The Other Pomona: Worth the Trek South?

If you’re like me, you didn’t make any spring break plans and are now stuck hanging out in Claremont all week. And, if you’re like me, and have rarely ventured outside of the Claremont bubble, then what better time is there to discover what’s been right around the corner the entire time? It’s exactly like when (spoiler) Michael J. Fox falls in love with his best friend Susan Ursitti at the end of Teen Wolf. In this scenario you are Michael J. Fox; the town of Pomona—our big sister to the south—is Susan Ursitti, and life is Teen Wolf (isn’t it always?).

Pomona’s downtown section, which seems to be the place worth visiting if one is ever curious to see the city, is conveniently where the city’s Metrolink station is located. Since Pomona isn’t very big, its downtown only spans about ten blocks. It is not very different from Claremont, though one shopping area called the Mission Promenade on Garey Avenue does feature some charming local establishments like Starbucks, US Bank, and the UPS Store. And if you’ve ever woken up on a Saturday morning and thought to yourself, “If I don’t go to a Christian bookstore TODAY I will literally die,” well… you’re in luck! The Upper Room Christian Bookstore is only two blocks away from the Metrolink station.

All glibness aside, Pomona’s downtown is worth visiting for the Arts Colony and the Antiques Row blocks, on 2nd Street off of Garey Avenue. In the Arts Colony, I went into the Magic Door IV used bookstore, which boasted an impressive collection of genre fiction, considering the store’s size. Also remarkable are the rare and ornate editions of books nestled among the normal paperbacks. The clerk working on the day I visited was friendly and helpful, and recommended more books than I can now recall when I bought George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones for $5. Near the Magic Door is the Glass House, a record store by day and an all-ages live music venue by night—come for the eclectic array of punk, hip-hop, and indie rock bands, not for the booze. The vintage clothing scene is also alive and well in both the Arts Colony and Antiques Row across the street, with Kaiser Bill’s Military Emporium and La Bomba Vintage Clothing leading the pack.

West of Antiques Row is the Western University of Health Sciences. The campus is small and pretty, despite its preponderance of unsettling bulging-eyed bronze sculptures of normal people sitting around and doing normal things, like writing in a notebook or reading The Wall Street Journal. It looks like Mount Vesuvius erupted near these things: there are so many that I started to think that real bystanders turn into sculptures the longer they stand still.

Apart from its statue-happy college campus and antique-happy shopping, Pomona’s real attraction lies in its dining culture; the town is full of great, cheap restaurants that foodies in the Inland Empire often go out of their way to visit. Near the Magic Door IV are Joey’s BBQ, a Texas-style barbeque joint with three other locations in Southern California, and Aladdin Jr., an Arabic restaurant and café. I had some pita and hummus and Turkish coffee at the latter, all of which were tasty and relatively cheap. The place’s décor wasn’t especially nice, just some simple white chairs and tables arranged outside, and the inside seems to need some renovation, but the food was good, and the price was reasonable enough that I didn’t really mind. Further east on 2nd street is Tony’s Restaurant, a small, industrial-looking place best known for its French dip sandwiches. Pomona also boasts various Mexican restaurants like Los Jarritos, El Merendero, and Mexico Lindo that would have looked inviting had I not just eaten at Aladdin Jr. All of these places promise a good, inexpensive meal, and an escape from the dining hall/overpriced Village restaurant dichotomy students are usually faced with.

Yes, the attractions of downtown Pomona may not deserve a regular trip, but with some Spring Break free time and a cheap Metrolink ticket, it’s worth a visit. It’s cooler than Claremont, grungier than Montclair Plaza, and infinitely easier than a trip into L.A. Why not give it a chance?

Magic Door IV 155 W 2nd St (909) 472-2991

The Glass House 200 W. 2nd Street (909) 865-3802

Kaiser Bill’s Military Emporium 224 East 2nd Street (909) 622-5046

La Bomba Vintage 195 West 2nd Street (909) 629-4247

Aladdin Jr. 3161 N. Garey Ave (909) 593-3887

Joey’s BBQ 117 West 2nd Street (909) 865-0699

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