My Neighborhood: Burgers and Craft Beers in Claremont, CA
Editor’s Note: This article begins a series of hyper-local neighborhood dining guides called “My Neighborhood.” Our goal is to find the spirit of what truly are the dining destinations within the important social fabric of a neighborhood. Each neighborhood’s dining story is unique and engaging. We’re hoping at the same time to uncover some undiscovered treasures and also learn from classic legends that continue to thrive. These are the restaurants, bars, cafes, shops, and markets that help make “home,” truly your home. If you’d like to write about your neighborhood, please feel free to contact me via e-mail or Twitter: @TrevorFelch.
We’ll start with the town of Claremont, California, where years ago yours truly spent his college years at Claremont McKenna College and began my food writing career as the dining critic for the Claremont Colleges’ newspaper The Student Life. You can even compare my Back Abbey review and my article on the just-opened Eureka Burger (my finale article before graduation), with the paragraphs later in this article on both burger and craft beer establishments several years later. Do note how our opinions, years apart, are nearly identical.
Claremont, also called the “City of Trees,” is about 30 miles east of Downtown Los Angeles, the furthest eastern city in Los Angeles County. The city is known for its Claremont Colleges Consortium and for being a sophisticated oasis amidst the sprawling suburban sea that is the San Gabriel Valley. It is certainly not known as a dining destination, though it should be.
Without further ado, here is Pomona College senior Brian Shain’s Claremont, California.
Without a doubt, The Back Abbey is Claremont’s finest dining spot. As Claremont’s original gastropub, The Back Abbey is known mainly for its gourmet burgers and fries. The restaurant’s namesake burger is the classic, ever-reliable standout, with aged gouda and caramelized onions adding to a perfectly cooked burger with bacon. Another of the burger offerings changes with the seasons, ensuring the menu stays fresh.
The Back Abbey’s fries are unique in that they are fried twice, once in duck fat. This gives them impeccable crispness, and with three different sauces accompanying the fries (including an excellent horseradish-chive option), everyone at the table will find something that suits their tastes. Besides burgers and fries, the menu includes a classic soft Bavarian pretzel, many salads, and sandwiches, such as “The Tip,” complete with beef tenderloin, caramelized onions, and bleu cheese crème fraiche.
While The Back Abbey’s food offerings are tasty enough to always deserve sampling, many of my trips to this Claremont establishment center on the beer. With at least 20 beers on tap (and a lengthy bottle list), there is always something new to try. The beers are mainly European, with a heavy focus on Belgium. You will find some of the world’s finest beers, such as St. Bernardus Abt 12 and Rochefort 10, and the staff can provide intelligent suggestions, provided you can get a hold of them.
On that note, the main downside of The Back Abbey is its limited size and extreme popularity. The inside space gets quite loud, and if arriving at any sort of a normal hour on a weekend, finding a seat is very difficult. Of course, this is merely a reflection of the restaurant’s quality, and The Back Abbey is the must-hit restaurant in Claremont, whether for a full meal or a single beer.
Claremont’s second most popular restaurant is also a gastropub, Eureka Burger. In terms of food quality, it is solid, but not as good as The Back Abbey, so with the two restaurants so close to each other, I see no reason to eat at Eureka.
On the other hand, Eureka does offer an excellent alternative to the European-centered beer list of The Back Abbey. Eureka focuses on local beers, with other options from around the US. The standard options are good, if unspectacular, but special events are where Eureka shines. Every Wednesday is Steal the Glass Day, where a beer is offered in a glass from its brewery, plus you get to take the glass with you! Eureka also gets a keg of Pliny the Younger each year, and unlike the rest of the world, there is no huge line to get a taste of this famous beer, served with three of Russian River’s other beers.