OK, recently got back from visiting my family in Norco/Corona. It may be on the edge of the desert, but it isn't completely devoid of good food, as one may think. Here is some of what I found in both Norco and Corona.
- Norco's Best Hamburgers (actual name of the place, not my judgment) on Hamner Blvd. Despite the title, their best offering is their pastrami sandwich. While certainly not in the same league as Katz' in NYC, they are very good in relation to those found in the surrounding area. It's big, juicy and flavorful and, at worse, satisfies a serious craving for pastrami when away from NYC.
- Ranchland Market on Sixth St, East of I-15. I've posted on this before. Still a great place, with awesome produce at cheap prices. It's a great place to go if you want bulk grains or legumes, like bulgar wheat or beans, etc. It also has a good middle eastern selection. [BROKEN LINK REMOVED]
- Norco Rodeo. If you happen to be near Norco in August, you have to go to the rodeo they host as part of the national professional rodeo circuit. What a total trip. You'd really think you were in texas if you showed up to this thing - chalk full of true blue cowboys. Back to the food... once you pay admission and go through the entrance, there are a number of places to eat. Steer clear of all of them except the BBQ place, called Mouth of the South. They had a small selection, but their BBQ beef brisket was great. They take it out of the big bbq smoker in front of you and slice it on a wedge. Mmmm.
- Puerto Nuevo on Sixth in Corona, near the Sixth-Smith Intersection. Good sit-down mexican place. The beef tacos were very tasty, but the best thing I had was Camarones a la Diablo (Shrimp like the devil). Wow, one of the spiciest things I've ever eaten (though I did ask for it extra spicy). The shrimp was juicy and plump, swimming in this super spicy sauce. Not sure what the sauce comprised of, but it was very, very good. And the spice didn't detract from the good flavors of the food.
- El Tapatio Grocery, on Sixth in Corona. This place is great if you ever need anything even remotely related to mexican food: fresh tortillas, huge slabs of chicharron, big selection of mexican cheeses and crema, as well as a host of mexican cooking products (comals, molcajetes, tortilla presses, etc.). They have by far the best produce for the cheapest prices in the area. On Wednesdays (I think), they have really big sales on their already cheap produce. It's a madhouse during the sales, though. Beware.
- Tacos Mexico (I think is the name) at the corner of Parkridge and Main St. It was formerly a Taco Bell. They sell great tacos, my favorite being buche. I also liked bistek. Can't recall if they had al pastor.
- Miguel's Jr (multiple locations in Corona and Norco). Growing up, this place was the benchmark for all mexican food for me. Now, I realize it is a good benchmark for decent american mexican food. Good for lunch, but considering the numerous authentic places in the area, why spend your time there? That said, if you are in the market for familiar mexican that is much, much, much, much better than taco bell or del taco, this could be a good place for you.
- Sadly, the great place to buy produce in Corona, Foothill Produce, has finally gone the way of the rest of the orange groves - tract homes. They were on Ontario Blvd, in one of the last groves between some developments. Apparently they only leased the land and the owner sold off for the big bucks. Too bad. Tom's Farm is still around for pretty good fresh produce. On a side note, I heard they recently opened a mexican restaurant there. Maybe it won't be too bad, since they'll have a choice of fresh produce to work with.
Anyhow, to wrap up, there were a number of other interesting places in Corona that I didn't have time to scout out properly. For example, a Thai restaurant on sixth near the old city hall, a chicken place on Sixth, a good looking panaderia, etc. Long and short - it may be desert, but there are oases to be found. Hopefully others will be able to scout some good places out and post here. Good luck.