It’s always so difficult to decide where to go when you want to go out. So many choices! IE is steppin’ up its game, and trying to compete with OC and LA for great food, great atmosphere and great drinks. It was hard to wade through the dozens of great bars and pubs in the area to find those special few that would tower above all the rest, but we did it. Take a look at our list, and let us guide you to beverage bliss.
The outside of the Acerogami bar features a giant, rusted, metal blossom, expanding like a gigantic rose next to the entrance. The name means “folded metal,” but the place is pure rock and roll with a Generation X soundtrack (Guns N’ Roses, Joy Division, Garbage, Suede, Morrisey), and a cool, dimly lit interior staffed by polite, stylish bartenders who understand the meaning of alacrity. Conveniently located next to the Glass House (which doesn’t serve liquor), Acerogami is where you go before the show to properly juice up, with a vast array of precision-crafted mixed drinks to choose from. They only offer beer in a bottle, but the selection is considerable and at least you know it won’t be watered down when you drink it straight from the source. While Saturday nights can be busy the place is otherwise known for being quiet, dark, and reasonably priced (cocktails are between $5 and $13, depending on the special), although there is no happy hour there. The spacious interior gives you plenty of room to bring your own party, and since the Acerogami is in Downtown Pomona there are still many places to explore once you take it outside. (Jasen Davis)
A food menu dedicated to showcasing the endless glory of pork, pork and more pork is what initially draws diners in to The Salted Pig—Riverside’s only gastropub, located in the civic center blocks of Downtown. But it’s the rotating selection of craft beer, boutique wines and small-batch dark liquors that puts “The Pig” (as it is affectionately known to locals) so far into a league of its own that the place is often filled with foodies from across the Empire. Take a seat at the bar and have one of the house craft cocktails (made with fresh fruits and juices!) or wait around for a spot to open up at the Chef’s Bar, where you come eye-to-eye with the kitchen staff as they make your oak-grilled pork belly sandwich or hand-formed bacon-and-beef burger. The sacred pairing of beer and meat are heavily emphasized here, and The Pig’s knowledgeable staff thankfully use accessible adjectives (like “fruity” and “easy drinkin’”) to guide diners through the restaurant’s 12 taps and 50-plus bottles from SoCal and beyond. (Sarah Bennett)
The Salted Pig, 3700 12th St., Riverside, (951) 848-4020; www.saltedpigriverside.com.
Palm Springs has been a vacation spot for the trendy and famous for decades. Usually dominated by large resorts and a Frank Sinatra vibe, the new addition of Amigo Room in the renovated Ace Hotel is bringing LA hipsters to the Palm Springs life, and they love it. Amigo Room is jam-packed with tiny cute hipsters day and night, and the amazing DJs that they bring in to spin at this cramped, dark cave dwelling would make anybody swoon. With attentive bartenders, good music, the chic vibe of the Ace Hotel and décor that is reminiscent of the Bigfoot Lodge in Silver Lake, this bar can make any hipster feel at home in this classic desert town. A ten out of ten! (Evan Senn)
Amigo Room at the Ace Hotel, 701 E Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, (760) 325-9900; www.acehotel.com/palmsprings.
Take your enthusiasm for craft beer and localism further and see where barley converts into sugar at the Hangar 24 Craft Brewery tasting room by Redlands airport. It’s similar to wine tasting, but less fancy with keg and barrel seating in a wartime hangar with a bi-plane skeleton hanging overhead. Man date, anyone?
You’re just there to savor some pale ale made with locally grown oranges or maybe even the Chocolate Porter with its coffee-style roast and hint of vanilla. There are seasonal offerings and flavors inspired by nearby locales, as well, with taps o’plenty.
Tours are offered on Sundays or by appointment for groups. Wednesday nights go electric with live music from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., and Fridays are for experimental brews. Recent concoctions included a blood orange blend and a Columbus IPA with vanilla and oak conditioned with honey. There’s no food served on the premises, but you can bring your own. Even better, plan your trip on a Friday or Saturday when Where’s the Fire Gourmet Pizza, Amapola Rico Taco or other food truck rigs pull up curbside. And as expected, St. Patty’s Day weekend is going to go off, with doors opening at 7 a.m. (Arrissia Owens)
Hangar 24, 1710 Sessums Drive, Redlands, 909-389-1400; www.hangar24brewery.com.
Looking for a fairly sophisticated hang out in which to discuss the finer points of contemporary art? Look no further than dba256 Gallery & Wine Bar. Ron Faris and Collin Hall opened dba256 in 2007 as a way of marrying fine wine with art in an upscale, pseudo-academic environment. Housed in a high-ceilinged, brick building in Pomona’s eclectic arts colony, it’s a place that appeals to hipsters and older couples alike, who stop by for drinks before dinner Or enjoy an after-dinner nightcap when the bar bustles with activity.Over 200 different wines and 60 beers occupy Faris’ immense cellar and on any given day, the bar offers 15 wines by the glass, with the list changing every two weeks. Fairs sells his own Vin Nostro label on the premises, but the sweet wines and craft beers are really what shines, with brews such as North Coast’s Pranqster and Old Rasputin and ales from Pomona Queen as the current chic. “Keep the Glass” Thursdays introduce patrons to new craft beers and customers who make a purchase get to keep the beer glass. Musician and Chef Herbert Ha of Gourmet Meals cooks up delectable treats for the bar’s Sunday suppers. (Nancy Powell)
dba256, 256 S. Main St., Pomona, (909) 623-7600; www.dba256.com.
Trade in the younger, rambunctious bar crowds for a cozy, inspired restaurant in the heart of the Claremont Village where the food is amazing, the service is great and the shelved alcohol display glows with golden illumination. Most importantly, Union is all about community. After dining you’re free to hang out, enjoy conversations with friends by the fire pit and even make new acquaintances by trying your hand at bocce ball (the court is right in the middle of the outdoor dining area). Union’s bar has a bit of everything but alongside an extensive imported wine selection and a menu offering a few 10 to 40-year-old scotches, the most unique drinks come from the signature cocktail menu. The French 75 sports a combination of champagne, gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and a lemon-peel spiral garnish that gives the drink a light and zesty taste. Don’t let the display of this gin-mixed “girly drink” sneak up on you. If you’re worried about appearances, try the stronger mix of rye and Angostura Bitters in the Flamed Old Fashioned. Just know your limits; we don’t want to hear about how you accidentally threw a bocce ball into somebody’s prized wood-fired pizza. (Ashley Bennett)
Union on Yale, 232 Yale Ave., Claremont, (909) 833-5104; www.uniononyale.com.
If you’re looking for the charming, inviting ambiance of an authentic British pub here in the IE, we have the perfect spot for you. Tucked away in Upland, Black Watch Pub has catered to patrons of all ages and backgrounds for over 30 years. Providing a personal environment that feels like home, owners Peter and Jill even remember your name—Cheers flashback anyone? Aside from exceptional service and an amazing staff, this ale house dishes up genuine British pints and cuisine BWP is well-known for its entertainment. There’s steel-tip darts, pool tables and live airings of U.K. soccer games—even if that means you open a tab at 6 a.m. Not the competitive type? Every Friday and Saturday brings a diverse array of local bands—from metal to reggae, they don’t discriminate against talent. Keep this place in mind for St. Patrick’s Day—there will be an unlimited supply of shepherd’s pie and corned beef and cabbage and green beers for the amateurs. Don’t miss your chance to feel at home with new friends while enjoying the all day everyday happy hour specials—the Black Watch Pub proudly holds true to its signature of being “your local British pub.” (Jamie Solis)
Black Watch Pub, 497 N Central Ave., Upland, (909) 981-6069; www.theblackwatchpub.com.
Now, the Brandin’ Iron Saloon has been around for . . . awhile. If there was an IE center for line-dancing, Electric Slide style, this would be the place; ditto for the mechanical bull craze, several incantations of “country is cool” moments in the media and a host of other cowboy-related memes over the last twenty years. But here’s the deal pard’ner, the Brandin’ Iron still kicks a little ass, sometimes literally, and if you like the testosterone level ramped up, the beers cheap and mechanical bull-bucking, this here’s the place for you. There’s more to the Brandin’ Iron than just this though. Wednesday night is college night, no cover charge with school ID, and generally the place is packed. People actually meet people here—and not all of them are wearing Ed Hardy shirts. You won’t find a fruit infused drink here but on Thirsty Thursday’s you can snag $1.50 well drinks. And they get some great bands in here too. Sundays are advertised as Family Day, which I meant to ask about but forgot after the third Vodka-Tonic. Oh well, the Brandin’ Iron is the place to forget your troubles and questions. (Bill Gerdes)
Brandin’ Iron Saloon, 320 South E St., San Bernardino, (909) 888-7388; www.brandinironsaloon.com.
My adventure with Killarney’s was magical, but not in the way you’d expect. Finding the bar was a quest in and of itself, as the bar can only be found by those who know where it is—at least in the daytime. Entering the bar helped as it had a nice, classic Irish pub feel set to the sounds of the beloved Flogging Molly. Luckily I came in during happy hour, when discounted (and delicious) craft beer was the bar’s specialty. Then I saw the menu . . . oh dear, this menu. The food is standard bar fare, though the specialties, such as corned beef and shepherd’s pie, are tempting. Killarney’s also features over 90 beers in total, with 27 on tap, including delicious beers like Allagash, Kilkenny, Lagunitas, Packinghouse Riley’s Irish Red, Bruery Mischief, Duchesse de Bourgogne, Stone, Smithwicks, Delirium Nocturnum, Green Flash, Fifty Fifty, Lost Abbey and even local Hangar 24 beers. As for the food, I had a Kinsale Burger and it was way too filling. This deceptively standard sandwich will anchor your stomach to the floor. The fries are well seasoned but will ruin your appetite. Having an appetizer beforehand only made things worse, although it did taste delicious (the mushrooms, for reference). The later the hour, the more crowded this pub becomes. I can only imagine a crowd at 10 pm when the students are free. Come here in the night with friends and split some appetizers if you must eat (I would honestly recommend eating beforehand). The beer is select and affordable (keep track of your tab though, it adds up) and the vibe is friendly. Killarney’s is ideal for a traditional Irish pub experience or just a fun outing with friends. (Joe Martone)
Killarney’s Irish Pub, 3639 Riverside Plaza Dr., Suite # 532, Riverside, (951) 682-2933; www.killarneys.com.
Nestled in Claremont sits The Back Abbey; A comfortable place committed to good food and Belgium style beers. As you walk up, you can choose to sit under the heated patio area or venture inside. I chose to venture inside and that was a good idea because the ambiance is perfect to catch up with friends. Handwritten menus that are colorfully chalked mix well with beer signs and a massive bar that’s neatly lined with bottles and glasses ready to serve you. At first, the menu looks intimidating because this bar doesn’t carry any of the typical domestic beers that make up most peoples’ basic bar 101 vocabulary. The wine list is respectable and paired with a menu full of high-end Belgium beers just waiting to be tapped. Some of the more noteworthy ales include Blanche de Bruxelles, Saison Dupont, Cuvee des Trolls or Delirium Tremens—delish. If you don’t know those yummy beers, not to worry; the friendly and knowledgeable staff can easily direct you to a beer that satisfies your taste. My personal recommendation is to try the Scaldis Noel and Voortrust. Voortrust can only be found at one other location on the planet and just became my new favorite beer! Trust me, it’s that good. (Derek Obregon)
The Back Abbey, 128 N. Oberlin Ave., Claremont; www.thebackabbey.com.
A drive past The Sire evokes one of my favorite jokes from Chapelle’s Show: “What can be said about (The Sire) that hasn’t been said about Afghanistan? It looks bombed out and depleted.” Maybe that’s not entirely fair. The Sire’s been in Riverside since roughly the dawn of time, and is run by the wife of the original owner. The place is old—no getting around it— but there’s a definitely a charm to it. The bartenders are friendly, the drinks are reasonably priced and the food is downright cheap, not to mention traditional ($6.99 top sirloin special on Saturdays). The beer list is limited—no craft or draft beers—just your standard domestic bottles. The bartenders can mix a decent cocktail and manage not require you to take out a mortgage to pay for it. Oh, and if you go there, be prepared for some 90s R&B slow jams . . . because that’s what you’re going to hear, despite the monochromatic nature of the clientele (that means a lot of white people frequent the place). In all, the Sire is a great dive, full of nostalgia and moth-ball ambience—and stiff drinks to boot.
The Sire, 6440 Magnolia Ave., Riverside, (951) 683-7473.
Downtown Riverside has been known as an artistic hub for years now. With the Riverside Art Museum and the UCR ARTSblock constantly providing cultural stimulants and innovative art exhibitions, it is no wonder that an art bar would end up in the same area. The new café/bar Pixels is dominating the area with hip and socially conscious cuisine, trendy and intriguing beverages, an artistic ambience and regular live music too. Pixels’ head chef, Elisa LaSalle designed her menu around healthy options with a creative flare. Catering to the cuisine connoisseurs of the area, LaSalle focused her efforts on giving affordable and tasty healthy eats for ever appetite, including vegan and gluten-free options as well. Pixels hosts themed nights of entertainment that include almost every kind of music and style. Live music on the weekends bring in a great mix of people and the low prices of their signature Moonshine and Whiskey & Pickle Juice keep them comin’ back for more. I highly recommend keeping an eye on this New Kid On The Block, and definitely am going to become a regular at this artistic and friendly bar. (Evan Senn)
Pixels, 3535 University Ave., Riverside, (951) 683-7957.
Upon arrival at Rumors—a modest sized bar, supported faithfully by its local patrons—I was quickly corrected after asking for a drink menu. “We got beer, beer, and more beer,” I heard. And this wasn’t even coming from the bartender, who by the way is gorgeous and sweet young woman. But the tough love is how Rumors operates. One gets the sense that the door swings open more than it swings shut and because of that, a familial quality is built in. The design is rustic but far from beat up. There is a pool table, some games and a jukebox, but the action is centered around—where else—the bar. This is the place to head to if you enjoy socializing while sipping on a cold one. Everybody loves a good rumor, and this one you should definitely spread around. (Dean Mayorga)
Rumors, 1125 Calimesa Blvd., Calimesa, (909) 795-4808.