Restaurant of the Week: The Hat

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The Hat, 857 N. Central Ave. (at 11th), Upland

I hadn’t been to a Hat in years, and that was at Victoria Gardens, so when a friend invited me to lunch at the one in Upland I agreed immediately. The location is funny, a somewhat desolate stretch of Central Avenue, but that may accentuate the novelty of the inviting sight of the broad windows and neon sign, especially at night. What is this doing here?

(It was worth doing this Restaurant of the Week solely for an excuse to return at night for a photo!)

They do have nine cold sandwiches, but the Hat is known for its pastrami dip, burgers, hot dogs and chili. It’s a popular spot despite (or because of) the location, with a steady stream of cars in the parking lot and the drive-through.

My friend had the cold ham and Swiss ($5.60, below), which he swears by. I got the signature pastrami dip ($8, below that). It’s a good sandwich, and there was so much loose pastrami that I could have made a half-sandwich out of it. Wonder if I could have bought half a French roll?

My friend praised the chili cheese fries, which I hadn’t had. I returned a few weeks later for that ($6.60) as an entree. Not my healthiest meal, obviously, but the chili is pretty good and ladled generously. I ate about two-thirds and took the rest home, where I got two small meals out of them.

The Hat was founded in 1951 in Alhambra. Upland’s location, which opened in May 1987, was the third and at that point was in unincorporated territory; it’s since been annexed into Upland. Jerry Cook, the general manager, opened this Hat and is still there daily, touching tables and chatting with customers. The chain now has 10 locations.

One thing I love is the guy behind the counter in Upland who calls out order numbers. He has no microphone. His lungs provide the amplification. He just bellows in what sounds like a Swedish accent, but almost certainly isn’t. “Nomber vorty-twooo-ooh!!” His volume and urgency make you hop to it — an action you would be unable to take after being weighed down by your meal.

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Mod! Westmont Estates

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Westmont Estates is a 1950s subdivision in west Pomona south of Mission Boulevard and west of the 71 Freeway. The tract made the short list of Pomona Valley midcentury landmarks in Alan Hess’ book “Googie Redux.”

Attributing much of Westmont to architect Arthur Lawrence Millier, Hess wrote: “Millier, a local architect, designed these contemporary ranch houses and lived in one himself. Like other contemporary subdivisions, this one served employees of the nearby aerospace plant.” He was referring to General Dynamics.

Westmont was the subject of a 2005 column in my “Pomona A to Z” series.

Above is the home at 1827 W. 9th St., a typical example of the neighborhood’s modest ranch-style homes.

Below is Westmont United Methodist Church at 1781 W. 9th St. It was an overcast day, sorry, but you get the idea of the church’s neat architecture.

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Westmont Community Center mural, Pomona

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While checking out the Westmont neighborhood of Pomona for a “Mod!” blog post, I spotted the Community Center, below, which has a certain flair to it. (It’s at 1808 W. Ninth St.) It was hard to photograph as it’s a long building, but perhaps some of the charm is visible.

On the center’s west wall was a surprising sight, a vibrant mural depicting young people playing music, dancing and painting. It’s titled “Using Your Imagination” and was painted by Pedro Pelayo in 1999. Above are two angled views, one head on (click for an expanded view) and one of the credit.

Nice work.

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Column: Record Store Day is music to fans’ ears

Saturday is Record Store Day, with local shops offering special releases (most of them on vinyl), giveaways and a festive atmosphere. Friday’s column has more details as well as relevant links to the RSD website and release list. I also plug my Hitchcock series at Ontario’s library and present a few nuggets from Monday’s Upland council meeting that I cut from Wednesday’s column.

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Restaurant of the Week: Chu Fine Chinese Cuisine

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Chu Fine Chinese Cuisine, 11334 Fourth St. (at Milliken), Rancho Cucamonga

Chu has been across from Ontario Mills, in the same center as Chipotle and Kula, since about 2008. I ate there once, occasionally made jokes with friends about Chu Chinese Food being a good place to chew Chinese food and kind of forgot about the place until returning recently with a friend for dinner.

It’s a sitdown restaurant, comfortable and moderately snazzy, with vases and other objects displayed in a series of niches (seen below) and 3-D art produced with layered cutout images hanging on the walls. One depicts the Last Supper. People were seated in front of it, eating supper themselves, which prevented a closer look. All the pieces are for sale, generally at $1,000 or more, a price that would seem beyond the means of most who would eat at Chu’s, where entrees range from $7 to $13.

We ordered a la carte entrees from the house specialties list: fried chicken with hot garlic sauce ($11, below) and rice cakes Shanghai style ($9, bottom). The chicken came in bite-sized pieces. We liked it best, even if the sauce didn’t qualify as hot. The rice cakes weren’t the diet-food kind but rather soft, chewy discs the size and color of water chestnuts, served with a few vegetables. I liked them, although a platter of them was a few too many.

Most of the rest of the menu is typical Cantonese-American fare, down to chop suey and cream cheese wontons. Unexciting, but not bad, and this is one of the few Ontario Mills-adjacent spots (Green Mango is another) where you’re guaranteed to be able to get a table quickly on a Friday or Saturday night when all the chains are gridlocked, and get a decent meal to boot.

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‘Special K’: grrreeaat!

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I caught “Special K: Cal Poly Pomona’s First 75 Years” on Sunday in its only planned performance. As I won’t get a chance to go into it in my column until later this week, if at all, I’ll take a moment to say how lively it was, especially when it could have been dry as a bone.

The primary characters were cereal magnate Will Kellogg, humorist Will Rogers, poet and Cal Poly prof Virginia Hamilton Adair * and Mike Taylor, a student who surreptitiously built a treehouse on campus (hey, it was the ’70s). With them as narrators and regular stage presences, this was a delightfully off-kilter look at the university’s history. Good show.

* name corrected

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Upland ‘tourism’ grows

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The monthly downtown Upland walking tour that I wrote about last week definitely did better Saturday than the usual six to eight that had been attending since its debut last September.

“By my count, 37 people, but someone said over 40. Let’s go with the higher number!” enthused organizer Ann Lara via email. With a suggested $5 donation, the tour generated $150 for the Cooper Regional History Museum.

“I am calling it the David Allen effect. Almost everyone came because of your article,” Lara said. (Aw, shucks.) “I told the group if they were real good and took a nice photo it might end up on your blog or Facebook page. They all said ‘David Allen’ instead of ‘cheese’ for the photo.”

Maybe that will catch on. OK, probably not. But the tour seems to be catching on. The next one is May 10.

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