Claremont rests in the San Gabriel foothills, in Mount Baldy’s shadow, and is best known as a city of higher learning. Seven Claremont Colleges draw intellectuals and liberal arts students to L.A. County’s eastern edge. Craftsman bungalows line the streets of this charming town. Claremont Village is home to most of the action, complete with restaurants, shops, live music venues and a movie theater. The city is also conveniently located en route from L.A. proper to Palm Springs and Las Vegas. Learn about 20 places to eat or drink when visiting Claremont.
7. Euro Café
The area North of Foothill also has culinary life thanks to restaurants like Euro Café, from Margarida Medeiros, husband Jose and son Joey. They emigrated from the Azores, bringing Portuguese knowhow to Claremont Heights shopping plaza in 2004. They’re strong on soups, including Luisa, a Portuguese chicken noodle soup with tiny pasta beads, and Tudo, which has a little bit of everything, including Portuguese linguiça sausage. They also serve bifana, Portuguese style pork loin sandwiches. Bife a Portuguesa features marinated top sirloin served with a fried egg and French fries. Euro Café also bakes a textbook pastel de nata, the famous, flaky, caramelized egg custard tart. The restaurant is called Euro Café, so expect options beyond Portugal’s borders like panini and pasta. The Medeiros also run Nuno’s Bistro & Bar in Upland.
MUST ORDER: Feijoada, Luisa, Pastel de Nata
8. Go To Go Chicken
Ashley Jun runs this fast casual Korean fried chicken restaurant in the Peppertree Square strip mall. She offers wings, drumsticks and tenders in three flavors. Soy garlic wings are sticky and savory in all the right ways. Order them “hot” for even more flavor. Korean BBQ comes coated with spicy sauce. Crispy drumsticks take longer to fry, but their thin, shattering skins and juicy meat are worth the wait. Each order comes with punchy pickled radish cubes. Dipping sauces include Go to Go house, ranch dressing, and mild “snow creamy onion.” To accompany chicken, they offer sides like deep-fried mandu (dumplings), ddukbokki (spicy rice cakes) and sweet potato fries.
MUST ORDER: Crispy Drumsticks, Soy Garlic Wings
Phil Lee built on the fried chicken success he’s enjoyed in La Cañada Flintridge by expanding to Village Plaza, teaming with the same landlord. Honeybird also runs a USC Village outpost. Claremont décor includes honeycomb pattern tile work, succulents, air plants, a honey jar and a stuffed chicken. Lee brines his birds for 28 hours in herbs and spices, contributing to crisp, savory coats and juicy meat. He serves fried chicken on the bone or in sandwiches featuring juicy thighs. Firebird is his spicy sandwich featuring a juicy thigh dipped in chile oil, sprinkled with additional spices, and slathered with creamy pimento chile sauce. Phil Lee O’ Fish riffs on the owner’s name, showcasing a flaky tempura-like fried whitefish fillet and cole slaw on a soft toasted bun. Sides include chipotle macaroni salad and biscuits flecked with bacon, cheddar and chives.
MUST ORDER: Fried Chicken, Firebird, Phil Lee O’ Fish, Salted Honey Pie
Annika Corbin established her pie, coffee, and ice cream destination in 2012. The glass-fronted café faces Village Plaza’s charming courtyard. I Like Pie is a well-branded business, complete with T-shirts, and they specialize in sweet and savory pies that change some with the seasons, including Chicken Pot Pie, Pulled Pork, Dutch Apple, and Banana Cream. In most cases, these “jelly jar” pies” are a good size for a snack, but could qualify as a small meal. Handpies are a bit more substantial. Look for the mixed berry version that combines blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, strawberry and cherry. Bonus: they also brew Verve coffee and scoop Bert & Rocky’s ice cream, made right in Claremont Village.
MUST ORDER: Blueberry Cherry Pie, Mixed Berry Handpie, Pumpkin Pie
11. Inka Trails
Inka Trails returned to Foothill Boulevard to start 2021 after a five-year absence. Lima native Patricia “Patty” Rodriguez ran the Peruvian restaurant with her father, Augusto Kwakawa, from 2000-2015 After Dad retired to Japan, she teamed with chef Eduardo Enriquez, who started here at age 16 and trained with her father. The standalone restaurant now features Peruvian art and photos of the family’s homeland. A family member was painting a vivid Peru inspired mural on the wall during my visit. The new incarnation features a smaller, but still vital Peruvian comfort food menu, including ceviche and lomo saltado. Sudado de pescado is a soupy preparation featuring sole fillets and two big potato slabs submerged in a white wine and tomato broth that calls for white rice. Chaufa de camaron is a fully loaded Peruvian style shrimp fried rice, an example of chifa, the Peruvian cuisine that Chinese immigrants created using local ingredients.
MUST ORDER: Chaufa de Camaron, Sudado de Pescado
After managing several Inland Empire cafes, Joshua Avila scraped together enough money for a coffee cart, which he operated from his garage for two years. “The garage was by Gordon St. in Pomona. Hence the name of Iron & Kin’s Gordon St. espresso blend. In September 2020, he partnered with Levi & Olivia Applegate and opened their first brick and mortar location in The Claremont Packing House, replacing Augie’s. The space features a slanted roof with skylights, wood and white color scheme, and black and white tilework. They roast their own beans in nearby Lucky’s Coffee Roasters and utilize a cream colored two-group La Marzocco espresso machine. Affirmations are creative lattes with bold flavors and strong messages. Worthy is a warming beverage crafted with figs, brown sugar, Madagascar vanilla, and black pepper. Kind Hearted is a Mexican mocha with grit and heat that incorporates cacao, guajillo, chipotle, and pasilla chilies, cinnamon, cloves, and smoked salt. Chef Kasey Cooke runs an ambitious weekend brunch program and created a unique weekday breakfast burrito featuring a house-made pork chorizo slurry folded with black bean puree, egg, green onions and cotija and packaged with roasted sweet potato chunks in a toasted flour tortilla, served with piquant salsa verde. According to Avila, “The name Iron & Kin was birthed out of this overarching idea of unity and connection through diversity. Iron speaks of how our differences as people can make us better if we allow them to. It takes two pieces of iron to sharpen each other. Kin speaks to how as humans, we are cut from the same cloth. We belong to one another, we are of the same kind–Iron & Kin.”
MUST ORDER: Worthy, Kind Hearted, Cold Brew, Breakfast Burrito