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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Los Angeles's Best Eats...Eastside Edition


You can find a lot of lists of the best restaurants in Los Angeles such as Jonathan Gold's 101 Best Restaurants, the L.A. Weekly's 99 Essential Restaurants, and Eater LA's 38 Essential Restaurants. All good lists but also very heavy on Central Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, and the Westside.

What's missing are places most of those people pretend don't exist like the non-Asian parts of the San Gabriel Valley, the Inland Empire, Orange County, and more.

We're going to do our bit to rectify that here at the World on Wheels as we present our top restaurants...the inclusive report.



We'll start with pizza...while Casa Bianca is a very good, old style pizza parlor and deserving of it's place on the lists above, it's also hard to find parking, you have to endure a wait (probably on the sidewalk) to get in, they don't deliver, they don't take credit cards, they don't open for lunch, they are only open five days a week, and tend to take a 2-week vacation whenever the urge hits.


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La Verne is a pizza mecca in the Inland Empire, just over the hill from Glendora and San Dimas. Locally legendary pizza joints include Warehouse Pizza (adjacent to University of La Verne), Pizza Barn, Pizza 'n Stuff, and the similarly named Pizza 'n Such down the street in Claremont.

The star of the La Verne pizza scene, though, is Joey's Red Devil Pizza in a shopping center at the corner of Wheeler and Foothill Boulevard. Red Devil used to be a chain, like Domino's or Papa Johns, but eventually collapsed leaving franchise owners with the name. There are still a few Red Devils around but they have no connection to each other.

The Monaco family's franchise in La Verne soldiered on with dad Roland mixing his wife's hot and spicy sauce and some of the best old-school pizza around.  A fresh tomato sauce on top, great dough with that olive oil savoriness to it, topped with a thick layer of mozzarella and your toppings.



We go with the pepperoni, bacon, and sausage version.  It's our favorite pie in Southern California and, yes, they're open everyday, take credit cards, deliver, and have plenty of parking.

Tony's Little Italy, down in the Orange County town of Placentia is another favorite of ours. We have to go sparingly, however, since a slice of their Chicago deep dish pizza comes in at well over 1,000 calories.



Saving up our calories and working up our appetites can make it all worth it. This is about as authentic a deep-dish pie you'll find in this area.  We like the stuffed version with has the sauce, cheese, and toppings under a thin layer of crust then they do it all again with another layer of sauce, cheese and toppings on top of that. The pies are so thick, it takes around 45 minutes to bake.  Call ahead and they start it up. Time it right and your pizza will be done just as you arrive.

Not only are the pies massively thick, all the ingredients are top-notch, fresh and tasty. That's the problem...you'll definitely want more than one slice. Better have two or three thousand calories you can spare for this one.



Bakersfield is known for great, Basque restaurants, none more famous than Noriega's with the Pyranees nipping at their heels. Our favorite, Benji's sits across town from those and Woolgrowers. There are differences but the experience is very similar...start with a picon punch and a little socializing in the bar. Move to the dining room, where cheap red wine either sits on the table for pouring or is easily available. Massive tureen of the day's soup to share with bread, butter, and maybe some salsa for dipping. Another big salad bowl with jack cheese and pickled cow tongue. The entry, a side of potatoes, some vegetables, maybe some pasta. Dessert, if you have room.



In the L.A. area, we drive a little less than a hour east where farms clash against tract housing in Chino to dine at our best Basque experience south of the Grapevine, Centro Basco on Central Avenue on the south end of downtown.

Park in the shadow of the giant handball court and make your way into the cozy dining room. Or wait until 7:00 on Friday or Saturday to sit at long, communal tables in the front dining room where you can make some new friends.



Either way, the friendly folks here will not let you leave hungry. Choose a succulent rib eye, covered with red wine mushroom gravy; roasted garlic chicken or chicken done Cordon Bleu style; lamb is always a specialty of these sheepherder families.

Don't come for a quick meal, though. A Basque dinner is meant to linger. Savor over the hearty flavors and good company. There's no need to rush here. Ask for seconds if you think you can handle it. They'll be fine with it...just don't go hungry.

Not too far from Centro Basco, at the edge of Chino and Ontario, is a certified truck weigh station. Parking in the dirt lot, you can smell the nearby cows of the dairy farms and the grease from the neighboring truck service center.  A nearly windowless building sits next to the scale, it's yellow sign blown apart by too many windy days.

Inside, you'll find a divey bar along with some utilitarian tables and chairs.  Between 6am and 3pm, you can sit there and order some fabulous and cheap rib eye or tri tip.

It's nominally Basque but the owner married a Mexican so you'll get her influence on food, too.  It doesn't come out family style at Taylor's Cafe, more of a delicious greasy-spoon/dive bar style, but the portions are still massive.



We came here for the rib eye, a local cheap eats legend.  It's good, succulent, and delicious but still doesn't hold a candle to their smoky and juicy tri tip, served on Saturdays with a heaping helping of eggs, potatoes, and beans.

More than these three big eaters can fit in, a take home bag means we can repeat this meal at home the next day.

Stay tuned, there's more to come...




Darryl Musick
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