Restaurant Reviews

We have lived in Riverside  California for  8 years now and have developed some definitive opinions on local restaurants.  We are also always trying new ones out, to see how we like them.  Oh, and before you read on you should know that we are cheap, so you will not find Mario's or Duane's or the Pacific Cafe on this list.  However, I will say that we have been to the Mission Inn Sunday Brunch maybe a dozen times now, and it's ...Well, I think there is a reason we have paid between $20 and $40 per person nearly a dozen times in 8 years. Aaron loves the Giant Ice Sculpture.  Ahhhh.

We have tried a good number of Chinese places in Riverside, from the fairly yummy, to the okay , to the downright awful.  Honestly for my money, the best orange chicken in town is at the UCR Cafeteria, but beyond that:

Little Emperor: Pretty good. Probably my favorite.  We like the General's Chicken, generally, but also some of the interesting Thai dishes that they offer. 

Dragon House: People love this, and indeed I thought it was yummy, but I never seem to want to go all the way to MoVal or Tyler for it.  It is really pretty standard stuff.  The appetizer platter had those icky liver thingies.  It does come on a mini-hibachi, which is cool.  [Michele:  isn't that called a poo-poo platter?  Oh and the liver thingies might be called rumiaki or something like that]  [Aaron: I don't find them appetizing enough to deserve a name.]

University Cafe.  This is the new, cute little place at the corner of Chicago and University.  The place that was there before was so yucky that I never actually ate there.  [Aaron: she lies.  We got one tiny order of fried rice there out of politeness, and tossed it in the parking lot.] [Michele:  That can't be true.  We never litter]  [Aaron: Given the indiscriminate pigeons in this town,  I wouldn't call it 'littering' so much as 'animal cruelty.']  I was so very impressed with the classy exterior decor that this new place implemented that I was determined to give it a try.  The ambiance is wonderful.  There is a nice sitting area with Chinese books to read and Chinese checkers and such and the tables and chairs are really nice.  They play some really nice Asian pop, pretty loudly, and it's all just very nice feeling.  The food is pretty authentic, maybe a little too authentic for me, but still tasty.  We got a 1000 year egg and pickled bamboo with our meals, and some fascinating relish stuff (we were too cowardly to eat some of that).   The food was pretty tasty though, and this might be worth a try if you are looking for a fave.  The Orange Chicken tastes more of peanut and ginger than orange, but it's nice if a touch unpredictable.

Super China Buffet.  This newish restaurant has definitely stayed in our rotation.  It is not a "often" restaurant, or you start to notice that a lot of their foods start to taste the same, but as a once in a while restaurant it is great.  They have these really yummy mushroom caps and they have all you can eat sushi.  It belongs on everyone's Chinese buffet list. Aaron mentions that it is hearty, if you can imagine hearty Chinese food, and that it is tamed down for American palates, which can be a good thing.  They also have pizza and stuff for kids. 

There used to be a fabulous Mongolian grill at Tyler, but, alas, life moves on.


As far as we are concerned, there is really only one Pizza restaurant in Riverside, though there is also a rather fine one at Big Bear...but anyway...In Riverside, Capone's is our be all and end all for pizza.  The pizza is dee-lish-us.  It is not overly spiced and the cheese is well...cheesy.  The crust is thin and crispy, without just being a cracker, and we are thoroughly addicted.  The pasta is okayish, though I doubt they are really going for stand-out fabulous on the pasta.  The sauce has a bright taste to it and is not overdone with weird anise-y flavors.

I don't think I am allowed not to mention the Getaway Cafe.  I really do like the Getaway, just not for pizza.  They have all kinds of food from burgers to Mexican to Italian and they deliver.  So really, if you are sick of delivery pizza, but don't feel like going out, this is a GREAT bet!   Pretty good sandwiches and cheap but tasty fries by the basketful.

I know, Italian and Pizza are supposed to be the same thing, but, really, they aren't quite.  We used to really like that place with the yellow shingles on magnolia that looked like a baby chick and was owned by the guy who is now the Ward 1 City Councilman.  [Aaron: Calabria.  Which I always thought was too close to "chupacabra"...the "Goat Sucker!"]  I thought he swore up and down that he would not sell that restaurant if elected, but alas. 

Anyway, now our fave is Romano's.  They have a great pink sauce and I LOVE the spaghetti.  Something people might know about me is that I pretty much always order  Spaghetti at any Italian restaurant.  I know, it really isn't classy.  They also deliver, but it just isn't the same.  Their stuffed-type pastas, including ravioli and lasagna, are also excellent.  Also, try their bruschetta, which is based on a balsamic vinegar.  Intensely flavorful.

Fazoli's is new and what a concept, "Drive through Italian!"  My fedora is off to them.  Actually, I don't wear a fedora, I was just trying to think of an Italian hat.  Maybe I should just have used the Italian word for hat.  Lemme try again.  My cappello is off to them.  Wait, I don't actually wear hats of any kind.  Oh well. Oh, and I forgot to mention pretty tasty, and great breadsticks.

Is it hopelessly plebe for me to say that most of my favorite places here are chains?  I really am in the middle of an area rich in Hispanic culture, but I just love Baja Fresh and El Pollo Loco.   We tried Zacatecas once, and a lot of people swear by it, but it seemed a little tasteless.  The Sunday brunch at Acapulco (another chain, I know) is very tasty and an unusual treat for out-of-town guests.  People seem to love Anchos, but in our eight years, we have amazingly never made it there. 

However, if you are looking for an adventure, I cannot recommend Taco Tios (Mission and Chestnut) highly enough.  This place is awesome.  I will say no more lest I spoil the adventure.

If Aaron and I are looking for hearty, and the boys seem relatively mellow, we will head to Ontario and enjoy the ever fabulous Honey Baked Ham.  I think everything is good.  In fact, everything is great.  And the prices are simply fantastic, considering the upscale food and good portions you get.  Cute ceramic plates are nifty too.  The only problem is that for some reason the Ontario Honeybaked is equipped with, um, fake people.  Really.  There is a life-size mannequin if Ben Franklin standing near the entrance like a greeter.  I have NO idea why.  Odd.  [Michele:  Hey don't knock the fake people, I love the fake people.]

There is a place in MoVal called Calhoun and Perry's Rib Cage.  If you like BBQ, I recommend it.  It is lip lickin'.

Best Thai on Spruce...it's all good.  They even take ATM now.  Wouldn't it be funny if this really was the best Thai food?  Not just in Riverside, where indeed it might be tops, but in the whole world.  That would sure be something. 

We are blessed.  It would be wrong to live here among the bounty which is Jammin' Bread and Simple Simon's and not appreciate our great good luck.  These places are stand-out sandwich places with wonderful fresh-baked breads and tasty homemade soups and have I mentioned their unbelievable sandwiches.  These are places for veggies and carnivores alike to rejoice in the concept of stuff between slices of bread.  The ambiance is drastically different in these two places and one serves downtown while the other serves the University and I hear vague grumblings of a falling out between the owners. It's very "insider."  Both are moderately expensive, however, and you can expect to pay $8-$10 per person.  Not counting the (often delicious) desserts.

However, I don't want to neglect the sub.  My Hero at the corner of Iowa and Blaine does a nice little (very American) sub for a great price (their 'junior' special is only $1.25) and the Sub Station is tremendously popular among the college crowd.  I personally find that each has their place, along with the Quizno's at the village and even the Subway, both at Canyon Crest and that dumpy little strip mall at Chicago and University.  There is also the most quaint and lovely place on Spruce called, appropriately, the Spruce Street Eatery, that one really ought to try.  The proprietress is wonderfully friendly, and puts together a great menu of soups and sandwiches.  I am a big fan of the pillow bread.  [Aaron: try also the French Dip.  No fake people here, though.  Sorry sweetie.] [Michele:  I think they once had one of those little, kid-shaped mannequin thingies that stand facing a corner that we used to call "butt children,"  Eww.  However, I think they got rid of it.] Oh and if you really dig that really granulated crushed ice like I do, this is a don't miss.  Note: avoid the lunch-time rush, as the Spruce Street Eatery is very popular with workers from the nearby industrial parks on Chicago and Iowa.

We really do burger.  I know this might offend people.  Sometime it really offends me, but I can't seem to get away from it. Don't get me wrong, we love deep fried tofu as much as the next person, but for some reason the burger maintains a place in our lives.   Aaron loves Yanni's on Blaine, but for some reason it just seems too meaty to me.  [Aaron: truth.  The patty extends past the edges of the (large) bun, and you can get one of these monsters in a meal with fries for under $5] [Michele: Oh and I think they have that really cool crushed ice too, just like the Spruce Street Eatery].  I  personally love Farmer Boys, which my mom says doesn't have enough meat.  So okay maybe it is not quite the Atkins dream burger, but I am a borderline vegetarian, what can I say.  [Aaron: you could say that you adore FatBurger, meat and all...but they grill that sucker down to charcoal, which is the way she likes 'em off the barbecue too].  I am too cowardly to say, "may I have a cheeseburger, hold the burger," (though this is actually a secret off-menu order at Inn-n-out, which is a local phenom, I think they even have tee-shirts) and a few times Aaron has surprised me with burgerless burgers that he has ordered for me.  Many of you may be thinking, "duh, what about veggie burgers?"  I really don't like veggie-patties, they really suck the taste right out of the condiments and the bun.  [Aaron: word.  Tofu can be tofu, but it goes horribly wrong when they try to make it seem like meat].   Aaron likes the open faced chili burger at Farmer Boys, which for some reason they call a "chili size" around here.  It is just one of the many cultural transitions we have made. 

One Indian place is much like another around here.  They are all pretty good. For our money though, we would go to Bombay and skip Taj Majal.

The Market Broiler is the only real answer around here.  A great place. However, we are willing to drive all of the way to Industry to go to the Joe's Crab Shack, just because they have a playground.  You really have to love a place that has good, adult food, and a playground.  Someone was thinking.

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