La Verne Year-End Restaurant Resolutions

December 28, 2009
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John and Will of the Corner Butcher Shop

John and Will of the Corner Butcher Shop

Several readers of La Verne Online have come up to me and asked about my favorite restaurants in La Verne. To tell you the truth, the answer to that question is a pot-boiler or maybe more accurately a simmering one. For I do not judge a restaurant – usually – by one experience alone unless it’s so off-the-charts-good, there’s no need for delay, and I’m going to go global with the joyous news.

That said, with one notable exception, here are some restaurants that I’ve been warming up to and are worth a visit:

Pizza Barn is always at the top of the list. I’m not kidding, it’s all-you-can-eat Wednesday’s ($3.99) is the ridiculous great deal of the century. All the sandwiches are also a great value, and for an extra buck, they come with a huge house salad. Mario is the inventor of the Ultimate Sandwich, a sandwich of thin, crispy pizza bread stuffed with cold cuts. The regular pizzas are great, too.

El Merendero by Fairplex is another La Verne icon. I remember when it was a mere roadside taco stand, but people have been patronizing this place for so long, the owners got wealthy and plowed some of the proceeds back into a remodel. Fortunately, the place, despite a more dignified look, still manages to hold onto its soul and heritage. For me, it’s all about the beans. I don’t want to know what’s in them, but I know they are good and I usually buy the large container for take home to enjoy with some hot, salty, greasy chips. The burritos are outstanding from the bean and cheese to the ones stuffed with carne asada. Muy delicioso! El Merendero, 1910 Fairplex Drive

Hands down, The Habit is becoming a regular habit with me. Best burgers in town. I know saying this is a sacrilege given we have an In N Out in town, but at the Habit, you have a cool place to sit with good music and the burgers and rings and fries more than stand up to the competition. The original Habit was in Santa Barbara, and there are still just a few of these gems around. How the owners ever found La Verne, I don’t know, but I think it’s the single biggest coup our city fathers and mothers pulled off. There’s a little more choice here too than In N Out offers. Veggie burger. No problem. It’s delicious. I just wish it wouldn’t be priced more than the Habit’s regular burgers. The Habit, 1608 Foothill Blvd.

Earlier in the year, I profiled The Corner Butcher Shop and its owners John and Will Fuelling – and no Fuelling, I love it that we have a corner butcher shop in town to call our own. For lunch, you can enjoy a fresh deli sandwich while sitting down at a long picnic table. It’s really the only place to sit, so you’ll be forced to make friends with the other sit-in diners. John and Will offer daily specials, lots of two-for-ones, so you can take advantage of the best cuts of beef at half-off. Corner Butcher Shop, 2359 Foothill Blvd.

Shogun in La Verne offers you the best of both worlds. If you’re with guests or children, you’ll probably want to dazzle them with the Teppanyaki grill where the chef with samurai-like swordsmanship skills will slice and dice your chicken, steak, mushroom and bamboo shoots with precise perfection.  You can also sit around the sushi bar and order from a broad assortment of sushi selections, such as salmon, spicy tuna and yellow tail. If you’re at a loss for what to order, just say, “California” roll, and then roll on from there. You can pay a lot or a little. Shogun’s combination lunches and dinners are an outstanding value. Shogun, 2123 Foothill Blvd.

In La Verne, you have a choice between Shogun and Miyabi’s. Miyabi is tucked away in a corner of the Marshall’s shopping center. It’s not as open and airy as Shogun, but it feels a little cozier. The grill master offers all the same flash and dash as Shogun does, too. If I were serious about my health, I’d order their grilled vegetables and tofu. The sesame chicken and teriyaki steak are equally delicious. Then I’d order their green tea ice cream for dessert, if nobody were looking. Miyabi Japanese Steak House and Sushi, 2345 Foothill Blvd.

If someone held a squirt gun to my head and forced me to pick one place to impress an out-of-towner, I’d probably choose Café Alegro. Service may be a tad slow and too casual for some, but it offers oodles of Old World charm and the food is delicious. The pastas have the right amount of “dente,” the lasagna with marinara sauce is amazing, and the mushroom and ravioli is another winner. Many of the salads can serve as entrées. If you keep things light, you’ll have room for one of the Café’s delicious desserts. Café Allegro, 2124 Third St. in Old Town.

A place I forget about, and I’m not sure why is Rubio’s. It’s healthy, it’s convenient, it’s fast with your order. Rubio’s beer-battered fish tacos are solid, if not sometimes a little too crunchy. Less crunch and slightly more lunch (where’s the fish) would be ideal, but again, it’s an ace-in-the-hole in a pinch. My feeling is other similar restaurants have caught up with this original, but it still holds its own. Rubio’s Mexican Grill, 2204 Foothill Blvd.

Sooner or later everybody ends up at Chili’s. For years it was a virtual monopoly in town before a wave or restaurants came in. Sharing the parking lot with Edward’s cinema, it was a catch-a-bite, then catch-a-flick kind of experience. It still fills a great niche, with menu selections at every price point. Lots of burgers to choose from, but I tend to go for the salmon platter with fresh vegetables now that I’m 50-plus. (For me to keep writing, the arteries have to be clear). Again, it’s not that the food is so great, but everybody is here, and it’s easy. It’s hard to blow a burger or steak fajitas, if you know what I mean. Chili’s Bar and Grill, 1912 Foothill Blvd.


Quiznos doesn’t have the pull that Subway does in town, nor the location (it’s hidden in the Office Depot center), but it’s still the original toasted sandwich emporium that continues to offer some pretty good deals, to keep at least a few people from running off for a $5 footlong. For me, Quiznos is slightly more upscale than Subway and offers a little more selection. I don’t always want my sandwich subway style. Sometimes, I prefer flatbread. A little more thought and prep times goes into the soups and salads, as well. Overall, Quiznos continues to become more coupon conscious, so that and its prime rib dip will keep me coming back. Quiznos, 2220 Foothill Blvd.

I’ve given the Grapevine restaurant more chances to succeed than a five-year-old trying out a new bike. It’s in a bad location, just as you’re getting off the freeway, and I think the owners and chefs sort of have their culinary directions all screwed up, too. Either people in La Verne haven’t cottoned up to Middle Eastern cuisine, or this just isn’t great Middle Eastern cuisine. I tend to think the latter. The chicken skewers are dry and the presentation on the plates is uneven and un-artful.  Anyway, I’d just keep driving past this place, and most have because on the few occasions I’ve been here, I’ve been just about the only one here. The location is doomed, I tell you. 1204 Foothill Blvd.

The Finsh Line, located just south of the border in Pomona at Fairplex may be the most overlooked eatery in town. People find it for the races and other large sporting events, but the place is practically a ghost town during the week, especially when there’s no off-track betting going on. The grill offers a variety of tasty sandwiches and salads, backed by a full bar. For an attack of the munchies or if you’re feeling a wee bit naughty, try an order of onion rings, chicken tenders, loaded nachos or cheese fries. Munch, lunch, but don’t bet a bunch! The Finish Line, 2201 S. White Ave.

Speaking of Finish Lines, I’ve reached mine. We’ll have more offerings for 2010 as new restaurants come on line.

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