The first Cali Corner feature is the city of Claremont. Officially on the outskirts of LA County, this college town is where I have my private practice office. I find myself here lot. For special dinners, for that new independent film, and for unique shopping. I considered leaving this town off the list so I could keep it all to myself, but here we go!
The packing house on First St. has all kinds of goodies inside. My favorite Claremont coffee house, Augie's, is housed here and shares the space with the A la Minute ice cream shop. Go with their signature lavender vanilla latte; it's so rich and smooth. There is a vintage clothing store, a kitchen that holds cooking classes for kids, and an aerial circus studio! I like to grab food at Eureka Burger or the Whisper House, which serves up some epic cocktails in a Prohibition era space. I'm going to stay with the theme and suggest the too-small-for-me Menage cocktail, with violet liquor and lavender syrup.
I refer to this area as the "fountain square" and I love it. It is nestled between First St. and Oberlin Ave. The open quad has plenty of outdoor seating and this neat fountain depicting evolution and science themes. A family owned Laemmle independent theater faces the square and is a great place to see a film when it's just the adults. Le Pain Quotidian has a nice patio lined with bougainvillea and is the perfect spot to watch the kids playing in the fountain while enjoying a tartine sandwich. The only hotel in downtown Claremont, Casa 425, sits along First St. and has a patio that opens up to the square. But if you make one stop to eat in Claremont, head to the Back Abbey, which faces Oberlin Ave. Easily my favorite place in the world for burgers and beers, the Abbey has a Belgian feel inside and has the best outdoor patio, complete with blankets for cool nights. Did I mention the fries are cooked in duck fat? Reason enough to make the 40 minute drive from LA.
There are all types of one of a kind shops in Claremont that make me feel good about shopping small. My absolute go-to spot for unique gifts is Heirloom, which faces Indian Hill Blvd. They specialize in handmade items and have a neat section of local travel books, as well as awesome gifts for the kiddos that won't get tossed in the corner after a day of play. I bought my sister and her wife a set of matching "Mrs." coffee mugs here for their wedding! They also offer workshops so you can DIY your own bottle lamp. Nectar is my new favorite clothing store when I can't quite afford to stop in Anthropologie that week. For Fall, they have a stellar selection of hats and booties and the cutest jewelry. The store is totally relaxed and antiquely styled.
The Claremont Village is the area along Yale Ave. and its many quaint, tree-lined side streets. This part of town is older and has an eclectic mix of brick and adobe style buildings, hosting plenty of eateries and shops. My picks for eats are Bardot, Viva Madrid, and Union on Yale. Bardot is a lively restaurant with killer goat cheese lollipops and short ribs (my hands-down favorite). Ask to sit in Phil's section; he is my absolute favorite server! He will tell what is hot for that night and just how to specialize your meal. We like this place for birthdays or date night. Viva Madrid is in a dark, indoor alleyway and, as the name suggests, specializes in Spanish tapas. Get there early; it's small and cozy. I like to head to Union on Yale for their Sunday brunch menu or when I am in the mood for a good, wood fired pizza. The mid century decor is a nice change and they source all of their ingredients locally. This reminds me, I need to head there for their seasonal pumpkin pizza! Rhino Records is kind of a legend around the San Gabriel Valley and besides having the best vinyl selection, they have lots of fun odds and ends for purchase- think baskets of Star Wars patches and pop culture action figures.