Beer N’ Burgers
By Bill Gerdes
You might be forgiven for blowing past the Rookery in downtown Pomona on your way to a place that looks more how shall we say . . . appealing? From the outside with its dull grey exterior and limp hanging sign suggesting, truthfully, its great collection of beers, The Rookery charms aren’t, well, subtle. Even inside the approach to design and decoration could be described as medieval minimalist, with a roomy beer hall adjoining a smaller dining area, a few absurdist paintings above the bar and that’s it. On the day we walked in the place was cold, empty and appeared to be closed at noon—on a Saturday.
It was not an auspicious debut.
Then slowly The Rookery grew on me. They have beer, a decent collection of beer, bottles of expensive Belgian ales, cheap local crafts on draft, Pomona Queen as well as the omnipresent, but always damn fine Hangar 24. So there’s a wide selection of suds to soak down as you sit in the quasi-beer hall and hang out. So, there’s that.
The menu is mostly burgers. We are oddly, strangely, entering a boutique burger renaissance in the Inland Empire, as we seemingly catch the last wave of a nationwide trend toward fancy burgers that run upwards of 15 bucks, sometimes worth it, often not. But hey, at The Rookery the burgers are stuck at pre-boutique prices. The French Onion Burger manages to taste a bit like insanely cheesy French onion soup if it was reconfigured as a hamburger. It’s a lovely sloppy Gruyere cheesy mess, a mess that includes spinach leaves, a brioche bun and large shreds of sweet onions. It’s juicy, peppery, cheesy and nice.
Veggie burgers are tough. They tend to fit into two categories—prefabricated frozen patties that stay together well but often taste like hippy hockey pucks or homemade experiments in bean and grain mixology that can go terribly wrong. At The Rookery, the Veggie Burgers lean toward the second option, and while they are not terrible, they are a bit messy. The patty basically collapsed in our burger, and was only rescued by the garlic mayo overall freshness of the spinach, bun, and red beans in the veggie mixture. It was a disappointment, but hey that’s life in veggie burger land.
While the menu is limited, there are a few choices beside burgers. There are a couple of steak choices, some salad options like their bacon and goat cheese salad, as well as some nice appetizers. The Tomato Soup is subtle, creamy, and perfect for a cold day. The Battered Onions, (hint—they’re onion rings), are crisp little numbers that actually snap when bitten into and are refreshingly free of fryer grease. The chipotle mayo dipping sauce has a nice kick. It’s perhaps worth noting that the service was excellent. Ignore the façade—the Rookery is worth a look.
The Rookery Bar and Grill, 117 W. 2nd St. Pomona, (909) 815-5215; www.facebook.com/TheRookeryPomona. Tues-Thurs, 11am-10pm. Fri, 11am-12am. Sat, 12pm-12am. Sun 12pm-8pm.