Restaurant of the Week: Joey’s BBQ

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Joey’s BBQ, 3689 Riverside Drive (at East End), Chino; closed Mondays

Joey’s, established in 1978 by a couple of transplanted Texans, had a mini-empire at one point in the ’00s, with locations in Rancho Cucamonga, Pomona and Upland, but those have closed, in that order, leaving only the original in Chino.

I enjoyed many a meal at the Pomona Joey’s but had never been to the original, and didn’t even know where it was. When a friend suggested eating there, I was all for it.

It’s off the beaten path on the western end of the city, an area I’d never seen and which feels somewhat country. It was strangely thrilling, as if I’d driven through a wormhole into an alternate Inland Valley. This visit was after dark, increasing the mystery factor. I’m interested in returning during daylight hours for a better look, although I wonder if the sun will reveal a much more prosaic view. (I drove home up East End, itself alternately rural and old industrial.)

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Joey’s occupies a corner and it’s a neat old wooden building, a kind of roadhouse, said to date to 1929, with a giant smoker out back. The interior has a Texas mural and several dining rooms. (I didn’t get a good look at the mural due to tables of diners in the way, but it wasn’t bad.)

They smoke their meat over mesquite charcoal here. The menu has salads, a range of barbecue (beef and pork ribs, brisket, ham, tri-tip steak, turkey and chicken), steaks and sandwiches, with a range of sides and, for dessert, peach cobbler and bread pudding.

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I got a half-order of St. Louis-style pork ribs, a dinner that came with two sides, from which I chose a baked potato and red cabbage slaw ($23.50). This was good, tender barbecue, and the sides were tasty too. I ate it all and could barely breathe.

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My friend had an 8-ounce tri-tip with baked potato and potato chips ($19); she loves the tri-tip but the highly touted chips were a letdown.

The place has a lot of character, and a walk around afterward showed a fenced-in patio with picnic tables, strings of lights and a small stage for performers, with cowboy music taking place on weekends in warmer weather, I’m told. Looks like a fun place and I’ll be back.

(Joey’s might want to update its cash registers: My receipt still lists phone numbers for Upland and Pomona.)

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’47 things’

Pomona College put together a list for its seniors of “47 things to do before leaving Pomona,” basically a local and Southern California to-do list, given that many students are from out of state and may never, or rarely, return. And 47 is a college in-joke.

It’s a cool list; click on the hyperlink above to see it. Depending on how you count, I’ve done about 27, if you allow, for example, eating at Donut Man (No. 45) but not at midnight.

I’ve never been to Joshua Tree National Park (No. 1, ulp) or taken the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (No. 40), or ordered from the In-N-Out secret menu (No. 10), the latter perhaps because I operate strictly on the up-and-up. Somehow I don’t see myself hitting the slopes (No. 12), catching a wave (No. 13) or playing broomball (No. 42), whatever that is.

What do you think of the list and how do you rate?

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Steve Julian, 1958-2016

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I’m sorry to report that KPCC-FM “Morning Edition” host Steve Julian died Sunday at age 57 of brain cancer. Julian was a native of Pomona and returned often. We were friends, bonding through our mutual interest in Pomona, the media and good food, and I think by our quiet personalities and impish senses of humor.

He commented now and then on this blog. I profiled him in 2011, we shared a ride in the Pomona Christmas Parade that year, he wrote the introduction for my book “Pomona A to Z” and we met for lunch a half-dozen times, meals that resulted in blog posts here. (Cachanilla was the last; that’s Steve in the photo.) I expect I’ll have more to say about him in print this week, but in the meantime, here’s KPCC’s story on him. An excerpt:

For 15 years, Julian’s smooth, soothing voice woke up tens of thousands of listeners in Southern California, providing the day’s news, weather and traffic.

“He was a singular talent,” said Larry Mantle, host of KPCC’s AirTalk and Julian’s best friend. “He is completely irreplaceable.

“The tone and richness of his voice,” he added, “perfectly conveyed the man behind it.”

Update: My April 27 column is a tribute to him.

Also: The photo above, which I took in 2011, shows Steve at one of the East Second Street fountains in Pomona. The original photo has been lost digitally (sigh) and the only version that appears to exist is a small version that Steve downloaded at the time and posted on his own blog. It’s reproduced above at full size.

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Column: In Cable visit, a flight down memory lane

Gary Olson, 97, a World War II Navy Veteran from Reno, Nevada, gets a close look of a DC3 from the 1940's, as it's parked on the airstrip of the Cable Airport, reminiscing the times when he would fly out of this airport in the 1950's, during a visit of the Cable Airport in Upland, CA., Tuesday, April 19, 2016. Gary Olson has been flying most of his life and had a commercial pilots license up to his 95th birthday, he also knew Dewey Cable, the founder of the Cable Airport. (Photo by James Carbone for the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin)

Gary Olson, 97, a World War II Navy Veteran from Reno, Nevada, gets a close look of a DC3 from the 1940’s, as it’s parked on the airstrip of the Cable Airport, reminiscing the times when he would fly out of this airport in the 1950’s, during a visit of the Cable Airport in Upland, CA., Tuesday, April 19, 2016. Gary Olson has been flying most of his life and had a commercial pilots license up to his 95th birthday, he also knew Dewey Cable, the founder of the Cable Airport. (Photo by James Carbone for the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin)

A former pilot, now 97, returned to Upland’s Cable Airport, where he used to teach students to fly in the ’50s and ’60s, and which he hadn’t seen in decades. He met with the Cable family, who were kind of in awe of him, and who took him up in a plane. The story is in my Friday column.

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Restaurant of the Week: North Woods Inn, Covina

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North Woods Inn, 540 N. Azusa Ave. (at San Bernardino), Covina

A visual fantasia, this hunting lodge-themed eatery and watering hole in Covina is replete with oil paintings, dark wood, period lamps and stained glass windows, not to mention faux logs and perpetual “snow” and “icicles” on the roof.

John Clearman opened the place in 1967 and it still appears to be going strong. He opened a few other theme restaurants in the area as well, with other North Woods Inns in La Mirada and San Gabriel and a Steak ‘n Stein in Pico Rivera still under the same ownership. He was also responsible for Rancho Cucamonga’s Magic Lamp. LA Weekly wrote a nice history of them all.

Friends and I used to eat at Covina’s North Woods Inn near Christmas every year, but we stopped, after one friend, incensed that his steak and shrimp dinner didn’t have the number or size of shrimp he was envisioning, put the kibosh on returning. I’d forgotten the whole thing until inviting them all there for my birthday. (He didn’t attend.) I had the idea after revisiting Covina Bowl and realizing it was a block west of North Woods. A two-in-one birthday opportunity had presented itself.

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We were there for a mid-afternoon Sunday lunch. While you wait for a table, you can sit around the center fireplace or take in the surroundings, which include a stuffed bear under glass. Soon we were seated, at a table that appeared hewn from a log, with a gas lamp on it. The staff all wear red vests. It’s charming to a high degree.

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The meat-focused menu is mostly steak and seafood dinners, with a few sandwiches thrown in too, and isn’t for vegetarians or light eaters. We had a 9-ounce lumberjack steak ($32), filet mignon ($37), chicken ($23) and the North Woods Special Platter ($31), which came with fish, steak and fried chicken. All dinners are accompanied by red cabbage and caesar salads (I had some of each, below) and cheese bread, plus rice pilaf and baked potato.

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We all liked our food. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was good enough. Two small criticisms: Dinners come with potato AND rice? That’s a little starchy. And the mushroom gravy, which I opted for with my potato, was disappointing rather than a treat.

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If you haven’t been to North Woods, you should probably go at least once. It’s one of the most unique restaurants in the region and well worth a drive from the Inland Valley.

After our three-hour lunch, my friends felt pressed to get back home, so I went bowling on my own. I bowled one game, for a score of 174, my third-highest ever! Thanks, Covina.

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