The Cuisine Scene
Brenda Hill

Mimi's Cafe
San Bernardino, CA

Even before I moved to California, I loved Mimi’s Café. While visiting my son who lived in Upland Hills, I wanted to try a new restaurant, so he took me to this lovely upscale café with beamed ceilings and colorful Mardi Gras prints hanging on brick walls.

He ordered French onion soup, something I wasn’t too eager to try, and a French Dip sandwich. Accustomed to traveling at least twenty miles from my small northern Minnesota town for anything other than burgers at my local fast-food restaurant, I played it safe with a BLT and salad. But when the server delivered his steaming soup covered with melted cheese, I began to think I should’ve taken his advice and tried something different. He was gracious and offered a taste, which I promptly accepted. Instead of a dark brown broth with the bitter flavor I’d expected, Mimi’s golden brown soup tasted smooth and creamy with butter and cheese.
When the server brought my son’s sandwich, I eyed his half-pound of lean beef piled on a grilled sourdough baguette and considered ways to bribe him into trading. When all my tactics failed, I played on his sympathy. Even though he swore he loved me, I had to talk fast before he’d consider trading. Even then, he only gave up half his sandwich.

Now I live in California and I’ve visited the cafe in several cities. Although I love to try different places, sometimes I want something I know will be fantastic, whether it’s a sandwich or a complete meal. Mimi’s have added so many delectable items to their menu that I like to go as often as I can to make sure I don’t miss anything.

Sheila and I visited the café on Hospitality Lane in San Bernardino.

Crystal, our server, brought our bread basket and my French onion soup.

Every meal, whether it’s pasta, steaks and chops, fish, or one of their classics such as pot roast or chicken pot pie, includes their signature bread basket of a freshly-baked sourdough baguette and two generous slices of their carrot-raisin bread accompanied by softened butter.

Matthew Underwood, one of the managers, told Sheila and me about Mimi’s founder, Arthur J Simms, who, according to lore, flew spy missions over Europe in World War Two. After the war ended, he ran the commissary at the MGM studios, and with his son, Tom, owned several restaurants in the Los Angeles area. Then, with two more partners, they decided to open a restaurant patterned after French cafes that serve generous portions of upscale, freshly prepared food. In 1978, Mimi’s was born.

Who was Mimi? I asked. Legend has it that Mimi was a young woman Arthur J. met in a town near Versailles toward the end of the war, and the French touch was exactly what the partners wanted in their restaurant. Customers agreed and now Mimi’s has expanded into twenty-one other states.

If you order one of their six salads such as Bleu Cheese and Walnut, a Zesty Chicken Tostada salad, or one of the four others that are offered, you have your choice of a freshly baked muffin, including honey oat bran, buttermilk spice, carrot raisin nut, low fat blueberry or one that’s currently in season. Salads range from around eight dollars for the petite size to ten for the larger one. You can add one of their daily soups for a dollar.

Some of their sandwiches include Albacore and Avocado on sourdough toast; Meatloaf Ciabatata of grilled meatloaf with caramelized red onions with cheeses and garlic mayonnaise; West Coast Reuben with turkey, ham, Swiss cheese and 1000 Island dressed on grilled rye, or their classic French dip. But my favorite is their Pot Roast Sandwich with tomato, lettuce and mayo on a sourdough baguette. I love that one. The pot roast, cooked in-house, is lean and tender, and when it’s combined with the crunch of the baguette bread, it’s great.

Their burgers are half-pounders, and they have a French Quarter burger with avocado, bacon, double Swiss cheese and 1000 Island dressing on grilled garlic sourdough for $8.99. All of their sandwiches and burgers include fries or coleslaw.

While checking the menu, Crystal suggested an appetizer, and they all looked so good that it was difficult to select one. She suggested the Jazz Fest, a combination of three selections. Soon she brought a plate of Fried Chicken Tenders, Spinach and Artichoke Dip, Zucchini Parmesan, slices of French bread and dipping sauces. Crunchy chips accompanied the dip of spinach, sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and four cheeses. Chopped green onions topped the bowl. Spears of crunchy zucchini with parmesan and romano cheese lay beside the chicken tenders. But the nicest surprise was the tenders. Instead of minced chicken, I bit into white chunks of chicken breast, and Crystal said the cooks pull the chicken from fresh-baked chickens. They even make their own breading and tortilla chips. The dip was thick and cheesy with chunks of artichoke and Sheila and I scraped the bottom of the bowl. We would have ordered another helping except we wanted to save room for dinner. 

Sheila chose the Crab Cake dinner, and I considered the Hibachi Salmon, flame broiled fresh salmon and stir-fried vegetables glazed with ginger sweet and sour sauce served on jasmine rice, or the Filet of ‘Soul.’ I’d had the sole with vegetables previously and loved it. Sometimes I’ll want some old-fashioned comfort food, and nothing’s better than the Turkey Breast dinner with homemade mashed potatoes, gravy, and their homemade cornbread dressing. As a Southerner raised on cornbread, I love Mimi’s dressing.

Some of their other dinners are Meatloaf, Pot Roast, and their special Chicken Pot Pie. Dinners ranged from $10.79 for the Grilled Beef Liver to $15.49 for the 12 oz Top sirloin.

I’ve also had several of the pasta dishes such as Pasta Jambalaya; Garlic Shrimp Spaghettini, a delicious dish of large shrimp and pasta with basil and marinara sauce. My son often orders the Chicken Feta Penne of sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil and pine nuts in a tomato asiago cream sauce for $12.79. It’s good and creamy, especially when the everything melts together and the flavors mix. The pine nuts add a delightful crunch.

But while they all sounded great, I wanted something a little different, so Crystal pointed out three new seasonal dishes that had been added since my last visit.

Pork Shank braised with herbs, topped with a creole mustard sauce, served with fresh asparagus and macaroni and cheese sounded yummy, as did the Macadamia-crusted Mahi Mahi. Available grilled or crusted with macadamia nuts, with citrus, artichoke and crab sauce, the fish is served with fresh vegetables and choice of potatoes.

Although I have favorites throughout the three-page menu, I zeroed in on the third dish, Pan Seared Scallops and Salmon Medley with Ratatouille Ravioli. I love scallops, and pan seared jumbo scallops with fresh salmon served atop ratatouille ravioli tossed in artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and tomato cream sauce sounded heavenly. All three seasonal dishes were around fifteen dollars.

One thing I knew from dining at their café: all their food is freshly prepared. Their mashed potatoes are from real potatoes and their vegetables never come from a bag or a can. 

When my dinner arrived, the chunks of salmon were huge as were the scallops. Red tomatoes and green herbs in the cream sauce added color as well as flavor, and the tangy artichoke ravioli combined with the cream sauce made an unusual, delicious taste.

For Sheila’s dinner, mounds of mashed potatoes and cole slaw accompanied her three crab cakes. Made with lump and blue crab, the cakes were golden brown and served with a side of citrus remoulade sauce.

They have a dessert menu but I had to pass. Crystal showed me their kids’ gazette with a menu and games. She also told me that while they do not have a separate senior menu, the kitchen will divide a dish into two portions without an extra charge. Their iced tea, coffee and soft drinks are endless, and they offer a wine list as well as cold beer.

And yes, ‘Real men like quiche,” at least at Mimi’s where it’s baked from scratch and served with green salad, fresh fruit and a freshly baked muffin.

Truly a family affair.

(909) 890-4333
Open 7am-11pm 7 days
Now serving breakfast