The Knife & the Fork:
What's New in Claremont?
A guide to restaurants, shops and a new theater.
The city of Claremont has always had a downtown full of shops and restaurants to cater to nearly every taste. With the expansion of this downtown area to First Avenue, just west of Indian Hill Boulevard, locals have new shops and venues to explore, as well as new restaurants in which to dine.
The historic packing house is host to most of these restaurants and venues. Once known as the College Heights Lemon Packing House, this building is a remnant from California’s citrus industry. The building served as a warehouse for “grading, packing, storing and shipping fruit,” according to the Packing House’s Web site. Ginger Elliott, director of Claremont Heritage, said that much of the original Packing House is still present following the expansion. The original Packing House was built after the California Fruit Growers’ Association was formed in 1893. After much debate about whether to keep the original building or tear it down and build new shops, the city—with much encouragement from Claremont Heritage—decided to keep the original Packing House and sell it to a developer who would preserve it.
“It was an important part of our past,” Elliott said. “We needed to have a building that represented our past.” With the original Packing House still intact, visitors are able to get a glimpse of Claremont’s rich history in the citrus industry while taking in the beauty of the building. Some notable elements are the sliding wooden doors that once opened for fruit to be brought in from the loading dock. Venting, railings, a conveyor track belt and basement are still present. Most noticeable is the original wood floor, which has been preserved and shellacked. For more information on the historic Packing House and Claremont Heritage, visit www.claremontpackinghouse.com and www.claremontheritage.org.
Bua Thai Cuisine
For delicious Asian food, head to Bua for a taste of Thai. “Bua” translates to lotus, and these flowers can be found throughout restaurant’s the décor and floating in vases on the tables. Bua prides itself as a restaurant which “offers almost endless possibilities for relishing exciting new tastes, rich in quality and choices, that no matter how often you dine at Bua Thai Cuisine, there is always some fresh delicious discovery to be made.” Dimmed lights, hanging lamps and artwork combine to create a soothing atmosphere. A patio is available for those who want to dine outside.
Bua features a variety of Thai salads, curries, soups, stir-fried dishes and of course, Pad Thai noodles. Dishes are served carefully on white geometric plates. Two specialty dishes are the Bua noodles and the salmon rad prik. The Bua noodles are spicy, but can be made medium or mild. This dish is made of spicy egg noodles stir fried with egg, fresh chili, onion and basil. Chicken, beef, pork, tofu or vegetables complete the dish, which costs $7.95. For those who crave seafood with their noodles, shrimp can be added for $2 more.
Salmon rad prik, is a great dish for those who want something a little different than meat and potatoes. This dish includes fried salmon with a variety of vegetables piled on top and falling down to the sides, and topped with a spicy herb sauce. The price is $9.95 and is a good way to go for those wanting seafood for dinner.
The Bua ice cream house special is a great way to cap off a meal. It is made of vanilla ice cream which is deep-fried and served in a small glass bowl with a decorative umbrella.
Bua Thai Cuisine also offers great lunch specials Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Each special comes with salad or soup, vegetables, steamed or brown rice, and an entrée off the lunch menu for $7.95 to $8.25.
Bua Thai Cuisine provides a savory meal for anyone who is craving a great Asian meal. The staff is friendly and the atmosphere is very welcoming.
Bua Thai Cuisine is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Casablanca features Mediterranean cuisine along with a bar. The décor of the restaurant includes art and music with a strong Middle Eastern influence. The bar is at the center of the restaurant, which was done on purpose according to owner Wally Halik. Halik said he wanted to put the bar at the center so that the servers do not have to run from one side of the restaurant to the other taking them away from the customers. Along with this, some of the walls are actually sliding glass doors, which open up and allow the beautiful California weather to fill the restaurant. There is also patio seating available on a beautiful wood deck, which allows diners to catch a breath of fresh air while taking in all of the happenings going on outside. Also, hookahs, in an assortment of flavors, are available outside to complement the meal. Belly dancers entertain the weekend crowd.
Pita bread is served at the table right away with a garlic paste and oil with seeds and herbs. A great way to start off any meal is with either a cold or warm appetizer. A delicious hot appetizer is the cheese pie which is a serving of fried filo fingers filled with the chef’s selection of cheese. This warm appetizer comes with six pieces to enjoy for $6. As for entrées, Casablanca provides a variety of meals including beef, lamb, chicken and seafood plates. A great meal can be found in the Salato Horiatki, better known as Greek salad. This appetizing salad is made of romaine lettuce, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and kalamata olives tossed in olive oil and vinegar with feta cheese throughout. Salads range in price from $6 to $7. Another delicious entrée is the beef sha-wer-ma which is sliced top sirloin beef marinated in vinegar and garlic rotisseries. This meal is served with vegetables, onions and rice for $15.
Prices vary as an appetizer sampler style plate for around six people is $70 and entrées range from $15 to $19.
Casablanca is open until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Sunday through Thursday the restaurant is open from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m.
Hip Kitty Jazz and Fondue Lounge
For a fun, jazz-filled night on the town, head to Hip Kitty Jazz and Fondue Lounge. It is seemingly the perfect combination: jazz and fondue along with a fully stocked bar providing drinks for the evening. The service is great, the musicians are smooth and the crowd is laid back.
Live jazz fills the air as customers lounge around the bar, leather booths along the walls, the tables throughout, and the large family style booth at center stage. City-inspired art covers the walls. For those who prefer to dine under the stars, Hip Kitty provides a beautiful and comfortable patio equipped with a fire pit and heaters. The only downside is the rumble from the train that drowns out the music every so often.
Hip Kitty provides an escape into a soothing atmosphere. It is a cool, intimate place to catch up with friends or to make new ones.
Fondue burners line the tables. For those who have never tried fondue, the cheese fondue plate is highly recommended, especially the cheddar cheese mixed with garlic and zinfandel. Broccoli, carrots, bread, grapes and apples are served with this seemingly odd mixture. However, the blend creates a tasty twist that satisfies. This meal serves one to two people for $22, and $8 for one additional person.
Along with cheese fondue, Hip Kitty serves meat fondues including beef tenderloin, chicken sausage, scallops and shrimp serving one to two people for $34, and $12 for one additional person. Vegetable fondue is also available, and includes assorted vegetables, mushrooms, tofurkey sausage and meatless meatballs for $30 serving one to two people, and $10 for one additional person. The Hip Kitty also offers a dinner for two for $90, which comes with two half-orders of salad, a choice of cheese fondue, a choice of meat fondue, and a choice of chocolate fondue with a flavor shot, and a bottle of Fat Cat wine.
The dessert menu features milk chocolate, dark chocolate and white chocolate fondues and the choice of adding flavored shots of peanut butter, raspberry puree, coconut cream and caramel. This fondue comes with pieces of rice crispy treats, Snickers bars, strawberries, grapes and pineapple. You will be left wanting more to dip in the warm, smooth chocolate. Dessert fondues cost $16 for one to two people, and $6 for one additional person.
Hip Kitty’s busiest nights are Friday and Saturday. Reservations are recommended at least 24 hours in advance. The lounge is open Wednesday through Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. Music is available from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, and 8 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays. Wednesday nights are amateur nights, so if you are a singer or musician, contact Hip Kitty.
For information, including the menu and entertainment calendar, visit www.hipkittyjazz.com.
Three Forks Chop House
For anyone who wants a special-occasion dinner or a unique dining experience, Three Forks Chop House is the place for you. Located at the west end of the historic Packing House, Three Forks creates a special experience, taking its diners out of the hectic city life and into the West. According to the restaurant’s Web site, the décor of the restaurant is inspired by owners Mick and Mark Bollinger’s grandfather’s hometown in Montana. Traces of the West are evident in the Western art and trees throughout the restaurant. A large bar also provides full menu service or a quick drink from the extensive wine list, which includes popular and local wine makers. Like Casablanca, Bua and Hip Kitty, Three Forks has a beautiful wood patio for diners to spend the afternoon or night dining outside. Heaters are available to ward off chilly weather.
Chef Eric Osley provides unique flavors for every palette. Those who dine inside have the treat of seeing their meat being grilled right before their eyes through a window in a central part of the dining room. On Sundays, the chef provides a special brunch, and later, a four-course “prix fixe” menu for dinner.
The current menu includes a variety of starters called “Cold Appetizers from the Garden, Land and Sea,” “Hot Starters from Land and Sea,” and a variety of cheeses and other appetizers. Dinner is served with a raisin and nut bread with an olive spread and butter. A great way to start off a flavorful meal is with the chop salad, which is made of butter lettuce, treviso, soppresata, house-made mozzarella, market fennel, chick peas, mint and picholine olives tossed in a red wine vinaigrette. What sets this chop salad apart from any other is the vinaigrette, which complements the other ingredients. You will not be able to put your fork down.
For the main course, there are a variety of choices. There are composed plates of game and seafood or choices of cuts and chops with several side dishes. For those with seafood on the mind, the roasted Alaskan halibut is a delicious choice. However, the absolute, hands-down favorite composed plate is the Colorado buffalo tenderloin. The tenderloin is prepared medium rare, which makes the meat melt in your mouth. This plate also comes with maytag bleu cheese butter, potato pave with caramelized fennel and whole grain mustard sauce. Though buffalo may put some diners off, this cut of meat is to die for. These composed plates range in price from $24 to $36. Three Forks also has an extensive cuts and chops list including a 10-ounce filet mignon Black Angus from Nebraska and a 6-ounce Kobe rib-eye from Japan.
For a truly unique dining experience, be sure to make your way to Three Forks. Hours are Monday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch; Monday through Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. for dinner; Friday and Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner; Sundays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for brunch; and
5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays for Chef’s Farmers Market Prix Fixed Sunday Supper. Reservations are recommended. For more information and to make reservations call (888) 933-6757.
The Claremont 5 Laemmle Theatre
The Claremont 5 Laemmle Theatre provides an escape from reality into the world of independent films. While the theater primarily features indie films on five screens, every so often mainstream films happen to come through. Prices are $10 for general admission, $8.50 for students with a student identification card, and $7 for children under 7 and senior citizens 62 years old and older. There is also a $7 bargain price for shows before 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and shows before 2 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
Claremont Museum of Art
Located in the Packing House, the Claremont Museum of Art features a permanent collection of art created by Claremont artists, as well as art from around the world. Currently on display is “Ephemeral: Exploration in Light,” which will stay until Dec. 30. An ongoing exhibit is “Building a Legacy: Founding a Museum, Building a Collection,” which features the museum’s permanent collection of artwork. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is closed on Sunday. For those 18 years old and over, the admission is $3. The first Friday of each month, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., admission is free.
For those who want to create art, Studio Claremont is located next door to the museum. Studio Claremont features art lessons and classes for both adults and children. And for those who like to design their own jewelry, the International Glass and Bead store is the place to go. With a friendly staff to guide you through the jewelry making process, this store is a great place to let your creative juices flow.
The expansion has also brought unique stores and boutiques for fashion lovers. For a trip to the past, Replay is the perfect place to pick up one-of-a-kind vintage pieces. Replay is located in the Packing House and features an array of platform shoes, jumpsuits, vintage dresses and sunglasses.
Peyton Gray is a celebrity-inspired boutique. The store features popular trends and pieces of clothing that can be found in magazines, worn by your favorite movie stars. American Apparel brings a little funk but in a chain store way. The brand is well known, and the store carries a variety of unique pieces in an array of fun colors.
For those who would rather sit back and relax, there are plenty of places to do so. Jamba Juice and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf are two new additions to the area, with patio seating so customers can hang out and watch the world go by.
The expansion of downtown Claremont offers a variety of restaurants, shops and activities. Art, fine dining and activities for families are all there, waiting to be discovered. What are you waiting for?