For a college town, Claremont Village has a decent number and variety of restaurants. Yet none of these restaurants compare to the ones you will find if you travel several miles west into LA. Even though there is not much of a bar scene in Claremont, there are a couple options off-campus in walking distance. And fortunately, the Village’s newest restaurant, Casa Moreno, provides a welcome addition to Claremont’s food and beverage options.
Casa Moreno’s greatest strength is its atmosphere. Situated in the courtyard between Coffee Bean and the movie theater, the restaurant has a nice patio section that faces the fountain in the center of the courtyard. There is ample comfortable seating so that larger groups can enjoy the outdoors. The inside features more seating as well as the bar and TVs for watching sports. Immediately upon sitting down, diners are given plenty of fresh chips accompanied by a salsa with a slight spicy kick—chip and salsa refills are complimentary and arrive quickly. Casa Moreno’s outdoor seating replaces Casablanca’s porch down the block as the most enjoyable casual dining atmosphere in Claremont.
The quality of their dishes places Casa Moreno among the best restaurants in Claremont. It is not a typical “Mexican” restaurant where everything is a variety of taco, fajita, or burrito (although these options are also there). Casa Moreno instead offers a variety of dishes that revolve around different combinations of spices and meat. Take for example the “Enchiladas de la Crema.” Designed as a spicy item, the Enchiladas de la Crema featured several corn tortillas stuffed with chicken which had been simmered with spices until it achieved a fall off the bone texture. Onions, chorizo sausage, and a large avocado slice completed the dish, which was topped with a creamy sauce. While not searing hot, the various spices made it quite tasty. Accompanied by hearty portions of refried beans and rice, Enchiladas de la Crema was a filling meal for a reasonable price of $14.95. “Mole Poblano,” one of Casa Moreno’s signature dishes, has a very complex spice combination and flavor—a rarity for the Claremont restaurant scene. The menu has enough options that everyone, including vegetarians, will find something that interests their tastes.
The drink menu also makes Casa Moreno stand out. The beer menu is fairly good (although not Back Abbey level), but here you want to order one of the margaritas. The restaurant has an extensive variety of tequilas and advertises itself as a tequila lounge. The menu features over thirteen different varieties of margaritas, or you can make your own combination using their various tequilas and other ingredients. The lowest priced margarita is over eight dollars, but the portion is fairly generous. The margaritas come in an oversized wine glass with salt around the ring (a slightly awkward glass choice but the quality of the drink makes up for it). For non-margarita people, Casa Moreno also has many other mixed drinks, including martinis and mojitos.
When you don’t have time to eat there, try Casa Moreno’s takeout menu. Lunch is the best deal as the takeout menu offers some of Casa Moreno’s specialties as well as some smaller items. For example, the Tostada salad is a fairly generous taco salad with your choice of either chicken or beef for around $8. Each order comes with one serving of chips and salsa for free–but make sure you ask if it is in your bag, because sometimes they forget to include it with your meal.
Casa Moreno brings a concept to the village that was unheard of before: a restaurant where you can go to eat and drink. The Press and Back Abbey are nice bars, but almost no one eats dinner there. Other restaurants have good food but are not designed to encourage diners to stay after they eat. Casa Moreno offers Claremont pretty good food combined with good drinks and a great atmosphere. This is definitely a major addition to the Village.