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Claremont COURIER/Friday, July 17, 2015


Jeni Wrens: Tasteful eatery comes to roost at Route 66

mong the businesses

dotted along Foothill
Boulevard in Claremont is an oasis of culinary
charm called Jeni Wrens Caf
& Catering. Its an eatery specializing in breakfast and lunch,
marked by simple fare drizzled
with gourmet touches.
Want French toast? Try the Apple Blossom French Toast, featuring a grilled cinnamon brioche smothered in sauted
granny Smith apple and garnished with
whipped cream.
Do you like egg-in-a hole? Try the
Wrens Nest, which starts when the chef
pours an egg into grilled sourdough bread
and fries it. The hole is flower-shaped and
the toppingsgrilled spinach, bell peppers, artichokes and feta cheesemake
the dish a delight for vegetarians and omnivores alike.
We do everything we can to make
everything fresh. We cut up our apples
every day and we cut our potatoes every
day, owner Jen Smith said. Nothing is
frozen and it never comes out of a can.
Ms. Smith prides herself on supporting
local businesses. Jeni Wrens serves wine
from the family-owned Leaping Horse
vineyard in Indio, and beer from Dale
Bros in Upland is on tap. The champagne,
which is imported from Spain, comes
from further afield. But again, the vineyard is family-owned.
And the baked goods, supplied by
Upper Crust Bakery in Anaheim, are pure
crusty goodness. There are fresh muffins,
scones, brioches and artisanal breads in
varieties like spinach parmesan, Italian
tomato focaccia and marbled rye.
Ms. Smith has spent years working in
the restaurant industry, most notably The
Spaghetti Factory. But Jeni Wrens marks
the first time she has launched her own
I felt like I had grown and learned as
much as I could where I was at, she said.
Ms. Smith, who has three children, was
also ready to make her life more familyfriendly. Though she occasionally has
catering gigs that extend into the evening,
the restaurants doors close at 3 oclock.
On the weekends, her sons Drexel, 19,

COURIERphotos/Collette Weinberger
Owner Jen Smith enjoys creating a family-feel at her restaurant, as each customer
is encouraged to choose their personal coffee cup to use. Jeni Wrens opened in
February and is located on Foothill Boulevard.

and Baylee, 17, and her 16-year-old

daughter Emma work for her.
Getting up at 6:30 a.m. to roll silverware may not be the kids idea of the perfect Saturday, but its a good way to teach
them about the business of making a living.
And even though Im at work, Im
getting to spend time with them, Ms.
Smith said.
Family is hugely important to Ms.
Smith. In fact, the restaurants name was
inspired by a sweet family memory. My
Grammy called me Jeni Wren when I was
a little girl, because I talked a lot and the
wren is a very chatty bird, she explained.
The name is just the start of the restaurants homey feel. You can pick out your
own cup from a motley assortment of coffee mugs, including souvenir cups from
destinations ranging from San Francisco
to Sweden, before its filled with steaming coffee. Ms. Smiths aim is to make
people feel like theyre on vacation, perhaps ensconced in a cozy bed-and-breakfast.
The ambience is nostalgic without
being fussy. Tables are topped with pretty
fabrics and shelves are decorated with

vintage items like lunch boxes, thermoses

and tins for sundries like coffee, salt, sugar
and flour.
Ms. Smith is quite handy, and creative
repurposing is everywhere in evidence.
She made her own coffee hutch, decorated with fence pickets and an old shutter. A lamp-hung iron gate is suspended
over one table, which just happens to be
made from an up-cycled door.
For Michelle Singer, Jeni Wrens has
become a home away from home. She
and her wife, Robyn Katchem, walked
into the place two weeks after it opened.
The Piedmont Mesa couple was so won
over theyve come back every weekend,
and they take every opportunity to encourage friends to give Jeni Wrens a try.
Ms. Singer likes to order the Wrens
Nest and treat herself to a white chocolate
scone. Ms. Katchem opts for banana nut
French toast. Whatever they order, Jeni
Wrens always hits the spot.
Its just a warm environment. Its very
cozy and homey, with its shabby chic decorations, Ms. Singer said. Its a shining
example of what Claremont has to offer.
Ms. Smith has the kind of detail-oriented nature that you need when running

a restaurant. For example, she pays a

touch more to get the kind of Bigelow tea
that comes in a gauzy fabric tea bag instead of a paper one because it reminds
her of the tea they serve at a spa.
Shes not a chef, but she does come up
with great ideas for menu items. When it
comes to execution, she gives plenty of
credit to her chef Javier Vargas, who she
found through a culinary school in Baldwin Park.
Its good to work with people with different knowledge and different experience, she said. They can teach you.
And when it comes to savory goodness,
visitors can learn a thing or two from Jeni
Wrens. If youre not sure what to order,
you might want to start with the cafs
Restaurant Week special, which will continue to run through this Sunday, July 19.
For $10, you can get a sandwich and a
drink, accompanied with homemade
pasta salad, crisp potato chips or fresh
These arent just any sandwiches. For
instance, theres a pulled-pork panini, with
the tender meat flavored by Sweet Baby
Rays barbecue sauce and cooled by cole
slaw. Theres also a killer chicken pesto
sandwich served on basil Focaccia bread.
There is also a growing number of regulars who urge you to give this little caf,
the latest to perch on Foothill Boulevard,
a try.
We are Jeni Wrens biggest cheerleaders, Ms. Singer said.
Jeni Wrens is nestled between the
Shell station on the corner of Foothill and
Towne and the Stater Bros shopping center, at the site of the former Inka Trails.
The address is 1077 W. Foothill Blvd. in
Claremont. For information, call (909)
625-7444 or visit
Sarah Torribio