that most intrigues you and let the friendly and enthusiastic experts behind the counter take care of the rest. They’re way more creative (with flavors like Scooby Doo and Love Shack) than the other froyo guys. Order a Nutella cone—you won’t regret it. (M.T.)
7305 Day Creek Blvd., Ste. 102, Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 463-2924; www.facebook.com/berriesyogurt.
The Hot Dog Shoppe
Hot dogs, for me, are summer time, baseball games and good conversation all wrapped into one. It makes sense that there would be establishments like The Hot Dog Shoppe that want to play with that formula and bring its customers all manner of different dogs, from basic to gourmet. Whatever your mind can cook up, The Hot Dog Shoppe can prepare it for you. Psst—there’s also a Hot Dog Shoppe in Temecula. (K.L.)
510 Hidden Valley Pkwy., Corona, (951) 898-8702; www.thehotdogshoppe-corona.com.
Koyla Charcoal Grill Indian Cuisine
With a mile-long menu and tons of delicious options, this place is sure to give you the taste of India you’ve been looking for. From buttered naan to chicken curry, get ready to try hundreds of isolated and unique flavors. One visit to Koyla will have you hooked and coming back for more. Remember—with so many options, it would be a crime to pick the same thing every time. Plus, Koyla has another location in Ontario. (K.L.)
8140 Haven Ave., Ste. 101, Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 484-7570; www.koylarestaurant.com.
Vince’s Spaghetti, Ontario
People have been going to Vince’s Spaghetti in Ontario since they were babies and coming back years later for a reason—and it’s more than the spaghetti, although that rocks. They know Vince’s is a family joint that offers up extremely well-priced food fare. People rave about its garlic bread, but the real prize here is the meat sauce, which is old-old-school and dang tasty. No gnocchi, no truffles, no $20 plates of risotto at Vince’s, just classic spaghetti at classic prices. (B.G.)
1206 W. Holt Blvd., Ontario, (909) 986-7074; www.vincesspaghettirestaurant.com.
The IE can feel far from the beach and even farther from Japan, until you hit up Kishi in Upland. Suddenly you’re transported, if only for a bit. It’s not a showy place, unless you count the fresh sushi with often huge cuts of fish, or its teppan grill with its convivial and fun vibe. No, Kishi is in no way upscale unless you count the way they been serving up tasty Japanese cuisine for almost 30 years. (B.G.)
320 W. Foothill Blvd., Upland, (909) 981-1770; www.kishirestaurant.com.
Okay—the title “Mediterranean” needs work, as it includes scads of cuisines including French and Spanish, but this unassuming Arabic restaurant serves up great food, from an outstanding array of appetizers to some truly wicked lamb. A dedicated diner could get lost in their menu for years. Then there’s the great hookah room, the live shows, friendly service, shawarma and kebabs—not a bad Friday night. (B.G.)
3161 N. Garey Ave., Pomona, (909) 593-3887; www.aladdinjrrestaurantcafe.com.
Olivia’s is an institution in Riverside, the kind of place families have been going to for generations. It’s also won this award several times, showing that fans of the restaurant are fiercely loyal to both the large portions and family atmosphere of the place. Olivia’s is a burrito, chips and salsa, tacos and albondigas type of Mexican place. It’s got cheap drinks, low prices and great service overall. In an era of fusion Mexican cooking like kimchee tacos, it’s a refreshing blast from the past. (B.G.)
9447 Magnolia Ave., Riverside, (951) 689-2131; www.oliviasmexicanrestaurant.com.
If fish is what you’re craving then you’ll find nothing fresher than the fish brought in daily at the Market Broiler. Anything you can imagine, from fresh scallops to juicy salmon, is available (plus a few specials, while supplies last). If you’re not sure what to get, try the Coconut Shrimp (the Southern Fried Striped Catfish is divine, too!). They’re—as they say—to die for. Plus this place gets bonus points because, behind a window pane, you can see the cooks preparing grilled seafood over a real-deal charcoal grill. Catch of the day, indeed. (A.B.)
3525 Merrill Ave., Riverside, (951) 276-9007; 4553 E. Mills Cir., Ontario, (909) 581-0866; www.marketbroiler.com.
If you’ve got to be a meat eater to survive in a beef-centric society, we might as well make it taste the best it possibly can. Fleming’s makes sure that no matter the cut, it’s doing the bovine justice. Exact temperatures are used to sear in those potent juices, followed by being taken off the grill only when it’s ready to immediately leave the kitchen and sizzle right in front of you. Dig in. (A.B.)
7905 Monet Ave., Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 463-0416; www.flemingssteakhouse.com.
The name says it all: someone has perfected the taco at this humble little taco shop. From its shredded beef and birria tacos to its asada and carnitas variety, this Mexican eatery gets props from its patrons for its down-home eats and casual flair. OK, so you want to try something else besides tacos? Try the 20-plus burritos, combo plates, breakfast burritos . . . it’s a menu beyond imagination. (A.B.)
9451 Foothill Blvd., Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 980-6202.
1150 E. Philadelphia St., Ontario, (909) 947-8226.
Not only has Viva Madrid maintained its spot as top tapas but it’s also changed its menu to offer 60 different plates. Which means you could eat a new dish once a week for an entire year and still not have tried everything. It’s labeled as Spanish cuisine, but there’s really everything here: from filet mignon to every kind of seafood and everything else in between. (A.B.)
225 Yale Ave., Claremont, (909) 624-5500; www.vivamadrid.com.
Thai food is sweeping the nation but not every place has the exotic and satisfying taste that Thai T offers. Armed with oyster sauce and curry, this restaurant concocts extraordinary flavor from its Crab Fried Rice down to its Pineapple Curry Shrimp (very spicy!). Ditch those fast-food cravings and submit to the allure and power of the Royal Pad Thai. Go Thai T or go home. (A.B.)
9000 Foothill Blvd., Ste. 102, Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 987-7199; www.thethait.com.
The word “vegan” might turn a lot of people off with images of bland tofu. Think this no more! The Loving Hut has come up with a myriad of menu items to help non-vegans understand that a vegan pizza can taste great and make you forget about any previous craving for meat-oriented mastication. Top off your meal with various smoothies and teas and you just might join the vegan train. (A.B.)175 N. Indian Hill Blvd., Bldg. A102, Claremont, (909) 621-1668; www.lovinghut.us/claremont_01; 903 W. Foothill Blvd., Upland, (909) 982-3882; www.lovinghut.us/upland.
If you haven’t tried phở, the traditional Vietnamese catch-all soup that manages to taste like the country itself, the place to lose your virginity just may be Pho Ha. With phở it’s all about the broth, and the stuff at Pho Ha manages an intense sublimity that will make you a convert for life. Nothing fancy here; remember to bring cash as they don’t take credit cards. The restaurant’s other menu options are tasty too—it just won’t change your reason for living like the phở. (B.G.)
10185 Magnolia Ave., Riverside, (951) 354-8918.