It proved to be a banner year for dining in Claremont

It is safe to say that taste buds have been tingled this year in food. With new restaurants opening their doors, old favorites getting a second chance and the first ever Restaurant week being hosted in the city, food got the celebrity treatment in 2013.


Burger boom makes a big bang

The Claremont burger boom brought the New Year in on a bun. While the city has always had foods of every culture to try, demand brought gourmet burgers in as king for 2013.

Beef patties are not the only options when talking about gourmet choices. Bison and vegetarian patties combined with an endless choice of toppings make every bite a different experience. People lined up this year to try high-class burgers at restaurants dotted throughout Claremont.

“Claremont is a very special place, whether burger or any cuisine,” said John Solana, owner of The Back Abbey restaurant. “We have people that are educated in food. They are well-traveled and appreciate good wine and good drink. I think businesses are seeing that and taking the chance.”

The Back Abbey, known as a place to grab one of these gourmet wonders, pioneered this movement. With toppings ranging from caramelized onions to cranberry-apple chutney, these burgers aren’t the usual drive-thru monsters. Eureka Burger, Rounds and Boca Burger add to the craze with fresh ingredients and unique creations for customers to enjoy.

Eureka’s laid-back atmosphere and brews have crowds of people lining up for a chance to socialize and chow-down on burger creations. Rounds’ menu offers customers the chance to build their own monster and reap the benefits of an imagination. Many will come back just for a chance to try every creation they can at both locations. Boca Burger, named for the Boca Juniors not the meat substitute, has burgers made with a special chimichurri blend, a mix of minced tomatoes, garlic, onion, roasted peppers and lime juice in a mouth-watering sauce to treat their guests. The Argentinan spices make each bite a cultural treat.

No matter which location guests visit during the lunch or dinner rush, there is a wait that is well worth it in the end.


New eateries, fresh ideas

Two new eateries to Claremont this year include a new Salad Farm location and Al Amir flatbread. Both places took a common meal and put a twist on how people enjoy it.

When opening the doors of Salad Farm, Anna Huff wanted to bring a healthy choice without a limited selection. With trimmings to add like bacon or avocado, she offered taste and health. Rather than stick you with a pile of lettuce and vegetables, Ms. Huff wanted to bring her personal belief of moderation to the city of Claremont. Besides leafy greens with toppings, the menu consists of baked potatoes, Panini’s and chicken.

Keeping with the theme of fresh foods, owner of Al Amir Flatbread, Abdallah Soueidan, wanted to offer customers a pizza pie dish with an eastern flair.

Using Lebanese flatbread as the doughy foundation, the recipes call to mind the types of dishes that would be sold in busy Lebanese marketplaces. Some more traditional meals are also available for anyone cautious about trying the flatbread creations for the first time.

“I enjoy the satisfaction of seeing people enjoy a good meal and you see how happy they are,” Mr. Soueidan said. “It gives you a good feeling to see that something you have given someone is being appreciated. That is what drove me to own my own place.”


La Piccoletta’s return

After the restaurant had to close its doors last summer, the little Italian eatery was reopened last October under Karen Downtain, the previous owner. Long-time customers celebrated the return of the home-cooked style meals and loving family atmosphere.

“We have always said we don’t consider ourselves the owners of La Piccoletta, but we consider ourselves the caretakers,” Ms. Downtain said. “La Piccoletta has a rich legacy and we are just fortunate to be among those to take care of it.”

The family atmosphere and delicious recipes have loyal customers still coming back to Claremont to try and grab a table in the small space.


Restaurant Week showcased Claremont’s fine dining

Claremont joined hundreds of other cities this year in its first-ever restaurant week that took place in July. The event allowed local eateries the chance to try out new menu items or bring in new customers for the eight-night event.

“It’s all about exposure,” Maureen Aldridge, Chamber president and chief executive officer said. “Most people don’t know we have Portuguese food or that the Orchard Restaurant is at the DoubleTree. This is a great way to support our restaurants and highlight the variety.”

The event did its job and brought attention to the hundreds of flavors that Claremont has to offer. Normally a slow month for the city, hungry customers got a chance to enjoy the hottest part of summer in the comfort of Claremont’s finest eateries.

The event was meant to ward off summer blues for the businesses that miss college business. While restaurants get a chance to advertise and possibly bring in new customers, regulars were treated to discounted prices from a la carte alternatives and new faces could try even the priciest of places and walk out knowing the meal did not break the bank.

The week joined annual events such as the wine walk and Blues and Brews beer fest. The Chamber of Commerce is looking forward to hosting the event next year as well, minus the sweltering heat.

—Christina Burton


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