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Iconic Neighborhood Restaurants: La Verne, Claremont, and Pomona

La Verne, Claremont and Pomona make up a diverse area that is accented with historical significance, notoriety, and suburban idealism. Not long ago, the 210 freeway going east dropped you off in La Verne, then (and maybe still) known best as the "city next to San Dimas -- where Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure took place."

A town that up until the mid-80's still smelled of orange groves, La Verne now regularly tops national lists of the best place to raise a family. A piece of odd trivia -- before the Waco, Texas massacre, David Koresh started his cult of Branch Davidians in La Verne's picturesque historic downtown district. Now the 210 extends into adjacent Claremont, a serene college town with five undergraduate and two graduate schools unofficially termed the "West Coast Ivies." Claremont looks like Pasadena's quainter, more bookish cousin in both look and feel.

Pomona is the least affluent of the three cities, but full of history and culture nevertheless. Named in the late 1800's after the Roman Goddess of fruit, Pomona was known as the "Queen of the Citrus Belt" in the early 20th century. When the orange groves were cleared for development, Pomona became best known as the home of the L.A. County Fair. It also hosts a drag racing competition, a classic car show, and a very solid swap meet.

 

Pho Ha: Located in a nondescript shopping plaza, Pho Ha is not the fanciest place in Pomona, but its prices and variety help make it a local favorite. Chow down on a pork sandwich or some fried rice while drinking fresh coconut water from a real coconut. And if you want an alternative to the usual egg and potatoes brunch, Pho Ha opens at 8 in the morning. Warm your soul with a bowl of chicken or pork pho with a solid noodle-to-meat ratio. Toast friends over cups of delicious Vietnamese coffee, celebrating the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall brunch spot you discovered. 695 Indian Hill Blvd., Pomona; (909) 622-7578.

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Pizza'n Stuff: This family-owned chain is of the iconic red sauce Italian restaurant variety -- dark wood, placemats with maps of Italy, and lots and lots of cheese. Anything here is going to be good -- baked mostaccioli, fettuccini alfredo, lasagna, you name it. But without ordering a house salad or a pizza, any dining experience here would be incomplete. The house salad is a simple iceberg lettuce affair, but both the Italian and the blue cheese dressings are simply the best. Of course the salads are topped with a good helping of mozzarella cheese, as they should be, because the cheese at this place is a stand-out. It's got a good stringiness to it, where you can take a bite and the cheese keeps on going. It's flavorful and classic, a great staple to the chewy crust perimeter of the pizzas they serve here. 1532 Foothill Blvd, La Verne; (909) 593-3676.

 

Photo courtesy of Some Crust Bakery

Photo courtesy of Some Crust Bakery

Some Crust Bakery: Located in the heart of the Claremont Village, Some Crust has the best baked goods in the area. The quaint bakery, with its pinstriped awning and colonial red doors, is reminiscent of something you'd find while antiquing in Cape Cod. The variety of baked goods here is stunning. Some Crust has the usual breads and cookies, but its specialty desserts section are worth exploring: elaborate wedding cakes are made here along with something called a princess cake, which is a dessert I've only seen as a technical challenge in the Great British Baking Show. And if indulging your sweet tooth is not your thing, Some Crust also makes paninis, egg sliders, pasties, and quiches. You can also pick up a bag of freshly baked dog biscuits for your pooch so you both have something to nosh on. 119 Yale Ave., Claremont; (909) 621-9772.

 

Photo courtesy of Stephen C.

Photo courtesy of Stephen C.

Tony's Restaurant: Sometimes it feels like there's a French Dip war going on in L.A. There's Philippe's and there's Coles. But a ways away from the hype of fanboy foodie-dom, there's Tony's. Tony's is stuck in time, but not preciously or deliberately. It's not located in a revamped downtown arts district. The grey building that exclaims "Famous French Dips!" is in an industrial zone. Tony's doesn't care about your ranks. It just does French Dip right. Thick hunks of Italian bread, cole slaw, and shaved pastrami piled high. Their potato salad is better than any you've ever had. Wash it all down with a local Pomona Queen lager, and you'll be saying ... nothing, because the game is on. 986 E. 2nd St., Pomona (909) 623-4695.

 

Photo courtesy of Nick V.

Photo courtesy of Nick V.

La Paloma: Since 1966, La Paloma is a local favorite for Tex-Mex. At first blush, the sign -- a jolly man wearing a sombrero with a napkin tucked into his collar, might come off as kitsch, but so what? Mid-century Mexican style is just as iconic as red sauce Italian. Spanish for "the dove," La Paloma is the fifth restaurant of a Southern California chain, but the first Mexican food restaurant in the area. For fans of Mexican food, whether because it's part of your culture or because you just love it, La Paloma has garnered a devout customer base that one could liken to "Cheers." Imagine if you had to drive far for a good taco and this was your respite from such a sojourn. You'd be paying tribute to this place, too. 2975 Foothill Blvd., La Verne; (909) 593-7209.

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