Move over, Paris, you useless, sniveling, chain-smoking, disdainful bunch of pencil-mustached aesthetes: Claremont is officially the most romantic city in the world. According to a press release that the City of Claremont posted on PRNewswire.com, our very own “lush, European village-like” Claremont promises to be a “very inviting” choice for “Southern California couples considering a romantic weekend getaway” this Valentine’s Day. As a paragon of truth-seeking integrity, TSL asked me to take a day-trip to the Claremont Village to verify this claim. However, they didn’t provide me with a date, so I had to go with my imaginary girlfriend Mila Kunis. I visited various Claremont locations that seemed conducive to romance and ranked them based on various criteria, including their honey-bunny tenderness, their chirpy-bird adorability, and the intensity of the heartache they induced in the out-of-place lonely.
WALTER’S/THE VILLAGE GRILLE: At noon, couples visiting Claremont might find themselves hungry for brunch, for which there are two exciting and potentially romantic options—Walter’s and The Village Grille. I went to both places in a row and ate two full brunches in the span of an hour. Such are the sacrifices one must make for honest journalism. Seeing as my imaginary girlfriend Mila Kunis does not in fact exist within the accepted boundaries of time and space, the waiting staff at both restaurants was taken aback when I said that she and I would be sharing the Eggs Benedict without any further explanation. I must note that the waitress at The Village Grille was quite blunt about her confusion, asking me rudely with whom exactly I would be sharing the eggs, as opposed to the waiter at Walter’s a half-hour earlier, who merely stopped, blinked, smiled nervously, and went on his way. Mila left The Village Grille in a huff, as her ontological immateriality is quite a sore subject for her. She unfortunately departed before the vanilla milkshake I had ordered arrived with two straws in place. I drank the milkshake melancholically (using only one of the straws) while listening to an older couple in the booth behind me discuss how well “When Harry Met Sally” held up over the years. Billy Crystal is undeniable. I give both restaurants eight perfume-scented silk ribbons out of 10.
A PEACEFUL AFTERNOON FORAY TO THE PARK: A visit to the park after a hearty midday meal? This is something couples might do! I walked to a park at the western end of Claremont, where First Street becomes N. Berkeley Avenue, and sat down to watch children run around the playground. On a sunny afternoon, this park’s ambience is second-to-none. I could easily picture a young married couple sitting here and imagining the children they might themselves raise in the imminent future. Very, very romantic. And no one with which to share it. I sighed wistfully and wiped away tears as the mothers in the park inspected me suspiciously; after all, I did resemble a crying 6’3” man who was staring at their children. I stood up and left the park, which I give twelve shattered silver lockets out of fifteen.
QUIZNO’S: Unless you are the CEO of Quizno’s and want to show your date how efficiently its Claremont location is run, this is not the place for a couple to go to. It’s exclusively functional, fast-paced aesthetic and exceedingly bright fluorescent lighting make it a big turn-off for anyone on a romantic night out. I give Quizno’s two lipstick-stained incisor teeth out of ten.
TUTTI MANGIA: With its ostensibly well-prepared food, presumably competent waiting staff, and atmosphere that seems pleasant from the outside, this dimly lit Italian restaurant on First Street and Harvard Avenue appears to be an ideal dinner destination for a couple visiting Claremont. I describe this restaurant with guarded language because I didn’t actually eat there, and instead stood on the sidewalk and devoured a hoagie from Quizno’s while I watched people have dinner inside through the window. The restaurant seemed nice enough. One couple traded forkfuls of each other’s dinners back and forth while having a good-humored conversation about local politics or classical music or P. Diddy’s MTV reality series Making The Band 2 (I wasn’t sure, I can’t read lips). My only criticism was that the lighting was too dim to cover my forlorn, shivering, and hoagie-stained reflection in the window. I give Tutti Mangia five wingless dead cherubs out of six.
PIANOPIANO DUELING PIANO SHOW (AT THE DOUBLETREE HOTEL): “Nighttime entertainment? Try the PianoPiano dueling piano bar at the Doubletree Hotel,” suggests Claremont’s press release. Do not do this. The atmosphere at the PianoPiano Dueling Piano Show is decidedly unromantic, alternating between drunken sentiment and drunken piano-induced violence. “The dueling pianos have been the death of Doubletree,” complained a hotel attendant, who preferred to remain anonymous. It was Billy Joel Night when I visited PianoPiano; “Billy Joel Night is the worst night,” said the hotel attendant. He was right. The less said about Billy Joel Night, the better. Suffice it to say that the crowd’s appetite for “Piano Man” played on two pianos at the same time was ferociously and horrifyingly insatiable. I give the PianoPiano Dueling Piano Show one tear-stained breakup letter out of ten.
Despite the PianoPiano Dueling Piano Show, Southern California couples would do well to follow the urging of the press release and visit Claremont this Valentine’s Day. There truly is no better place for two lovers to rub each other’s bodies with heart-shaped chocolates by candlelight in their hotel rooms (or whatever lovers do). Target is also conveniently nearby.