Densely packed conversations flutter across long, communal tables packed even more densely with hearty courses of sourdough bread and blue cheese, homemade soups, and oxtail stew. Platters of rustic, European-inspired cooking pass from person to person. All the while, the house wine keeps flowing. This is a typical scene at Centro Basco—a historic restaurant and inn devoted to capturing the vivacious and independent spirit of the Basque region. A fiercely autonomous region of Spain along its mountainous border with France, Basque Country has its own distinct climate, its own language (one of the few in the world with no known relationship to any other language), and its own unique approach to food.
"Opened in 1940, along with a boarding house for shepherds, this sprawling restaurant is one of the last remnants of the local Basque population who once herded sheep in what is now fully suburbanized Chino," notes Gayot. The Berterretches—a family with strong genealogical ties to the Basque countryside—assumed ownership in the 1970s, and they continue to embrace the region's culture today. Their cozy, lodge-like eatery features large dining rooms devoted to spirited family-style feasts complete with special menus, as well as a separate area for guests looking to enjoy a more private meal.
Myriad cultural influences appear throughout the menu. Dishes such as the oven-roasted lamb with a kick of garlic and the grilled calamari steak with tomato-pepper sauce clearly embrace the restaurant's distinctively Basque roots. At the same time, French and Italian entrees—including chicken cordon bleu and veal parmesan—lend a pan-European vibe to the selection.
Since 1957, the chefs at Cock-A-Doodle Restaurant have been comforting hungry stomachs with generous portions from their home-cooked menu of seafood, pasta, and steak. For dinner, diners can pique palates with appetizers such as the shrimp cocktail ($5.95), where a crew of crustaceans cannonballs into cocktail sauce. Mosey onto main courses with a medley of roast beef, bordelaise sauce, and mashed potatoes in the Angus pot roast ($12.99) or the fish 'n' chips' collaboration of cod and tarter sauce ($13.99). A selection from their menu of steaks, such as the Cowboy rib eye ($18.99) or sirloin steak ($15.99) can serve as delectable dinners or edible bicycle seats.
The chefs at Arianno’s Pizza craft Italian fare from fresh ingredients and house-made recipes. They hand-toss dough and bedeck it with house-made sauce and layers of real mozzarella cheese before personalizing the pizza, whether by slathering it with any of the restaurant’s 15+ toppings or by naming it "Steve." The pizzeria’s lengthy menu also showcases pasta dishes, each of which is accompanied by a side of garlic bread as well as platters of baby back ribs and hot subs packing fresh proteins and cheese.
Yellow, green, and red curries bubble slightly in pans, ready to be poured over pieces of pork and shrimp. Nearby, chefs flip teriyaki-glazed salmon filets and barbecue chicken on the grill inside Thai California Kitchen. They also pan-fry noodles and sauté proteins in a variety of dressings including peanut sauce or Thai chili paste.
It's been nearly three decades since the first Taco Factory Inc opened its doors, and though the business has expanded to other locations, some things haven't changed. Chefs at all locations still rely on the same family recipes to craft a menu of authentic Mexican cuisine. The guacamole that tops the restaurant's tacos, tostadas, and burritos, for example, is still made fresh in-house, and the salsas and tortilla chips are always handmade. Breakfast, which is served till noon, features hearty eye-openers like egg and bean burritos or huevos rancheros, while a variety of vegetarian options cater to those in search of lighter fare.
The Far East and the Southwest converge behind the glass walls of Dragon Loco Chinese Food, where inventive cooks fuse traditional Chinese and Mexican flavors. The menu teems with tacos, burritos, and quesadillas, which can be stuffed with globally inspired fillings such as carne asada, spicy orange chicken, and Chinese barbecued pork. The burrito loco, a house specialty, pairs bacon’s salty crunch with grilled onions as hot and sweet as a greeting card from the equator. In addition to preparing in-house meals, the kitchen caters parties and meetings with trays of hearty tacos.