My Meal Cost: $23.71 for 2. Health Rating A. Yelp 2.5 stars
It's done, stick a fork in it. Yay, I've successfully eaten at all 56 currently open eateries on Garey Avenue starting at the extreme south at the 60 Freeway where I ate at In-N-Out, all the way north to Foothill and Garey where I just finished at Castañeda's Mexican Food. A long journey that took 58 weeks (one a week with a skip recently, but I did eat on Garey the weeks of July 4, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas).
This was a bit OCD in many people's minds, but it was a good test of setting out with a goal that very few thought I would see through, and then seeing it through. I remember when Inland Valley Daily Bulletin columnist David Allen saw my blog in the early days that he wondered if I would make it all the way where others had given up. I made a deal with him that if I got close to the end, I'd sit down with him and let him write a column on it. Many of you saw it and have responded. Well, now I've actually finished.
This final entry is a small chain restaurant, Castañeda's. They have 23 locations, mostly in the Coachella valley, through Riverside, San Bernardino and Corona, with outliers in La Habra, Azusa, and Pomona. I should at this point mention that they are open 24 hours (for those craving a taco at 4:00 am, although I believe that it's only the drive-thru) and that they're "Home of the Carne Asada Fries."
The place is a nice clean operation that looks like any nice clean fast food place (think Mickey D's, Carl's Jr., or Taco Bell). A counter for ordering, with a menu board and a self-serve fountain for beverages. Tables with chairs give you a place to eat in and they have the ubiquitous, and busy while we were there, drive-thru.
The person behind the counter was pleasant, although it's somewhat disconcerting when they're ringing up your order and talking into a headset to someone in the drive-thru, but that happens all over the place today.
The Lovely Mrs. C, accompanied me on this trip so we ordered different things and then "sampled" some of each other's items. The menu is quite extensive with burritos plates, tacos, tortas, rolled taquitos, tostadas, enchiladas, breakfast plates, breakfast burritos, burritos, menudo, and 25 different combination plates. The lovely Mrs. C decided to try a shrimp burrito and augmented it with three chicken flautas. I, after looking at the extensive menu, decided to see how this compared with my last Mexican dinner at Los Jarritos and so I had the #17 Chile Relleno and Enchilada. The combination came with salad, rice, and beans. We each had a medium fountain beverage (Coke for the Lovely Mrs. C, diet Coke for me).
The meals were delivered to our table (no number to place on the table, no name given to be yelled out, just a counter person who remembered who ordered what--impressive). The time from order to delivery was just enough time to retrieve a beverage and get settled.
The presentation of the dishes was quite good. The food looked lovely and enticing. The actual taste experience?
First, the beans and rice. The beans were creamy but lacked any discernible spice making them somewhat bland. They did melt a little shredded cheddar over the top and stuck in a couple of tortilla chips which ended up crispy except where they were stuck into the beans where they were limp and soggy. Similarly the rice was nothing to write home about. It was somewhat dry and had no real flavor at all. I did make a stop at the salsa bar and picked up some salsa, radish slices, and cucumber slices. The addition of the salsa to the rice and the beans helped to give them a bit of flavor.
The cheese enchilada was a corn tortilla wrapped around shredded cheddar cheese (or processed American?) with a slight amount of a red sauce over the top of both the enchilada and the relleno. The cheese was melted but a bit grainy instead of creamy. It just didn't seem to be the right cheese for this kind of dish. The sauce, what there was of it, as bland and most of is was on top of the relleno which I ate first so by the time I got to the enchilada, there wasn't enough to counteract the cheese. The relleno had a nice coating, not too eggy, and it was filled with a creamy, melted white cheese. The chile they used was a rather small chile, unlike the nice large one at Los Jarritos, so didn't seem like a great value, it was good, but there wasn't a lot of it. That makes the inclusion on their menu of a 2 chile rellenos combination plate a lot more understandable.
The salad! What can I say . . . it was a very nicely presented on the plate. A bed of lettuce with chopped tomato, onion, and red pepper sprinkled on one side and a stripe of sour cream (crema) in the center. It really was quite lovely. However, the plate they serve their combinations on have three compartments, one for the rice, one for the beans, and one for the main item. That means that this salad was layered over the end of the rice, enchilada and relleno. So when you ate the salad, the crema and juices mixed with the enchilada sauce and made the items below mushy and took away from any flavor the enchilada sauce might have had.
The lovely Mrs. C reports that the shrimp burrito was good. the large flour tortilla was crispy on top, but the sauce, rice, and beans inside the burrito made the bottom very soft, so it was very difficult to pick up and eat. She ended up eating it with a knife and fork. Before we got our order, she was curious as to whether the burrito would be dressed with a white (tartar style) or red sauce. The answer was a red sauce that appeared to be the same as the enchilada sauce on my meal. The shrimp were grilled and she said quite tasty. She felt that the burrito was mild in the spice area (since she doesn't really like any spiciness, this means that it's probably VERY mild indeed).
While she thought a burrito on its own might not be enough, she found that she couldn't finish the three flautas so I did get to sample one of them. The flautas in this case were flour tortillas wrapped around rice and chicken, topped with crema and a guacamole sauce (I say sauce rather than just guacamole, because it was quite thin and seemed to have more sour cream than avocado. More like a green goddess dressing than a guacamole. I found them to be rather bland. By this time I had used all of the salsa that I had gotten, but I think that it would have benefitted from a bit of that salsa.
Thus ends the GREAT ADVENTURE. I hope that you've enjoyed following as I visited some good, some mediocre, some questionable, and some exciting spots along Pomona's main north-south corridor.
There are still four traditional restaurant spaces which may one day see new life and if they do I'll try and revisit here to add them. The one's I'm referring to are the former Playa Azul at Philadelphia Street, the former El Tapatio near Grand, the former Firehouse Inn at Alvarado, and the former Casa Jimenez just south of Foothill in the big shopping center where I reviewed Happy Wok.
I've also just noticed that the signage for DeAnda Tacos has been returned. Did Gil's Tacos not work out? Is it once again part of the Orange County DeAnda chain? You may see an update on that page in the near future.
But for now, I'm going to take a rest, get myself out of the "oh my God, I've got to get out to the Pizza place that's next on the list and write a review. What the heck can I say about my 5th take-out pizza place" routine.
While I don't think I'll try anything as structured as this, you might see me writing about other restaurants in Pomona, or perhaps experiences beyond food. But I will be looking at doing something to highlight the Queen of the Valley, Pomona.