Top Claremont Food + Drink

Fountain Claremont

Artist Tom Otterness populated Village Plaza's courtyard fountain with playful sculptures.

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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.

13. Ironbark Ciderworks

Cider Claremont

Ironbark Ciderworks offers dry ciders in pints, slushees, and flights.

Cat Fleming opened her cidery In Claremont Industrial Complex, across from Claremont Craft Ales, in 2017. She named the business for a type of hardwood from her Australian homeland. The art-lined space features red stools at a round pink bar and a comfortable patio. 10 taps dispense naturally fermented, probiotic ciders that primarily range from 4.2 – 13% ABV. Order a full pint, 12-ounce middy or tasting flight with four 5.5 ounce pours. Memorable standbys include Sassy Simpson flavored with black currants and the Earl Grey tea infused Duchess, which has a bonus caffeine boost. Their fiery Krakatoa habanero cider finds some balance with blueberries. Ironbark has diversified their offerings with “shampagne” dessert wine fermented with elderberry and white grape and slushee pouches served with colorful crazy straws.

MUST ORDER: Duchess, Krakatoa, Sassy Simpson, Flight

14. Lucky’s Coffee Roasters

Coffee Claremont

Lucky’s Coffee Roasters provides windows into the coffee roasting process.

Tyler Smith launched Lucky’s Coffee Roasters in Upland in 2019 and soon expanded to Claremont’s College Center strip mall, opening across from Pitzer College in 2020. Smith displays a San Franciscan roaster and stellar coffee farmer mural behind glass. In front, baristas use a high-tech Faema espresso machine and serve fun specialty drinks to enjoy indoors or on the spacious patio. Lemon Squeezy combines The Charmer espresso, house-made lemonade, Topo Chico, and wildflower honey. Pumpkin King was a seasonal pumpkin spice latte that incorporated house-made pumpkin puree and spices like ginger, cinnamon and clove. Lucky’s Coffee Roasters recently expanded to Montclair. Erika Michelle Peterson’s Orange Moon Coffee pop-up in Claremont Village also uses Lucky’s beans.

MUST ORDER: Lemon Squeezy, Pumpkin King

15. The Meat Cellar

Hamburger Claremont

The Meat Cellar offers two burgers, a gourmet burger and a “basic” burger that’s still stupendous.

Anthony Villegas was a long-time Premier Meat Company rep who opened The Meat Cellar with wife Sara in 2016. They moved down Foothill Boulevard and now run a larger restaurant next to Wolfe’s Market featuring a T-bone steak logo. Their daughter Katye was running the front of house during my visit. The space features exposed beams and a mural that depicts the old JD Wolfe & Co. orange groves from 1917. A sign near the entrance reads, “Welcome to the home you never knew you had.” Steer and pig butcher’s diagrams hang above their butcher case, which displays prized cuts like Wagyu tomahawk, Prime bone-in ribeye and A-4 Japanese New York. They’re happy to cook those steaks and more over their grill, which burns white oak, available with sides like bacon-roasted Brussels sprouts and sauteed mushrooms. I enjoyed steak frites with pan juices and house-cut, skin-on fries showered with savory house seasoning. Their basic burger is a timeless classic. Diners craving more luxury will appreciate their Wagyu burger, an 8-ounce patty topped with truffle aioli, arugula, caramelized onions and aged Cheddar.

MUST ORDER: Basic Burger, Steak, Bacon Brussels

16. Menkoi Ya Ramen

Ramen Claremont

Menkoi YA Ramen’s tonkotsu kotteri ramen bolsters their pork broth with back fat and black garlic oil.

This three-sided ramen bar and dining room opened to start 2018 in Claremont Village. A plain facade belies the colorful interior. An impressive mural on the east wall depicts everything from a ramen bowl to Mount Fuji, koi and bonsai tree. Paper lanterns decorated with sakura (cherry blossom) trees and bamboo light the way. Their ramen features fresh noodles that are “hand prepared and hand crumpled every day, pork belly chashu that’s braised in a soy-based sauce with vegetables before slicing, and a milky filtered broth that extracts the essence from pork bones for 14 hours before serving. Several variations are available, including miso, shoyu (soy) and shio (salt). I enjoyed tonkotsu kotteri ramen with a one-two-three punch: shoyu, pork back fat and black garlic oil. Scallions, nori, bamboo shoots helped balance the bowl. Add soft seasoned egg. They also serve complementary rice bowls and small plates. Their karaage is particularly good, featuring fried dark meat chicken chunks with a nice kick.

MUST ORDER: Tonkotsu Kotteri Ramen, Karaage Chicken

17. Nosy Neighbors

Donuts Claremont

Nosy Neighbors makes mini donuts to order, pairing with coffee.

Keith Strenger, who owns the Pepo Melo açaí and fruit bowl bar in Claremont Village, expanded next door with Nosy Neighbors, a tiny shop with a stand-up counter in the courtyard that serves coffee & donuts concept. Nosy Neighbors brews Klatch Coffee using a black two-group Victoria Arduino espresso machine and fries mini donuts in a countertop machine that sends the dough down a lazy river of boiling oil, browning the airy rings to a funnel cake-like texture. Staffers shower each dozen with cinnamon sugar or powders in flavors like butterscotch, Key lime pie and amaretto.

MUST ORDER: Donuts

18. The Spot Cafe

Juice Claremont

Beets Me is a vivid juice with kick that blends carrot, beet, apple, lemon, pear, and ginger.

Sometimes, it’s nice to have a refreshing beverage to break up some of the heavy eating, and The Spot is clearly the place for that. This café debuted in 2012. The Stein family assumed full ownership in January 2013. Co-founder Mitch Stein’s oldest daughter Devynn Stein currently runs The Spot, which serves juice, smoothies and Klatch coffee in the Old School House complex. A patio with round tables and orange umbrellas leads to an interior with walls touting red and black swirls. Ambient noise includes piped-in music and the steady whir of blenders. Kale is prominent, and featured to good effect in high value, 20-ounce juices. Acai and pitaya bowls are also available, if you’re looking for a light meal. The Spot recently added Mitchies Pizza, a nickname that Mitch’s mother gave him, serving standard pies and novelties like nacho pizza and grilled cheese pizza.

MUST ORDER: Beets Me, KaleCumber, Kale Cleanse

19. Union on Yale

Pizza Claremont

Spicy pickled pepper may be the Union on Yale pizza with the most pop.

Mark Perone runs this mod indoor-outdoor restaurant, a decade old destination with a patio focus and fire pits. Inside, Union on Yale houses a bar, hangs Mid-Century art and album covers on the walls, and showcases a stylish white tiled pizza oven they imported from Italy that burns almond wood when they can get it and oak when they can’t. Chef Leonardo “Leo” Dinglasan’s menu qualifies as seasonal California comfort food. House-made pasta dishes riff on recognizable preparations, including shrimp Bolognese that subs ground shrimp, lobster stock and yuzu for heartier meat sauce. Dinglasan tops with tiger shrimp and garnishes with crispy fried garlic and chives. During my visit, he was also testing a shrimp cocktail starring large grilled tiger shrimp, roasted cherry tomatoes and cocktail sauce. Bold flavors are also evident on big plates like pork chops and fried chicken.

MUST ORDER: Shrimp Bolognese, Shrimp Cocktail, Spicy Pickled Pepper Pizza

20. Uno Tre Otto

Pasta Claremont

Uno Tre Otto crafts seasonal pastas like rigatoni with en of the wood & cremini mushroom ragù, thyme, and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

John Solana and Brad Owen debuted Uno Tre Otto in November 2015 down an alley. The name translates from Italian as “one three eight,” the original address for the oldest building in Claremont Village. The dining room resembles a European wine cellar, and patio seating extends to a tent in the parking lot. Chef Ethan prints their beyond seasonal menu nightly, sourcing produce from Amy’s Farm, a sister business in Ontario, and featuring sustainable meats, seafood, and dairy. Uno Tre Otto makes pasta in-house using organic, whole-grain heirloom wheat that Grist & Toll stone-grinds in Pasadena. During my two visits, I’ve enjoyed unexpected preparations for beautifully chewy bucatini and rigatoni. Their light touch extends to starters like hiramasa crudo and to desserts.

MUST ORDER: Seasonal Pasta Dishes

Thank you to Discover Claremont for sponsoring my culinary explorations in Claremont.

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Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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