Food GPS editor Josh Lurie looks at some of Claremont’s top specialty food choices.

Food GPS editor Josh Lurie on some of Claremont’s most inspired global food destinations.

Food GPS editor Josh Lurie looks at nine of Claremont’s popular dining destinations.

Claremont, a silver level bicycle-friendly community, is a bike rider’s dream. An ideal destination for mountain bikers and bike-riding enthusiasts alike, the town has bike lanes on most surface streets and a bevy of bike racks. And with enchanting tree-filled streets with historical homes, stately buildings at the Claremont Colleges, and a charming downtown, there’s lots of sublime scenery to enjoy while you ride through the city. You can also ditch your car completely by arriving in Claremont with your bike via the Metrolink, which runs from Los Angeles Union Station to San Bernardino. You’ll be dropped off right in the Bicycles at Hotel Casa 425 in Claremont CAVillage.

For mountain bikers, Claremont Wilderness Park offers a winding bike trail with moderate elevation and dramatic views. At Mount Baldy, just minutes away, you can take a chair lift to bike trails at Mt. Baldy Ski Lifts. The descents on the trails are exposed and unique in Southern California – good times.

Before hitting the trails, you can grab sandwiches and salads at Wolfe’s Market for a picnic lunch.

If you need your bike repaired or are in the market for a new one, you can stop at Sunset Cycles inside the Packing House. Afterwards, you can get gourmet ice cream at A La Minute, check out the art gallery at Studio Claremont, or do some boutique shopping. There’s also Jax Bicycle Shop in the Village and Velo on Route 66 (Foothill Blvd.)

After a day of bike riding, a hearty meal is in order. At Aruffo’s Italian Cuisine, offering a menu that blends authentic Italian cuisine with a Sunset Cycle in Claremont CAcontemporary farm to table approach, you can nosh on delish dishes such as Zucca (kabocha pumpkin ravioli) or Maiale Osso Buco.

When you’re ready to rest, the resort-like DoubleTree by Hilton Claremont, with spacious, uniquely styled rooms, is just a short ride away. If your muscles are a bit sore after so much riding, you can end your day with a soak in the spa. 

That way, you’ll be ready to do it all again the next day!

Last Drop Cafe menu sign in Claremont CALooking to escape all the hubbub with a weekend getaway in Southern California? Claremont, a city with an overabundance of trees – and nationally renowned colleges – that just oozes charm, will make you think you got teleported to a college town back East.

Fuel Up

To kick-start your restorative weekend trip in Claremont, enjoy a cup of joe and a freshly baked croissant on the patio at Last Drop Café, located in the quaint Claremont Village. From here you can admire the historical architecture, gaze at the San Gabriel mountains and gear up for some boutique shopping in the neighboring stores.

Head Outdoors

Mount Baldy, just minutes away, makes for an excellent day-trip. Depending on the season, you can hike, mountain bike, zip-line, or partake in a wide variety of fun snow activities. Afterwards, you can take a ski lift up to Top of the Notch Restaurant & Bar, which offers a unique dining experience with amazing vistas.

Another option for nature lovers is Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, the largest botanic garden dedicated to California native plants. If you’re at the Garden during late spring or summer, the Butterfly Pavilion is a must-see.

Claremont Village Awaits

Once you’ve perused an amazing variety of plants, or walked among beautiful butterflies, you can stop at The Back Abbey for a gourmet burger and an artisan crafted beer on the patio. Or you can head over to Claremont Craft Ales (opens at 1 p.m. on weekends), where various gourmet food trucks land daily. Rhino Records in Claremont CA

After lunch, you may want to check out the captivating assortment of musical instruments at Folk Music Center, expand your record collection at Rhino Records, do some vintage shopping at The Grove Vintage, or check out some of the art galleries in the Claremont Village or at the Claremont Colleges.

If you’re a serious art lover, you’ll want to plan your weekend trip around the Claremont Art Walk, which is held on the first Saturday of the month and showcases local artists at galleries throughout the Claremont Village.

Claremont Packing HouseClaremont Packing House at sunset

Come sundown, the Packing House offers a profusion of exciting evening activities. You can catch a live stand-up comedy show at Flappers Comedy Club, do a wine tasting at Packing House Wine Merchants, have dinner and hookah at Casablanca Bar and Grill, or enjoy hand-crafted cocktails at The Whisper House, Claremont’s first speakeasy. On Friday nights, you can shop one-of-a-kind arts and crafts at Art Mart, held inside the Packing House.   

Whatever place you decide to go to or activity you choose to partake in while in town, we trust you’ll leave Claremont with shoulders softened, a smile, and effortless breath. 

Claremont’s reputation as a regional dining destination has been on the rise in recent years, thanks in part to the efforts of local restaurateurs John Solana, Ed Inglese, Sal Medina and others, and the work of chefs like Stephen Rudicel and Jose Ruiz. With a growing number of regionally acclaimed restaurants and dozens of locally owned eateries keeping the food scene fresh, it’s no wonder that LA Weekly and NBC Los Angeles has declared Claremont a “food neighborhood” that’s “worth the drive” for foodies and tourists.

The city will host its third annual Claremont Restaurant Week, July 10-19, 2015, to showcase its many pubs, grills, sandwich shops, bakeries, and fine dining restaurants. Visitors will discover a wide variety of cuisines as many of the city’s locally owned eateries and hotel restaurants will participate by offering prix fixe dinner menus.

“A famous college town with international visitors demands a high level of fine dining experiences,” said Andrew Behnke of Discover Claremont, the Claremont tourism board. “We know tourists come to Claremont for the shows, museums, trips into the mountains, festivals, regional events or when visiting the colleges. Now is a great time to come Discover Claremont for its dining as the city is emerging as a culinary center for eastern Los Angeles County and the Inland Empire.”

With half of Claremont’s more than 80 restaurants located within the walkable downtown area, visitors can choose to enjoy the city’s free parking and literally stroll to wherever their appetites lead them.

In the famous Claremont Village, epicureans encounter wood-paneled restaurants, bustling outdoor cafés and gourmet bakeries. Popular Italian choices include Inglese’s Italian chophouse Tutti Mangia with chef Jose Ruiz, La Piccoletta in the alley off of Indian Hill Blvd., and the longtime local favorite Aruffo’s Italian Cuisine. Diners will find tapas at Viva Madrid, Afghan dishes at Walter’s, and locally sourced dishes at Rudicel’s The Press Restaurant (Rudicel also owns Mariposa Creamery). Solana’s Claremont restaurants include new American cuisine at Union on Yale, tacos and small plates at Petiscos, and one of Southern California’s “best burgers” at The Back Abbey.

In both the nearby Village Square and Packing House, diners will find rare wines, microbrews and fine American whiskeys at restaurants that include Eureka Burger and Medina’s Packing House Wine Merchants, while the Beer Belly Deli serves up American fare and brews. The Hotel Casa 425 lounge and outdoor living room is known for its signature margarita and offers a small plates menu served by its outdoor fire pits. Other Village Square favorites here include La Parolaccia and Casa Moreno.

Popular favorites outside of the village include Portuguese at Euro Cafe, Thai at Sanamluang Café, Lebanese pizza at Al Amir Bakery, and local brews at Claremont Craft Ales. At DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Claremont its Orchard Restaurant features locally sourced ingredients, while its lively PianoPiano dueling piano show – featuring some of the West’s top performers – serves up classic American pub fare. Another local choice that combine entertainment with fine fare is belly dancing at Casablanca Bar and Grill; while fine dining meets Broadway at Ben D. Bollinger’s Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theatre just a few blocks north of the village. Along Historic Route 66 (Foothill Blvd.) tourists will also find stylish restaurants like Darvish and Inka Trails, sushi choices including Hayato, hand-made flour tortillas at Patty’s Mexican Food, and freshly made sandwiches and picnic meals at Wolfe’s Market.

A weekend stay in Claremont means visitors can enjoy a leisurely morning stroll through the region’s largest farmers and artisans market in downtown Claremont (every Sunday), and enjoy coffee and freshly baked pastries at places like Some Crust Bakery, Last Drop Café and 42nd Street Bagels.

A complete listing of restaurants, hotels, boutiques, events and more can be found at www.discoverclaremont.com.

Due east from Hollywood, at the edge of Los Angeles County, lies a town that a studio executive might have ordered up as a real-life Main Street USA movie set.

It might look like an Eastern seaboard village with blocks of bustling, locally owned shops. Or maybe a small Midwestern, railway town with a train depot within walking distance of trendy restaurants and hearty pubs. Or even a Southern community with its tree-lined streets of well-kept craftsman homes providing the ideal setting for a leisurely bicycle ride.

Beyond the beaches, but not quite to the mountains or desert. Beyond the master-planned suburbs, but not quite to sprawling bedroom communities. Beyond the Kellogg Hill interchange, but not quite the Inland Empire. It’s the kind of town that you fell in love with on a vacation to Maine – or was it Indiana? – but never thought you’d find again in Southern California.

It’s Claremont.

“The City of Trees”

The eastern-most city in Los Angeles County and the gateway to the Inland Empire, Claremont is 30 miles east of downtown Los Angeles along Interstate 10. It’s a destination quite unlike any other in Southern California: A hidden gem within the sprawling, urbanscape of the L.A. basin.

Claremont is known locally as The City of Trees, a legacy born more than 100 years ago with the founding of Pomona College amidst acres of foothills adorned with citrus ranches. In fact, it was only in 1889 that the town’s “shade tree committee” reported a gift of 250 trees, which were planted throughout the community shortly thereafter.

But the city is so much more than its seven nationally renowned colleges and 23,000 city-owned trees: It’s a true getaway from the everyday bustle of commuter Los Angeles, and a gateway to the mountains and deserts.

Claremont Village

It begins with a walkable, tree-lined downtown. Claremont Village is adorned with more than 150 locally owned boutiques and galleries, restaurants, eateries and pubs with entertainment and music. The Claremont Depot, a California historical landmark, greets visitors at the south end of downtown, servicing the Amtrak and Metrolink trains that stop there daily.

Leaving the depot, pleasant strolls along Yale and Harvard Avenues and Claremont Village’s numbered streets await visitors, calling to mind a classic New England cape town or a mid-American downtown. The architectural features of Claremont’s downtown buildings reflect a city that came to rise in the early 1900s, with its classic bank and shop facades, and then grew with the rise of the automobile as seen in some of its more modern storefronts.

Across Indian Hill Blvd. are two unique shopping and arts centers – the modern Village Square Public Plaza, built in 2007, and the sharply retrofitted College Heights Lemon Packing House, a tribute to the city’s citrus roots that reopened in 2007.

The Public Plaza is surrounded by shops, restaurants and the boutique hotel Hotel Casa 425, and is home to the Laemmle’s 5 Claremont Theatre. A modern public art fountain meanders through the square, providing both soothing water sounds as well as space for outdoor picnicking and music.

The Packing House is one of four working packing houses that lined the railroad tracks during the city’s citrus heydays. In fact, Claremont citrus growers were among the first to organize a cooperative method for marketing their fruit, a coop which later became known as “Sunkist.” Art galleries, two night clubs, a wine bar and other dining choices now call the Packing House home.

Historic Route 66

While much of Claremont was built close to the train depot, Historic Route 66 runs along Foothill Blvd., 12 blocks to the north. The businesses and restaurants along this district include the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Claremont and the popular Candlelight Pavilion dinner theater that is housed within the gymnasium of the Old School House, Claremont’s original 1911 school building that now is home to additional, unique retail shops and eateries.

Just up College Ave. from Route 66 is the famous Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, the largest botanic garden dedicated exclusively to California’s native plants. Encompassing 86 acres, the Garden displays about 2,000 taxa of California plants and includes those native to the California Floristic Province as a whole – from southern Oregon to Baja California. In addition to featuring a world-class botanical library and graduate-level education program, the Garden offers horticulture and community education programs to the public to encourage the use of California native plants in home landscapes.

The Colleges

The Claremont Colleges is a consortium of five undergraduate liberal arts colleges and two graduate institutions reminiscent of the Oxford-Cambridge model. The undergraduate colleges include Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College, Pitzer College, Pomona College and Scripps College. The two graduate institutions include the Claremont Graduate University and the Keck Graduate Institute. Each has its own campus its own students and faculty, and its own distinctive mission. The seven independent institutions on adjoining campuses offer rigorous curricula, small classes, distinguished professors, and personalized instruction in a vibrant residential college community that provides intensive interaction between students and faculty. With 6,900 students and 3,600 faculty and staff, located on more than 560 acres of land, the consortium generates an endless variety of intellectual, cultural, and social activities.

Arts & Culture

Theater, orchestral and dance performances at The Claremont Colleges’ famed Garrison Theater provide a local window to the arts. Claremont museums include the Pomona College Museum of Art; The Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology, on the campus of the Webb Schools; the Folk Music Center, owned by musician Ben Harper’s family; and other galleries on the campuses and around town. Walks about the Village and college campuses will reveal dozens of pieces of world-class public art.

A Way of Life

To visit Claremont is to be welcomed into a town that embodies the phrase “community spirit.” Its annual Village Venture Arts & Crafts Faire each October welcomes more than 20,000 visitors to Claremont Village. Community-oriented events such as Friday Nights Live! (summer), the Claremont Farmers and Artisans Market (Sundays), and First Friday Art Walks reflect a true slice of Americana in Southern California.

At just 14 square miles Claremont is easily navigated on bicycle, and the city takes great pride in being a leader in providing bicycle-friendly initiatives for visitors. The League of American Bicyclists has acclaimed Claremont as a Silver-Level Bicycle Friendly Community, noting Claremont’s funding of bike lanes, road diets (reducing the number of vehicle lanes), and intersection improvement. The Claremont Wilderness Park has an additional 10 miles of mountain bike trails and five miles of shared use pathways. It’s no wonder Claremont was selected as a host city for the 2011 AMGEN Tour of California.

And indeed, Claremont is still a city of trees: It has been a winner of the National Arbor Day Association’s Tree City USA award for more than 20 years running.

A Surprising Retreat

With its lush, European village-like setting, Claremont is an ideal destination for intimate, relaxing getaways. Couples will discover an idyllic, romantic setting as they stroll tree-lined streets adorned with charming shops, outdoor cafés and historic neighborhoods. And Claremont’s thriving community of spas, salons, yoga and pilates centers are ready to provide visitors with an array of personalized services and treatments to make their getaways complete.

Now you get the idea why many chose Claremont to live, to learn, to enjoy nature…and to relax.

Families who love bicycling and avid road cyclists alike should plan a weekend in Claremont to enjoy dozens of bicycle-friendly and scenic routes with varying degree of challenges, the city’s unique village atmosphere, and a wide range of hotels, restaurants, spas and nightlife.

For families and casual riders, Claremont is easily navigated on bicycle at just 14 square miles, and the city takes great pride in being a leader in providing bicycle-friendly initiatives for visitors. The League of American Bicyclists has acclaimed Claremont as a Silver-Level Bicycle Friendly Community, noting Claremont’s funding of bike lanes, road diets (reducing the number of vehicle lanes), and intersection improvement. The Claremont Wilderness Park has an additional 10 miles of mountain bike trails and five miles of shared use pathways.

For riders seeking longer, more challenging rides, Claremont is well-known as a starting and finishing spot for a strenuous road circuit along the Glendora Ridge Road through the San Gabriel Mountains. Gaining in popularity is the ride up to Mount Baldy: Claremont hosted Stage 7 of the 2011 Amgen Tour of California, a nearly 100-mile ride from city’s historic train depot that climbed close to 10,000 vertical feet in elevation and finished at the base of the Mount Baldy ski resort. Amateur cyclists seeking to experience the same road course as the professionals will find Claremont to be an ideal wake-up-and-ride starting point or an evening dine-and-stay experience. Local cyclists often complete the circuit by riding down Mt. Baldy Road directly into Claremont.

Claremont’s ever-growing bicyclist population has created many clubs willing to offer tips. Ranging from college groups to baby boomers, these groups regularly announce events, trips and other useful information. Local bicycle shops include Jax Bicycle Center near the Claremont Depot.

Getting to Claremont is easy. Metrolink’s bicycle-friendly San Bernardino line stops in Claremont, a short train ride from Union Station in downtown Los Angeles or other neighboring cities. Claremont’s historic train depot is located in the heart of the Claremont Village, a quick ride away from the Claremont Colleges and shopping along Historic Route 66 California.

Claremont’s five hotel choices range from economy to upscale. Options include the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Claremont on Historic Route 66, and the Hotel Claremont & Tennis Club near Interstate 10. The budget-minded cyclist will appreciate the Claremont Lodge or Howard Johnson Express Inn Claremont south of downtown, while the boutique Hotel Casa 425 offers upscale accommodations in the heart of the Claremont Village. Casa 425 also offers bicycle rentals to its guests. More than a dozen day spas and salons can also help sooth sore muscles and freshen wind-worn skin after a day of riding.

Located just 30 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, the City of Claremont prides itself on being a Southern California showcase community. Its tree-lined streets, Village shopping district, five distinctive hotels, and stately college campuses have made it a destination for tourists and locals alike. More information about dining and staying in Claremont can be found at http://www.discoverclaremont.com.

As students return to the Claremont Colleges each school year, the City of Claremont’s five hotel properties welcome parents and other campus visitors to stick around and enjoy a relaxing getaway in the “City of Trees.”

From economy to boutique, Claremont’s 449 hotel rooms provide guests with inviting rooms and peaceful nights. Staying in Claremont puts you in walking or bicycling distance to the city’s day spas and salons, locally owned boutiques, galleries and public works of art, and more than 80 pubs, grills, sandwich shops, bakeries, and fine dining restaurants.

Claremont’s attractions include the 86-acre Rancho Santa Fe Botanic Garden, the largest botanic garden dedicated exclusively to California’s native plants; and the world-renowned Folk Music Center museum and store, which is owned by musician Ben Harper’s family. The city’s nighttime entertainment boasts classical, jazz, comedy, dueling pianos, a vibrant college music scene, and performing arts at the colleges and Candlelight Pavilion.

At the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Claremont ($149-$350), elegant, contemporary guest rooms and suites offer comfort and convenience with luxurious Sweet Dreams® beds, 32-inch flat screen LCD televisions, in-room safes, refrigerators, and high-speed Internet access. Relax with friends, alumni or business associates in its lush courtyard, enjoy a cocktail or meal by the waterfall, and dine in casual elegance at The Orchard Restaurant, serving a wide selection of California Mediterranean Fusion influenced dishes. Piano Piano’s high-energy, all-request show keeps guests singing laughing into the night!

Hotel Casa 425 ($195-$400) is a stylish boutique hotel and lounge opening onto a tranquil courtyard in the heart of historic Claremont Village. The only sophisticated boutique hotel in Southern California’s Inland Empire, Casa 425 merges California mission architecture with contemporary styling and features 28 sophisticated guest rooms, an onsite lounge and full bar, a beautiful outdoor living room featuring water fountains and fire pits, meeting and event space, and more.

Claremont Lodge ($49-$80) offers unbeatable accommodations with comfortable stylish rooms, including available jacuzzi suites. Amenities include an outdoor swimming pool and free Wi-Fi.

Motel 6 Claremont ($69-$129) features one of Southern California’s finest tennis facilities available year-round with eight championship tennis courts. Guest amenities include free local shuttle and free use of its championship tennis courts; group and private tennis lessons are available for an additional fee.

Knights Inn Claremont ($55-$85) provides free Rise & Dine continental breakfast and an outdoor pool. Features include free Wi-Fi, available laundry services, and parking for vehicles of any size.

Visitor information and a complete listing of restaurants, hotels, boutiques, day spas, events and more can be found at www.discoverclaremont.com.

  1. Claremont Village. “Discover the charm, explore the change.” A European-styled village spanning 12 city blocks with more than 150 unique restaurants, shops, bakeries, day spas, art galleries, entertainment venues, hotels, lounges and more. Walking these streets will immediately make you feel you’re no longer in Southern California.
  1. Local dining. American, Afghan, Argentinean, French, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Lebanese, Mediterranean, Mexican, Persian, Thai and more. There are more than 80 eateries to sample in Claremont, most with local operators, and some with regionally renowned chefs and owners, including Stephen Rudicel (The Press Restaurant), Jose Ruiz (Tutti Mangia) and John Solana (The Back Abbey, Union on Yale). The variety and abundance makes this a weekend trip you want to make several times a year.
  1. College Heights Lemon Packing House. Originally built in 1909, the Packing House has been recently renovated to include shops, galleries, dining and night clubs. Home to Flappers Comedy Club, it also features vintage clothing stores, a cooking academy, and a nationally famous bookstore, Thoreau’s Bookshop, that provides donated books to inmates.
  1. A boutiquing paradise. Claremont is the home to dozens of locally owned boutiques featuring hand-selected merchandise, chic fashions, kitschy collectibles and antiques, gifts from unique corners of the world, and Fair Trade-sourced materials. Children’s clothing shop Tattle Tails, the tea boutique Bamboo Tea House, and upcycled finds at Heirloom and The Green Gypsies are among dozens of unique gift stores and merchants that give Claremont its unique vibe. The Packing House and Old School House also feature additional galleries and artisan shops.
  1. Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. The largest botanic garden dedicated exclusively to California’s native plants, the Garden displays about 2,000 taxa of California plants spread across 86 acres, including plants native to the California Floristic Province as a whole – from southern Oregon to Baja California. In addition to featuring a world-class botanical library and graduate-level education program, the Garden offers horticulture and community education programs to the public to encourage the use of California native plants in home landscapes.
  1. Local baked goods and sweets. From sweets at the Some Crust Bakery and morning treats at the Last Drop Café to bagels made fresh all day long at 42nd Street Bagel Café, Claremont Village is a Sweet Tooth’s delight. Local chocolatier Kline’s candy shop is filled with hand-dipped treats, and creamery Bert and Rocky’s features more than 31 unique, homemade ice cream and sherbet flavors.
  1. Wine and cheese. The Packing House Wine Merchants wine bar and shop is located on the western end of the Packing House, offering a world of wines by the glass, varietals from growing regions all over the globe, and small plates and dinners from its executive chef. The Cheese Cave, a busy cheese shop on Yale Ave., offers dozens of cheeses from around the world, their own hand-pressed olive oils, and a selection of unique foods.
  1. Bike-friendly streets. Honored as Silver Level Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists, Claremont’s streets are ideal for bicycling. For families, Claremont’s tree-lined streets offer majestic views of historic homes and the town’s college campuses, and easy rides to the Claremont Village to find an ideal eatery. Experienced cyclists can tackle the same route as the 2011 Amgen Tour of California from Claremont to Mount Baldy.
  1. Pubs and grub. Befitting a college town, Claremont features several unique pubs that feature good food, live music and televised sports. The Lounge at Casa 425 features small plates and a signature margarita. And from the Back Abbey’s “Best in L.A.” pub burgers and dark ales to Walter’s “secret bar” and the nightly live bands that play The Press Restaurant’s stage, Claremont has a after-dark scene that’s all its own.
  1. Dinner Theater and Historic Route 66. The Foothill Blvd. corridor includes the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Claremont and the Candlelight Pavilion dinner theater that is housed within the gymnasium of the Old School House, Claremont’s original 1911 school building. DoubleTree’s popular dueling piano bar, Piano Piano, comes alive nightly with acts straight from the Las Vegas Strip.
  1. Seven world-class colleges. A consortium of five undergraduate and two graduate schools of higher education all within walking distance. Internationally recognized for producing leaders in business, government and the professions. Check their calendar at http://www.collegescalendar.org/ for stimulating presentations, musical productions and other events.
  1. Public Plaza Village Square. Newly built in 2007, the Village Square is surrounded by shops, restaurants and the boutique hotel and lounge Hotel Casa 425, and is home to the Laemmle 5 Claremont A modern public art fountain meanders through the square, providing both soothing water sounds as well as space for outdoor picnicking and music.
  1. The great outdoors. In Claremont’s backyard are hikes at Claremont Hills Wilderness Park, skiing at Mount Baldy, and other adventures in the majestic San Gabriel Mountains.
  1. Free parking. Indeed, there is one place in Los Angeles County where you can keep your quarters and credit cards in your pocket: Claremont offers free parking throughout the city.
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