Eats and Treats

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Posted October 3, 2013 in Feature Story

Sweets

BEST BAKERY

Some Crust Bakery

Nestled in the heart of Claremont Village, this longtime European-style bakery has been churning out fresh-baked goods since 1916, and under Larry and Sandie Feemster’s watch, Some Crust continues to be as busy as ever. While Larry likes to brag that nothing ever runs over a day old, the truth of the matter is that most items (the fruit and cheese Danishes, especially the decadent, brownie-like mocha chocolate chip cookies) don’t even reach the three-hour mark before it’s into the very happy tummies of hungry patrons. Let’s not forget hand-crafted mini cakes with light, melt-in-your-mouth buttercream spread over fluffy, delicate, spongy layers that would make any bride-to-be (or cake lover) swoon with unbridled pleasure. (N.P.)

119 Yale Ave., Claremont, (909) 621-9772; www.somecrust.com.

 

BEST ICE CREAM

À La Minute

The culinary term à la minute refers to the concept of something prepared to order, and that’s just exactly what the folks of Redland’s favorite ice cream parlor like to do. They whip up batches of creamy ice cream using fresh, organic ingredients right in front your eyes, thanks to a bit of home-grown alchemy (flash-freezing with liquid nitrogen). Before you know it, you have standing before you the stuff from which wet dreams are made. Of the 10 flavors, the strawberry balsamic, mint chip (garnished with real mint leaves), cinnamon roll with cream cheese (Sundays only) are must-haves during any visit to this perennially packed house. (N.P.)

19 Citrus Ave., #105, Redlands, (909) 307-3751; www.alalminuteicecream.com.

 

BEST MALT SHOP

Cedar-Glen-Malt-Shop

Cedar Glen Malt Shop

The Cedar Glen Malt Shop looks like any other mountain home off-the-beaten path on the way to Lake Arrowhead, but if you drive by this nostalgic 1940s shack without even a curious stop, you miss out on the best footed, fluted glass of creamy goodness this side of the Sierra Nevadas. These to-die-for, extra thick, frothy malts are made by hand with real ice cream, malt and crushed ice for a ginormous, mouth-watering treat that goes hand-in-hand with one of the many car-themed 1/3-pound burgers and thick-cut fries. (N.P.)

29125 Hook Creek Rd., Cedar Glen, (909) 337-6640.

 

BEST CUPCAKES

Brewcakes

Brewcakes

When C.J. and Sarah Sillers of Kiddoughs started mixing brews into their cupcake recipes, they decided to market their new adult dessert under the “Brewcake” banner at craft-beer festivals so as not to confuse current customers. Little did they know that Kiddoughs would be reborn as Brewcakes and that these craft-beer infused cupcakes would take on a life of its own. The Sillers’ menu now features six, of which the Irish Cake Bomb (stout-infused chocolate cake topped by a Bailey’s buttercream frosting and whiskey chocolate sauce) and Red Porter (Porter-infused red velvet cake topped with Porter cream cheese) have emerged as the clear-cut favorites. Oh, and yes, these spirited-cupcakes are family-friendly. (N.P.)

1150 Brookside Ave., Redlands, (909) 792-1399; www.brewcake.com. 

 

BEST DONUTS

Baker’s Dozen Donuts

Any old donut shop can make a basic glaze pastry or chocolate bar but Baker’s Dozen Donuts strives to make itself stand out. Each delicate pastry is hand crafted with quality in mind—and it has a number of specialty lattes to make your morning the best it can be. Sure Baker’s Dozen has the usual stuff, but it also offers specialty donuts (a mouth-watering maple bar topped with thick pieces of bacon is often sold out) as well as fresh fritters, crispy croissants magnificent muffins. The only thing you have to do is come prepared to wait in line with everyone else who knows about Corona’s best donut and bakery. (A.N.)

325 S. Main St., #A, Corona, (951) 736-7571; www.bakersdozendonuts.com.

 

BEST PIE

I-Like-Pie

I Like Pie Bake Shop

The Empire’s best pies aren’t all sinful images of sugary nirvana, but savory bites wrapped up in a buttery, flaky crust. In fact, many will argue that the chicken pot pies, mushroom and shallot pies and the pulled pork pies are I Like Pie’s claim-to-fame, although the offshoots of traditional sweet pies—jelly jar pies that look like muffins, lollipop pies (think cake pop substituted with pie) and toaster-filled pies—have earned just as much buzz. When its pies get honorable mention through National Public Radio and beyond, you know Claremont has amassed yet another good thing. (N.P.)

175 N. Indian Hill Blvd., Suite 102B, Claremont, (909) 621-5152; www.ilikepiebakeshop.com.

 

BEST FROYO

Berries

Berries Frozen Yogurt

Another year and yet another “Best of” award pocketed by this perennial favorite. The Inland Empire’s best known froyo chain has more character than Pinkberry and more creativity than a Cold Stone, with an interesting smorgasbord of options that only gets better from its base of vanilla, tart, chocolate or berry yogurt. Got cookies on your mind? Make it a Cookie Monster! Looking for a taste of childhood? Why not sample one of Berries’ deconstructed candy bar flavors. Just point to the chart and let the magic begin.  If there is one flavor you must try, it’s definitely the Nutella Bella. (N.P.)

7350 Day Creek Blvd., Suite 102, Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 463-2924; www.facebook.com/berriesyogurt

 

Specialty Foods

 

BEST SANDWICHES/SUBS

Jersey Mike’s

When you order a sub Mike’s Way, you get a hearty, meaty masterpiece that would put Quizno’s or Subway to shame ; it can feed an army of hungry soldiers without doubling the meat or price. Besides the standard fixins of onion, tomato, vinegar, oil and spice, there’s Mike’s secret “Juice”—a blend of red wine vinegar and olive oil so good that mayo and mustard become blasé afterthoughts. Lucky for us, David Abrahams’ first encounter with a Mike’s sub in L.A. and his subsequent move to bring Jersey Mike’s to the IE is why we can never go back to substandard subs again.  (N.P.)

Locations in Norco, Eastvale, Corona, Upland and Redlands; www.jerseymikes.com.  

 

BEST UPSCALE BURGER

Eureka-Burger

Eureka! Burger

A good beer makes an already good burger better, which is one of many reasons why Eureka! Burger consistently tops the IE’s gourmet burger charts. Another reason is the thought that goes into making a responsible, sustainable cuisine. Eureka’s Certified Angus beef patties are fatty, aged and seasoned so simply that the inner cow shines magnificently through. Plop it on a pillowy soft brioche bun with house made spreads, a pile of fresh veggies and serve it along with a basket of crispy, savory sweet potato fries and pint of craft beer and you’ve got a finger-lickin’ culinary triumvirate fit for the educated carnivores of the world. (N.P.)

Locations in Claremont and Redlands; www.eurekaburger.com.  

 

BEST PIZZERIA

Gourmet Pizza Shoppe

The late Huell Howser once thought that Bill Craw’s pizzas were so “amazing” that he would host the annual KVCR fundraisers here. So to honor Howser after his death, Craw devised the California Gold, although even without this special, one could eat a hand-made pizza every week for a year at the Gourmet Pizza Shoppe and still never get through the entire menu. Maybe that’s what prompted fans to give Bill Craw’s home-grown pizzeria Inland Empire Magazine’s “Best Pizza” honors five years running. Or maybe it’s the fraternal, family-friendly vibe that runs through this faux Italian café. No matter what, just name your pie and Craw’s family will make it with lots of love. (N.P.)

120 E. State St., Redlands, (909) 792-3313; www.gourmetpizzas.com 

 

BEST STEAK HOUSE

Fleming’s Steak House

It’s no surprise that the master of prime cuts should occupy the IE’s top spot for steak houses. Flavorful medium-rare cuts marry together perfectly with a lavish side of chipotle lobster mac and cheese. Fleming’s upscale take on scalloped potatoes is another great side, and a heady glass of wine selected from Fleming’s sizable list make for a perfect steak dinner. Let’s not forget the posh surroundings that lend a sophisticated air to the whole steak house experience. (N.P.)

7905 Monet Ave., Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 463-0416; www.flemingssteakhouse.com.

 

BEST BBQ

Famous-Daves

Famous Dave’s

So yes, it’s a chain restaurant, but for a corporate franchise, Famous Dave’s serves up some darned tasty barbecue, and if the smoked meats drifting inside the restaurant don’t have you at “hello,” then perhaps the oversized portions of tender, juicy hog or bovine deliciousness will. Famous Dave’s St. Louis-style ribs aren’t exactly fall-off-the-bone, but the dark, caramelized coating on the ribs gives it a sweet toothiness which satisfies like a nice piece of steak. The chicken is seasoned well while the Texas beef brisket is smoky and flavorful. As for sides, the Wilbur beans provide the most bang for the buck with its smoky kick of beans, pork, brisket, sausage and jalapenos.  (N.P.)

Locations in Redlands and Rancho Cucamonga; www.famousdaves.com.

 

BEST HEART ATTACK WAITING TO HAPPEN

Slater’s 50/50

Colossal doesn’t even begin to describe what Slater’s 50/50 has in store for burger connoisseurs, and that’s even for the guys with the badass appetites for whom a loaded, half-pounder is just a tiny blip on the map. Suffice it to say that Slater’s signature patty—a 50/50 mix of ground bacon and ground beef—is only the first step towards the self-sacrifice required to devour the greasy behemoth. One could lay on slices of thick-cut bacon, PB&J, avocado or Fritos chips. Toss in a basket of beer chili cheese fries and wash it all down with a thick shake sitting beside the couple pints already on the table. Oh, the artery-clogging horror! (N.P.)

8009 Day Creek Blvd., Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 803-1991; www.slaters5050.com.

 

BEST SEAFOOD

Market-Broiler

Market Broiler

Quality seafood houses are few and far between so many miles inland from the sea, but Market Broiler always has enough variety and preparations to appease even the choosiest of pescetarians. Fried options like the fish and chips and coconut and panko-crusted shrimp will always remain crowd favorites, but it’s those occasional fresh, briny gems that give Market Broiler an edge over its competition.  Besides salmon, tuna and shrimp, this New England-styled fish house also offers several seasonal catches of the day, mesquite-broiled filets marinated in garlic and lime that’s served with its signature garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed chef’s vegetables. (N.P.)

Locations in Riverside and Ontario; www.marketbroiler.com.

 

It’s All About Ambience

 

BEST THEMED RESTAURANT

Rok-N-Fondue

Rok N Fondue

Fondue was a trendy party food back in the 1950s and 1960s, but it faded from public consciousness until recently when restaurants like The Melting Pot made fondue chic yet again. Then Rok N Fondue jumped into the pot this year, and it’s become this fun, big occasion spot where friends and couples congregate to share some stories over running mountains Gruyere cheese, bacon and mushroom fondue while grilling meats on a hot block called the “rock.” Dessert involves running streams of chocolate. Dinner ain’t cheap; but if you’re into cheese and chocolate, Rok N Fondue satisfies that demand. (N.P.)

25 E. State St., Redlands, (909) 793-1919; www.roknfondue.com.

 

BEST ATMOSPHERE

Salted-Pig

The Salted Pig

If you’re looking for a vibrant happy hour location in downtown Riverside, look no further than The Salted Pig. Within the brick-lined walls of this swanky gastropub lies a vibrant, spirited party where uber friendly servers and home-cooked goodies by Chef Larry Thai do much to enhance the charm. The staff certainly knows their beer in spite of the frequency with which their selections change. Even more impressive is their knowledge of each plate, which they expertly pair to brews. An open kitchen and lively bar keeps the party going until the early hours of the morning. Pigs (and especially bacon-covered dates) rule! (N.P.)

3700 12th St., Riverside, (951) 848-4020; www.saltedpigriverside.com.

 

BEST ROMANTIC RESTAURANT

Castaway

Castaway

Castaway is a favorite for weddings and a must-see stop while on a romantic mountain getaway. Ask anybody who’s dined at Castaway and they’ll mention the hilltop views—day or night, spectacular and breathtaking panoramas of the valley below will greet you. Next they’ll talk about the free-flowing bubbly the restaurant serves with Sunday brunch, a wonderful array of roundtable decadence that would impress any date. Of course, nothing beats an evening of drinks surrounded by the warmth of an outdoor fire, thousands of lights twinkling mischievously in the distance as you bid the city and your loved one a fond good night. (N.P.)

670 Kendall Dr., San Bernardino, (909) 881-1502; www.castawayrestaurant.com/castaway_sanbernardino.

 

BEST NEW RESTAURANT

The Rookery

The Rookery resembles a piece of music that one plays a couple of times before that fondness develops. At first glance, the Rookery seems to be about the bottles and cheap drafts, but dig a little closer into this hip little watering hole and one finds the hidden layers. A small menu of burgers and grill items that grows with every taste, and a delicious beer selection that changes all the time. The restaurant itself is a work in progress; their latest adventures, like beer-infused roasts, is shared with us all. Amazing and memorable. (N.P.)

117 W. 2nd St., Pomona, (909) 865-4400; www.rookeryalehouse.com.

 

BEST SPICY CUISINE

Red-Hot-Kitchen

Red Hot Kitchen

For some, Mexican food comes down to its sauces. In Korean food, it’s all about the volume of garlic and chili powder that goes into assaulting the senses. Marry the two and one gets a treasury of refined heat and aromatics that add a whole lot of flavor to what otherwise would be bland, and it’s what Travis Cho did to his two favorite foods. Cho’s restaurant might invite comparisons to Kogi’s—fusion tacos and burritos filled with spicy meats or tofu—but the food  is entirely his own devising and an authentic reflection of his own experiences growing up Korean amongst Mexicans in urban Chicago. (N.P.)

1995 University Ave., Riverside, (951) 684-9800; www.rhkriverside.com.

 

BEST NON-FAST-FOOD FAST-FOOD

Legends

Legends

Legends is one of those diners that has something for every taste, preference and style. Its ode to Americana is certainly in character with its location near Route 66. Walk in here and it’s like a time warp back to the ‘50s; the food and values are notches above Ruby’s (its closest competitor) and the atmosphere is funky and fun. Want to share an order of the chili cheese fries with friends, spilling over with chili cheese, red onions and pastrami? Or an old-fashioned banana split, big enough for a threesome to share? Only at Legends. (N.P.)

Locations in Upland and Rancho Cucamonga; www.legends-burgers.com.

 

BEST BREAKFAST

Corky's

Corky’s Kitchen and Bakery

There are many options for breakfast in the IE but Corky’s was the clear winner with Weekly readers. Maybe it’s their array of amazing omelettes, with eggs cracked fresh; or maybe it’s their deliciously sweet bacon or their gravy that you might be tempted to slurp up right on the spot. Whatever it is, they’ve got something on the menu to please you. Corky’s serves big, medium and even small breakfasts up the right way. (B.G.)

Locations in Eastvale, Fontana, Rancho Cucamonga, Corona and Rialto; www.corkyskitchenandbakery.com.

 

BEST LATE NIGHT CHOW

Corky's

Corky’s Kitchen and Bakery

Move over Denny’s, because we’ve got a double winner. Corky’s is also the spot for a late night nosh, whether it’s been a night out or a lazy night in, Corky’s offers up tons of options for late night fare. You can get choices off their lunch menu 24 hours a day. Or try one of the homestyle plates, gigantic entrees featuring old-school classics like their tasty meatloaf or their tasty liver and onions platter. Kick it like its 1959 baby, with some mashed potatoes and gravy, roll and salad or soup on the side. Be ye drunk or sober, if you’re in need of a late night snack, Corky’s is the place. (B.G.)

Locations in Eastvale, Fontana, Rancho Cucamonga, Corona and Rialto; www.corkyskitchenandbakery.com.

 

BEST SUNDAY BRUNCH

oliveave

The Olive Ave Market

Some folks feel this lovely little 89-year-old place is too crowded. Some folks believe it’s a spot full of fedora-wearing hipsters. Some people are wrong. It’s often packed on the weekends because, well, the coffee’s great and the food’s scrumptious. They take a simple item like a breakfast burrito and make it sublime. Ditto for the scrambles and tacos—it’s all done by a helpful staff, in a space whose vibe is quite chilled despite the crowds. (B.G.)

530 W. Olive Ave. Redlands, (909) 792-8823; www.oliveavenuemarket.com.

 

Internationally Awesome

 

BEST FALAFEL

Aladdin Jr.

Aladdin Jr. is a quirky, interesting little semi-dive that features up a lovely little buffet full of many Mediterranean treats and dishes, a hookah bar, entertainment and a damn fine falafel sandwich that never fails to satisfy those chickpea cravings. Their falafel is juicy, sublime and big. Both their tahini and hummus are near perfect, along with the other condiments, all encased in a fresh and tasty bit of pita bread. Aladdin Jr. can’t grant all your wishes, but they can grant your falafel ones. (B.G.)

3161 N. Garey Ave., (909) 593-3887; www.aladdinjrrestaurantcafe.com.

 

BEST HALAL

Wok-N'-Grill

Wok N’ Grill

For the uninitiated, Halal is the term that describes permissible foods and cooking procedures under Islamic law. For the further uninitiated Wok N’ Grill is a dirt-cheap fast food place that manages to serve up a host of options that fit under the Halal banner.

Want a Halal Philly cheesesteak? Wok’s got it. Want a Halal burger? They’ve got that too. Want fresh homemade ice cream? Wok’s got that too. In fact they’ve got just about everything at this quirky spot, including a drive thru. And unlike many a slop-shop the food here is tasty, clean and just might fit your religious requirements. (B.G.)

905 N. Waterman, San Bernardino, (909) 388-9199; www.facebook.com/WokNGrill.

 

BEST TAMALES

Casa-Baretto

Casa Barreto

Saying this place has great tamales is almost missing the point; they’ve got stupendous Mexican fare all the way around. This casa will impress any Mexican food lover with their fresh and homemade dishes. Along the way you should also sample their homemade tortillas, delicious and zesty salsas and then finish off with one of their (now) award-winning tamales. Que delicioso. (B.G.)

8541 Sierra Ave., Fontana, (909) 822-5753; www.authenticmexicanrestuarantinfontana.com.

 

BEST TACOS

Tacos Del Rio

A great taco has three main components: 1) The corn tortilla should be fresh, and if “hard,” should achieve a genuine crunch moment. 2) Said taco should also be full of flavor, and 3) it should be moderately priced. Tacos Del Rio achieves the holy taco trifecta. One of the shining stars here is the Al Pastor, real spit-grilled perfection that when combined with their salsa makes for a lot of flavor in a little taco. Their Taco Tuesdays may be crowded but are worth the aforementioned wait. (B.G.)

6987 Hamner Ave., Eastvale, (951) 898-9256.

 

BEST RAMEN

Rohey's-Wok

Rohey’s Wok & Grill

Here’s another gem in the Inland Empire. Rohey’s is a smorgasbord of Korean and Japanese dishes (some of them more authentic than others), almost all of them tasty and well priced. People rave about their ramen. People are right to. For under five bucks, one gets a steamy bowl of perfectly cooked ramen with all sorts of subtle flavors. For another dollar, they’ll throw in some pork or chicken but it’s just as amazing without. On a side note you’d be smart to sample the udon while you’re at Rohey’s as well. Flavor just seems to ooze out of their noodle dishes. The service is spot on too. (B.G.)

4294 Riverwalk Pkwy., Riverside, (951) 359-5272; www.roheystofumanwokandgrills.com.

 

BEST PHO

Pho-Vi

Pho Vi

Pho, that deliciously Vietnamese beef-based soup of wonders is everywhere these days—and even bad pho (if healthily prepared) is still pretty damn tasty. But the pho at Pho Vi goes beyond tasty and reaches sublimely transcendent heights. Try the Rare Steak Pho and sit back as your taste buds come alive in a rush. Not only is the pho great but so are the sandwiches, the staff is helpful and it’s locates in Pomona’s downtown arts area. If you have never tried pho before, try it at Pho Vi—your taste buds will thank you. (B.G.)

81 S. Thomas St., Pomona, (909) 865-6888.

 

BEST SUSHI

Miyagi

Located in the depths of San Berdoo comes Miyagi, our winner in the sushi category and frankly a hell-of-a-fun place to gulp down both sake and raw fish of all types. Many all-you-can-eat sushi places exhibit some suck-like tendencies—not Miyagi. The place doesn’t just rock for being named after Pat Morita’s character in the Karate Kid. Ok, it may not be named after Ralph Machio’s fictional mentor. The chefs are wickedly entertaining; the sushi itself is fresh and well-crafted, and did I say it’s all-you-can-eat? You can’t go wrong at Miyagi—it’s an unpretentious dining experience along with all the spicy tuna rolls you can throw down your gullet. (B.G.)

228 E. Baseline St., San Bernardino, (909) 889-3929; www.miyagisushi.com.

 

BEST KOREAN BBQ

Myung Ga

It’s another foodie winner from San Bernardino, a place often ignored and abused by other denizens of the area. Well snobs, you’re missing out on some great grub. Myung Ga is perhaps, the most authentic Korean BBQ joint in the IE and perhaps the best as well. Instead of table hibachi-grills, they’ll do the cooking for you. The results can often be quite unique and amazing. Their Bimimbap is justly renowned, but, one might also sample the Kimchi Stew, a dish that is otherworldly. It’s worth a drive out to old Berdoo for dishes as good as this. (B.G.)

1760 S. Tippecanoe Ave., San Bernardino, (909) 799-1727.

 

BEST THAI

Thai-House

Thai House

Thai food; once an exotic choice, and now surpassed by a blizzard of more exotic cuisines and food trends. Yet, Thai food is as good as it’s ever been in the area, and Thai House is extraordinary. It was the first Thai restaurant in Redlands but it hasn’t grown stale or self-satisfied. Maybe try the Papaya Salad for starters, as it’s fresh and full of subtle flavors. Then perhaps the Pad Thai, a staple dish that every Thai place should do well. Thai House’s Pad Thai is perfect. Along your culinary trail, why not try a few of their refined and refreshing martinis? Thai House will help you remember why you fell in love with Thai cuisine in the first place. (B.G.)

1824 W. Redlands Blvd., Redlands, (909) 798-3143; www.thaihouseredlands.com.

 

BEST MEDITERREAN

Kabob Hutt

This type of food could encompass everything from Catalan cuisine to Egyptian with Greek, North African and Italian coming along for the ride. Kabob Hutt cuts a broad swath too because it’s freaking great—and cheap. It’s also delicious. The Hutt specialize in Kabobs of course, charbroiled perfectly; any of the meat choices are tender and delicious, but the lamb is a cut above—delicately seasoned, sweet yet pungently spicy. If you find yourself jonesing for Kabob Hutt and think the addiction is getting serious, they’ve got a daily lunch special that is fast and satisfying. (B.G.)

165 Washburn Cir., Corona, (951) 279-6696; www.kabobhutt.com.

 

BEST FRENCH

Le-Rendezvous

Le Rendezvous

Winning this one might feel like faint praise—after all, we don’t have that many French restaurants in the Inland Empire; Rendezvous, however, is more than the best French restaurant in the area, it’s one of our best restaurants period. The décor may be a bit dated, but if you love French cooking that’s full of taste and flavor (and often butter) this is the place. Their sauces are outstanding, as is their wine list. And the staff is attentive without being annoying. Try the mussels and scallops—both will make you feel like jumping on a plane to Nice, or coming back to Le Rendezvous. (B.G.)

4775 N. Sierra Wy., San Bernardino, (909) 883-1231; www.lerendezvousrestaurant.biz.

 

BEST INDIAN

Haandi

Haandi’s

Haandi’s seems to win this award from Weekly readers every year. There’s a reason for this—Haandi’s is a great place to get your curry on. From the nan bread, up through their amazing quantity and quality of entrees, Haandi’s keeps delivering the goods. And the menu is huge. Try the amazing appetizers, then sample one of their Tandoori (clay-baked) specialties. The restaurant space is interesting and relaxed (and has great Bollywood videos on) but they also have take-out if you prefer to take your Lamb Goan to go. (B.G.)

7890 Haven Ave., #15, Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 581-1951; www.haandiindian.com.

 

BEST ITALIAN

Romanos

Romano’s

There’s always something going on at this place. There’s the proper Romano’s restaurant, with all sorts of cheesy, tomato-filled, lovely pasta dishes. Then there’s the pizzeria that fires up some of the best pizza (think very cheesy) in the area. And finally there is the bar and concert lounge where cover bands and sometimes “real” bands like Berlin and The English Beat play on the weekends. There is a great patio out in the back, and some pool tables off to the side of the bar. In short, Romano’s has delicious Italian food in a setting that’s a lot of fun. (B.G.)

Locations in Riverside and Redlands; www.romanosrestaurants.com.

 

BEST CHINESE

Lotus-Garden

Lotus Garden

Lotus Garden is a lunch buffet/family dinner sort of Chinese restaurant that doesn’t go out of its way to make anything terribly fancy or foo-foo; instead it just serves up tasty Chinese food in an affordable way. Like buffets? Hit up Lotus for lunch and enjoy the myriad of choices availably for a quick meal. Prefer a more a more conventional meal? Try the family dinner options that offer an extensive array of options. Or screw it and order the savory and memorable Peking Duck, which everyone should order at least once in a Chinese restaurant. (B.G.)

111 E. Hospitality Ln., San Bernardino, (909) 381-6171; www.lotusgardensanbernardino.com.

 

BEST MEXICAN

The-Mexico-Cafe

The Mexico Café

With all of the Mexican restaurants in the Inland Empire winning this award is a bit like winning prettiest blonde girl in Sweden. People rave about the Purple Cadillac Margaritas, the chips made on site and the quick service. But I would say come for the dollar tacos. They’re slightly greasy, and salty but, truly yummy. Also worth a mention is their Mole de Galina, amongst the best mole I’ve ever eaten. (B.G.)

892 E. Highland Ave., San Bernardino, (909) 882-3000; www.mexicocafe.net.

 

BEST SOUL FOOD

Cassies-Soul-Food

Cassie’s Soul Food Kitchen

Soul food is the anti-sushi or Mexican fast food place; finding a decent soul food place in the IE can be tough. Our readers though know where to go when it comes to soul food. Cassie’s is located in the downtown arts area of Pomona and is a great place to eat. This is the place to get that Po Boy sandwich that makes you feel like you’re in New Orleans, and that red beans and rice that takes you back to the Delta. And the banana pudding screams with a sugary, yet perfectly lovely malice, rarely heard in a dessert. (B.G.)

200 E. 1st St., Pomona, (909) 620-5601; www.cassiesoulfood.com.

 

BEST BĀNH MI

Baguette-Express

Baguette Express

All hail the BĀnh Mi, the Vietnamese beauty that just may be the best damn sandwich on planet Earth. Typically they’ve got some Vietnamese cold cuts with some paté, cilantro, pickled vegetables and fish sauce, along with airier bread than normal in the West. Baguette Express serves up some rather flavorful versions of the Vietnamese classic and is quite worthy of winning our reader’s award. Fun fact, these classic little sandwiches are the result of the French imperialistic misadventure in Vietnam—they may be the only positive thing to come from French imperialism anywhere. (B.G.)

1689 Kendall Dr., Unit D, San Bernardino, (909) 887-2562.

 

Drink It Up!

 

BEST COFFEE HOUSE

Dripp-Coffee-Bar

Dripp Coffee Bar

By far, this is one of the most beautiful and tasty places to enjoy any beverage in the Empire. Dripp is a specialty coffee bar that takes the art of caffeine to a place of perfection. With fresh beans from Espresso Republic and a cozy blend of classical, old world and modern-styled atmosphere, this place is hipster heaven. (A.B.)

13855 City Center Dr., #3015, Chino Hills, (909) 628-6384; www.dripp.com.

 

BEST WINE-TASTING ROOM

The Dregs

The Dregs is a secret hole-in-the-wall wine and beer bar that is as talented and awesome as it is secretive. But, after you figure out how to get there and get in, this place won’t disappoint. Everyone is friendly, knowledgeable and with a constant stream of new wines and beer every time, the staff loves to pair you up with wines based on your personal preferences. It’s a speak-easy style place with high quality food and beverages, and an eye for the details. (A.B.)

721 Nevada St., Redlands, (951) 206-0888; thedregswine.com.

 

BEST COFFEE ROASTERS

Espresso Republic

These roasters are some of the best around. They supply many of the hotels, high-end restaurants and specialty coffee houses (like Dripp), and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Espresso Republic is picky about their beans. Several times a year they visit their favorite coffee farms to check on current farming practices, soil conditions, rainfall and a handful of other factors that help their chosen beans become the best cup-of-joe you’ll ever have. De-lish. (A.B.)

4300 Edison Ave., Chino, (909) 465-4101; www.espressorepublic.com.

 

BEST SAKE LIST

Amaya

This new Japanese restaurant at the Tyler Mall in Riverside not only has the best A.Y.C.E. sushi brunch around town, but their sake list is thorough. It has a helpful guide to help you pick based on taste (if you don’t know too much about sake) and very knowledgeable wait staff that can help your sake choosing if you don’t feel like reading. A perfect atmosphere and a great sake selection to boot. (A.B.)

3775 Tyler St., 3B, Riverside, (951) 352-9991; amaya-riverside.com.

 

BEST BEER SELECTION AT A RESTAURANT

The-Rookery

The Rookery

The Rookery prides themselves on their beer. No messin’ around here. Their draft beer selection changes regularly, and constantly has 13 or more delicious craft brews on tap at any given time. They also offer 15 or more craft bottled brews to choose from—AND a delicious menu of eats and treats to satisfy any craving; artful brews and cuisine that will leave your taste buds and belly happy. (A.B.)

117 W. 2nd St., Pomona, (909) 865-4400; www.rookeryalehouse.com.

 

Wholesome Health

BEST VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT

Happy-Family-Vegetarian

Happy Family Vege

Vegetarianism is often mistakenly lumped into the mind with words relating to limitations or restrictions. The Happy Family restaurant is rewriting the book on being a veg-head, making sure to highlight the “vegetarian food can be unbearably flavorful” headline. With an applaud-worthy menu decorated in too many tasty options, it will be hard for visitors to get through all the five star meals, but we think you can do it. (K.J.)

2150 S. Waterman Ave., San Bernardino, (909) 783-8928; www.happyfamilyvege.com.

 

BEST VEGAN RESTAURANT

Loving-Hut

Loving Hut

The Loving Hut is one of the fastest growing vegan chain restaurants in the world, with international branches in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore. Its Claremont location was the first in the U.S. and its plant-based menu is a fusion of Asian and American classics: serving up pizzas, pastas, sandwiches, salads, dumplings and more to customers. Loving Hut aims to be affordable for its quality and also serves up many gluten-free options. Let’s not forget all of the yummy dessert items available on the menu, making the transition to a plant-based diet tastier to make than ever. (A.S.)

175 N. Indian Hill Blvd., Ste. 102A, Claremont, (909) 621-1668; lovinghut.us/Claremont.

 

BEST HEALTH FOOD STORE

Sprouts

Sprouts

With many health food stores soaring in popularity, it is easy to feel out of place when shopping at an exclusive and high-end establishment. What makes Sprouts special is that it offers the same type of quality and nutritious products without making you feel like a fish out of water. The customer service is what truly makes any Sprouts location stand out, with knowledgeable and helpful staff to help you roam through the aisles of grains and nuts, fresh produce, gluten-free products and vitamins. (A.S.)

Locations in Claremont, Chino Hills, Rancho Cucamonga, Corona, Hemet, Riverside; Sprouts.com

 

BEST ALTERNATIVE BAKERY

MuffinTop-Bakery

Muffin Top Bakery

The idea of a muffin top never sounded good until you step foot inside the Muffin Top Bakery in Riverside. Master baker Emile Maamri and sister Rosette Shabke started the business in 1982, priding themselves on quality pastries, danishes, cakes and of course, muffins made from scratch. Muffin Top Bakery offers made sugarless and gluten-free products, many without eggs or milk, providing a guilt-free (or vegan), low cholesterol, sweet experience. Friendly service from this family-owned bakery will keep you coming back to try their wide selection of treats, such as the vegan Oreo cupcake. Side note, they also bake gluten-free cakes! (A.S.)

1735 Spruce St., Riverside, (951) 222-0377; muffintopbakery.com.

 

BEST RAW FOOD RESTAURANT

Raw-Food-Restaurant

REAL RAW LIVE

Real Raw Live Redlands is making waves with its Super Foods Juice Bar, offering up organic cold-pressed juices alongside wellness shots, liquid breakfasts and fat-burning lemonade. The internet café also offers more traditional salads and wraps, but you should come here for the quality of their nutritious yet tasty liquid meals. While the cost of a cold-pressed juice runs high for around $7, Real Raw Live offers supplements and enhancers to their juices to ensure that customers are getting the highest quality products. (A.S.)

12 N. 6th St., Redlands, (909) 798-4100; www.rrlredlands.com.

 

BEST FARMER’S MARKET

Redlands-Underground

Redland’s Market Night

Since 1988, Redlands Market Night has been a one-stop-shop for locals interested in the various amenities local sellers provide. It’s one of the most successful in all of Southern California, this weekly farmer’s market brings in locals, by the thousands, all vying for the latest seasonal berry or beautifully cut homegrown bouquet. Let’s not even get on the topic of the fresh loafs of bread or the best homemade jerky you’ve ever tasted, just set aside a Thursday evening and try not to salivate as you walk the aisles. (K.J.)

On State St. between Orange and Ninth. Every Thurs, 6pm-9pm; www.cityofredlands.org


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