The SAQs of dining (Yes, I made that up. Are you impressed?) are extremely important considering the plethora of options easily accessible through digital media. How do you choose the perfect place that captures the right ambiance, quality food ingredients, and above and beyond customer service? Well I suppose you can turn to Instagram, Yelp or Open Table or maybe you’d rather look at curated selection of places already vetted for having the best service, ambiance, and food. A triple home run! Well here in the beautiful City of Trees, I’ve spent years exploring various restaurants at different times, trying different menu items, chatting with servers, and getting the full Claremont food experience. Here is a list of the restaurants I believe will fulfill your SAQ checklist.
Uno Tre Otto
Normally they say to “save the best for last”, in the case of Uno Tre Otto, the best is going first! Serving fresh Italian cuisine, Uno Tre Otto is tucked away in an alley behind Some Crust Bakery and is a cozy restaurant that seats no more than 5 tables inside making it feel mysterious and exclusive. Recently they’ve expanded to include outdoor dinner as an option. Uno Tre Otto has it all; talented kitchen and waitstaff, locally sourced ingredients, and a unique location with an intimate setting. Reservations are highly recommended- possibly even two weeks in advance.
Service: I’ve never had an unpleasant service experience at Uno Tre Otto, in fact their “above and beyond” customer service approach makes the dining experience that much more enjoyable and memorable. Servers recommend wines or cocktails that will go best with your dinner or dessert and are thorough with their explanations of the entrees. The most memorable service experience I had was when they had to cancel my reservation due to a private party and gave me a $50 gift certificate to come back and dine with them. I gladly accepted!
Ambiance: Uno Tre Otto’s ambiance is my absolute favorite in the Claremont Village and for good reason. The exterior of the building has a beautiful mural with vines wrapped around the building dressed with stringed ambient lighting. Inside is very dimly lit with a rustic Italian charm and wood panels and beams throughout. The chefs are cooking your meals in the same room making you feel like you’re gathered at home with friends and family. The bartender climbs a ladder to mix finely crafted cocktails upstairs and the cocktails come down in a dumbwaiter.
Quality: Uno Tre Otto is an extension of their family acreage on Amy’s Farm-located in Ontario, CA. All their ingredients are harvested daily, making it to your dinner plate the same day! The same responsible sourcing extends to their meat, seafood, and dairy as their website states “Our goal is to marry careful preparation with a simple concept to create complex flavors.” Their delicious pasta is made in house, their cocktails contain all fresh ingredients, and their wine selection is carefully curated to perfectly marry with the seasonal menu.
Reserve a table on OpenTable, call 909-624-1373 or just walk in (although reservations are highly preferred)!
The Meat Cellar
The Meat Cellar is a unique butcher shop and restaurant owned by a husband and wife team serving American fare on the outskirts of Claremont Village. The butcher shop offers first class meats to be taken home or prepared for you in the restaurant! During the Covid crisis, The Meat Cellar really stepped up to help their community providing FREE meals on week days for industry workers and their families. Not only do they go above and beyond to support their community/industry in need, but their food, service, and atmosphere makes them really stand out from the rest.
Service: Anyone entering The Meat Cellar will always be greeted by a friendly host. Because it can get pretty packed, they’ve really invested in making the wait for your table as comfortable as possible. You can grab a glass of wine or two in the waiting area with nice cowhide upholstered furniture until your table is ready. My most memorable service experience was at the bar top when the bartender let me try a few tequilas before I ordered a tequila-based cocktail to ensure that I’d be satisfied with the drink.
Ambiance: They really do have the “meat” theme down. Inside you’ll see display cases full of high-quality meats, meat themed art, cowhide upholstered furniture, a well-stocked bar from top to bottom of the finest spirits, ambient lighting, wood paneled walls, and a gorgeous mural of Claremont. Since you’re greeted with a sign that says “Welcome to the home you never knew you had” you know your stay is going to feel cozy, welcoming and lively.
Quality: Their meats are so incredibly succulent and are all cooked to perfection on a wood fired grill, so everything is cooked right on the flame, even their grilled octopus! Their pork comes from pigs that are fed exclusively acorns ensuring results of finely cured meats (Resource article). Their Porterhouse and bone in ribeye are cut in-house. Their iberico legs are all aged from different dates and are delicately displayed. The Meat Cellar prides themselves in providing the finest meats and cooking them to perfection.
The Quarter Creole Cuisine
The first time I dined at The Quarter, I knew Claremont had a real jewel on their hands. The customer service is impeccable, the food is cooked with love and passion, and the atmosphere transports you to The French Quarter in New Orleans. The Quarter’s vision is for their patrons to experience the heritage and culture as their website states, “We hope to provide the most authentic Creole dining experience outside of the New Orleans French Quarter. We use the finest ingredients and have multiple generations of family cooks that influence our food.”
Service: As you walk in, you’re immediately greeted by the host who is always smiley and friendly. They’ll ask you how you are doing and kindly show you to your table. If you’re lucky enough, Tracy will be there to greet you – she’s the owner and is so incredibly welcoming! The servers are very attentive and polite and are equally as passionate about providing the best service and making sure the food meets your expectations.
Ambiance: Picture this . . . crushed velvet curtains, crystal chandeliers, intricate tin roof tiles, brick beams, indoor street lamp, old family photos, and mardi gras beads. That’s exactly what you see as you enter The Quarter. Um, sign me up! Not only are you ensconced in authentic décor, but you also smell sizzling catfish and crawfish that permeates through the air. It’s a homerun if you can go on a Tuesday evening to hear live jazz music by Gumbo Child. View photos of The Quarter here.
Quality: The Chef at The Quarter is Norm Theard who was also formerly the chef at Roux Creole Cuisine in Laguna Beach which has 5-star ratings across any review site. He traces his roots back to New Orleans and is displayed on the wall at The Quarter titled “The Quarter Legacy”. So, you’re guaranteed to experience and taste quality and authenticity in every dish you order.
The Quarter now offers a full bar! Lief is their friendly and talented bartender and you can look forward to him mixing up a Sazerac, Whiskey Sour, Mint Julep, Gin Fizz and many more.
Reservations are highly recommended and can be made here.
Many of my blog topics mention Viva Madrid in some way and that’s because they’re kind of a big deal. It’s quite possibly the best authentic Spanish food you will have outside of Spain. This quaint Spanish restaurant is perfect for a date, to celebrate a special occasion, or to sit at the bar top and mix it up with the locals. During the pandemic they expanded to outdoor seating as an option.
Service: I love the service at Viva Madrid! The last two times I dined in, the host greeted me back (she recognized me and acknowledged that) and the bartender greeted me by my first name. They take the time to know their patrons (especially their regulars) and that’s what’s really special about Viva Madrid. They recently upgraded their waiting area outside of the restaurant to make the wait more comfortable. Just another way they invest in service.
Ambiance: Walking inside you see a huge ornate chandelier hanging from a painted sky ceiling with Spanish décor on all 4 walls⎯top to bottom. The smell of Paella and sound of sizzling garlic shrimp permeate throughout. If you’re lucky you’ll see the bartender light flames on a Spanish Coffee. Expect to stay awhile because the ambiance will make you not want to leave!
Quality: Their food and tapas are made-to-order to ensure freshness and their Paella is always cooked to perfection. They use fresh fruit in their sangria’s which is absolutely delicious, and they mix up their craft cocktails with fresh ingredients. Their bacon-wrapped dates, squid, empanadas, lamb, croquettes and so many other tapas are always made fresh and served with great presentation.
Reservations are recommended and can be made on their website.
Aruffo's Italian Cuisine
Quite possibly the best Italian restaurant I’ve been to outside of Italy. Aruffo’s is definitely the town favorite considering it’s been in operation for 35 years by Tom and Valerie Aruffo. They’re so passionate about quality and service I’m on a 5-year streak celebrating my birthday at Aruffo’s. They consistently deliver on all fronts; exceptional service, rich and authentic Italian food, and inviting atmosphere.
Service: Their servers must have a PhD in hospitality because they go above and beyond and are quite professional. They’re on top of your refills, ask about your night, attentive to the taste of the food, and great at making wine recommendations.
Ambiance: Walking into Aruffo’s is like walking into a trattoria or bistro in Italy. Italian art covers the wall and the energy is high and lively. Immediately you’re greeted by a host who will kindly show you to your table as you walk past people laughing, drinking chianti, and enjoying house made pasta. They completely renovated their outdoor back patio and it’s a gorgeous space with lights and chandeliers hanging from the trees, brick floors, heat lamps, brick fireplace, and wood planked walls.
Quality: The pasta is made in house and desserts are made fresh daily and you can taste that quality in dishes like their butternut squash ravioli and grilled shrimp linguini. Their baked garlic bread comes out hot and fresh and seriously is one of my favorite things about Aruffo’s (yes, their bread!) Their chicken is free range, steaks are succulent, and seafood is fresh. Pairing an Italian wine with your dish will be no problem since they offer a wide selection like dolcetto, nero d’avola, barbera, montepulciano, barolo, and chianti- of course!
There you have it. 5 stellar restaurants in Claremont that could quite possibly meet your SAQ expectations. What other places in Claremont check all your boxes? Write them in the comments. Until then, thanks for reading and catch you later!
Select images sourced from Yelp.