Saturday June 16th |Donahoo’s Golden Chicken | 1074 N. Garey Ave, Pomona, CA 91767
Meh. It’s not a chain, at least.
Tuesday, June 19th | The Jelly Donut | 2097 N. Towne Ave, Pomona, CA 91767
As everyone knows, it’s nigh impossible to find a donut shop in Los Angeles. The dearth of popo-breakfast joints here is about as sad as the southland’s now almost decade-long drought.
Well … guess what happened today? (Hint: not rain.)
We found one! Sure, The Jelly Donut is a donut place we’ve driven past probably something close to five hundred times, situated as it is just past the north-bound Towne exit from The Ten Freeway. And sure, we’ve snarked about The Jelly Donut’s lotto ticket offerings and The Jelly Donut’s drive-thru. But what do we know about anything? Very little, just like the rest of humanity, so today we shut off our yapping brains and, on the way home from the car dealer (just repairs), we pulled into The Jelly Donut’s sole parking spot.
En route, we also did some research: The Jelly Donut sports a 4.5/5 (!) rating on Yelp. The Jelly Donut does indeed sell lotto tickets, and they’re good at this, as is revealed by their bulletin board thick with sold lotto-winning tickets. The Jelly Donut’s raspberry donut (99 cents and pedestrian at best) is not, contrary to one Yelp review, filled with real raspberries. And, gasp: The Jelly Donut is not even named The Jelly Donut – it’s just “Jelly Donut”!
Plus they sell breakfast sandwiches:
Good ones, too! Choice of croissant (baked a bit close, so more gummy than flaky, but still a good buttery flavor) or bagel (visually: huge, soft). Everything comes with egg and cheese, then your choice of added protein from the usual breakfast sandwich menu (plus: deli turkey). Is the American cheese white, and, as it melts, does it look disturbingly like dripping mayo? Yes! Do the counterworkers ask, automatically, if you’d like pickled jalapeno slices? Yes! (And: yes!) Will we be going back to THE JELLY DONUT for a $4.20 croissant with egg, cheese, jalapeno, and ham? The egg was nicely eggy, the composition flavorful – better than fast food by a far sight. So: maybe?
But just try keeping us away from the $1.55 apple fritter!
Sunday, July 8th | Rail Side Cafe | 322 S. San Dimas Ave, San Dimas, CA 91773
The Rail Side Cafe in San Dimas is near one of those “village walk at fill-in-the-blank-town-near-you” new condo complexes, and, as such, it’s part of a relatively new mixed-use strip mall of supporting businesses. Looked at though the lens of urban sprawl, the Rail Side is entirely unremarkable. Its small menu features some paninis with various meets and cheeses, sandwiches much the same, and a few breakfast offerings (pancakes, waffles, bagels). It’s not so different than Wahfles in La Verne … and note: Wahfles has a theme of WAFFLES.
What does Rail Side have, other than a a few hundred (when we were there) San Dimans wandering around, staring down at their phones, searching desperately for, it turns out, Squirtle (with sunglasses)? Well … ambiance. We don’t focus on ambiance much because flavor always comes first, but Rail Side is a nice little place: French cafe music plays lightly inside, several umbrellaed tables sit outside, maybe with a family or two having a relaxed morning of it, and the guy making sandwiches behind the counter – almost definitely the proprietor – takes a minute to step out, ask how the food is, then greets his own in-law, wife, and baby daughter.
And the menu does have some niftiness: the Berlin bagel ($4.79) with a particularly delicious cream cheese, strawbs, bluebs, and powdered sugar was impressively tasty enough to have lodged a little place in our increasingly crowded food minds, though the Wicked Good Rail Croissant ($7.79, croissant with sausage and gravy) will soon fade.
Do the Rail Side’s posters of French rail-themed movies create a true Parisian vibe? To put it to you in French: hell if I know! But does having a light breakfast in the Rail Side seem a lot like what having breakfast in a version of a Paris depicted in some sort of ennui-centric movie starring Greta Gerwig would be like if really it all took place in San Dimas? Absolument!
Monday, July 9th | Pescaderia Mr. Fish | 3109 N. Garey Ave, Pomona, CA 91767
And we’re back! And just in time for fish! Though, fair warning, if you go to Pescaderia Mr. Fish (just south of Foothill on Garey), it’s best to call ahead: we arrived at a little before 2pm on a Monday afternoon … waited ten minutes behind a group of six to make our counter-order … then waited some more … then waited some more … and, nearly forty minutes (!) after we ordered, our food came out.
Before the food: Pescaderia Mr. Fish is basically a mariscos place with its proteins on full display: glass cases filled with a variety of whole fish, oysters, shrimp, octopus; enormous bins of fish ceviche and shrimp aguachile; a great tag-line (“you buy it, we fry it”); and a standard menu of seafood tacos, burritos, tostadas, cocktails, etc. They even have zarandeado? (Did we order it? No – that’s for Coni’.)
We ordered a fish burrito (a reasonable $5.99) and the camarones a la diablo ($11.99, 10 generous shrimp, side salad, ranchero beans, rice, corn tortillas). Dining in gets you a complimentary side of chips and salsa – nice salsa – but again: order ahead, even (especially?) if dining in. The burrito? Not bad. The fish was fried and plentiful, if maybe a little overly fried, and the rice and pico in the burrito added good flavor (savory, spicy, fresh). Did the counterman say it came with avocado? We think maybe he did – either way, it could have used avocado. The shrimp plate was solid: the diablo sauce was , while spicy, a little too sweet, so maybe go grilled or get the mojo de ajo. And the beans and rice, usually afterthoughts, were both flavorful.
Will we be back? Well, maybe … but there are these shrimp tacos at Mariscos Jalisco we may have mentioned, so … um … wait and wait and wait to find out?
Tuesday, July 10th | Dino’s Chicken and Burgers | 770 E. Arrow Hwy, Pomona, CA 91767
You can forget the burgers.
So … full disclosure, we’ve been to Dino’s before. Our first time was something like ten years ago, when we were just barely learning the brilliance of Jonathan Gold (who has described Dino’s as “a sulfurous, smoke-belching landscape of fire and ashes, sputtering gouts of orange flame, and stacks of chickens, dyed red as the pelt of Old Nick with chile and spices, neatly bisected at the backbone and ready to be flipped into the blaze like so many unrepentant sinners,” both an amazing description and, geez, lol JG). One mid-day we set out on a city-wide search for Dino’s. We drove and drove (PSA: according to AAA, the worst traffic is not weekday rush hour but 2pm on Saturdays) … until finally we made it to the west-ish side, Pico and Vermont, and there, at Dino’s original, we tucked into the unbelievable chicken and fries, staining our fingers a guilty orange for three days.
The next day, we finally made it back to our neck of the county. We turned up Towne, hit Arrow, and … well, shit: there was a Dino’s there all the while. We didn’t feel bad – it was more funny than anything, and besides, there’s something to embarking on a quest that makes food just plain tastier.
Effort + payoff > just simple payoff, right? Maybe? Yes.
Anyway, feel free to skip straight to the payoff: go to Dino’s on Arrow and Towne. Get the chicken and fries ($7.49). We also got a carne asada burrito, just for kicks ($7.19), but unless you really like grilled onions on your burrito, we recommend taking a pass.
Anyway: by ‘chicken and fries’? We really mean the fries.
The fries are the star; the chicken is the headliner who doesn’t deserve top-billing, your basic Ben Affleck to a lot of actors in Ben Affleck movies: sure, it’s a looker, but even with all that nuclear orange sauce slathered on, and even with the hellfire charcoal smoke … it’s just chicken (Ben Affleck: tastes like chicken?). But the essence of the chicken, the grease, and the sauce, all that redness which drips … and drips .. and drips … down and down into the bed of what are otherwise ordinary fries … soaking them through and through until they become a singular sogged mess of tang and spice and smoke and salt?
That’s it – that’s the blood-spattered Rosamond Pike you’ve been looking for.
Wednesday, July 18th | Corazón Urban Kitchen | 1637 N. Garey Ave, Pomona, CA 91767
Corazón Urban Kitchen is an enigma; a month or so back, as we were compiling our list of not-logically-aligned-therefore-aligned-by-illogic restaurants to eat at/write up this summer, we turned to the usual research avenues of Yelp and Google Maps. Many restaurants that we came upon in our research were somewhat familiar – Pinnacle Peak, Dino’s, certainly Donahoo’s. (Even, and this is a side-lament, Manila Bistro, a wonderfully named Filipino place most especially since it was inside a gas station; sadly, Manila has since departed. Darn! We were too late to spread the gospel of good Filipino gas station food! For shame!)
Two names we found were total strangers to us, restaurants we’d never seen, never heard of, never yearned for, never gently mocked: one is yet upcoming, if it survives a few more weeks. The other, of course, was Corazón Urban Kitchen. Featuring a Yelp rating of 4.5 stars (!) … and already last month moving from its ‘original’ location (though it came into existence just this past March) … andand having the words ‘urban’ and ‘kitchen’ in the name* … andandand with atmospheric prices ($11 burritos! $10 quesadillas!) … andandandand with a superish-duperish happy hour …**
… well, we were taken aback: hipster Mexican food? In Pomona? That *we* didn’t know about? We considered surrendering our bourgeoisie ID cards right-quick, giving up on our whole anodyne existence. Then we thought better: what if, given its somewhat promising elements, Corazón might be … could be … the second coming of (the even more dearly departed) Colonia Taco Lounge?
It’s not. We’re pretty sure CUK is located in a former take-out only pizza place, and though there are ten booths, huge windows (with views of Pomona Valley Hospital), three large TVs (playing different shows, some with/some without volume), CUK still has a bit of that lingering pizza vibe: it feels small, it’s a bit on the warm side, and the dine-in experience isn’t really a high priority (caveat: we there at 3:30 on a Wednesday). We were seated, brought chips, salsa, water, and menus. We ordered a range of food, we did it for you, we ate too much, we blame you: sopesitos (three very normal-sized sopes in crunchy store-bought shells, filled, respectively, with dryish carnitas, chicken tinga, and a peppery/almost gamey carne asada; $8.50, a good value for the portions, but the flavors were … subtle. And not); tostadas de tinga (charged $7, should have been $4, just seeing this now, drat; three little tostadas with what was a perfectly good chicken tinga, sort of not-quite-refried beans, and iceberg lettuce); taquitos de papa ($4 happy hour; these were gorgeously plated —
— but entirely bland; the guac, though modestly apportioned, did have promise); and two tacos, short rib ($2, so onion-heavy) and “nopales” ($1.50 … apparently, at urban kitchens, ‘nopales’ means mushroom and bell pepper).
Two years ago, we ate at some two dozen area taquerias. One of the biggest things that experience impressed upon was the importance not of ambience (which can be fun, but is secondary to food; some of CUK’s decor is nice – see heading image – but CUK can easily up its game here); not so much of cost (though value can matter, at least to us; CUK runs unreasonably high); not of location (freeway/hospital intersection isn’t great); not of nifty drinks (**those happy hour drinks don’t exist, no liquor license yet); not of having strange offerings on the menu (they do have roasted corn!); not really of any single one thing … except salsa.
Salsa. The salsa at Corazón Urban Kitchen is, sadly, about what you’d expect to find at an urban kitchen: cilantro, chiles, scallions, and canned tomatoes. If you’re going to open a Mexican restaurant in Pomona, or in Los Angeles, or really anywhere … please care a bit more about the salsa. All else follows, and while a lot at Corazón can be better, it’s salsa first. As the lady said, if the salsa ain’t rocking, ain’t nobody knocking.
*Try the ‘urban’ ‘kitchen’ game! Pick, say, any ethnic food or place affiliated with ethnic food of even any ethnic dish or hell even an ethnic name and add urban kitchen – at the end, at the beginning, split it up, whatever – and see if it doesn’t sound like a gr-reat restaurant! Urban Kitchen: Red Square! Maria’s Urban Kitchen! Urban Creole Kitchen! Urban Kitchen & Saucisson! Filipino Urban Kitchen! Kitchen soondubu jjigae – urban!