Stinky’s, The Midway and … ?

My column today on Cafe Montclair, the latest restaurant in the building that once housed the Plum Tree, the Majestic, Ginger’s Place and, originally, Lizzy’s, prompted a note from Bob House:

“Today’s column about the new Montclair restaurant got me thinking about Valley restaurants and bars that are no more. Would readers find that an interesting thread? I nominate two from Claremont’s past: Stinky’s, a burger place on Foothill that lasted into the ’60s, and The Midway, an iconic dive bar, also on Foothill, that made it into the ’70s. The Midway is featured in Kem Nunn’s first book, ‘Pomona Queen.'”

Feel free to add to the list, readers.

Two further notes I left out of the column: The hostess at Cafe Montclair, who held the same job at Plum Tree, is Pia Jackson, whose family owned the fondly remembered Di Censo’s Italian Restaurant in Upland. And Joanne Boyajian of the Ontario Library discovered there was a Tin Lizzy restaurant on Holt Avenue in Pomona from 1968 to 1970, of unknown relation to the Montclair Lizzy’s, which also had a Tin Lizzy theme. Huh!

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  • JMac

    This could be very popular, David! I always felt you should have followed up your “A to Z” feature with one involving past or present dining establishments from the area. As for the Midway, I think that place may have actually made it til the early ’80s. There also was one other Tin Lizzy, in La Verne. I believe it was on D St in the early ’70s. Naturally, I’ll have to add a couple iconic Pomona eateries … Henry’s and the Taco Kitchen.

    Great blog by the way!

  • Bob House

    Someone else remembers the Taco Kitchen — amazing! As a kid in the ’50s I was thrilled to use my limited Spanish there and order “frijoles.”

    And Henry’s! Here’s a link for the history of “Chicken in the Rough”:

    In the early ’80s I was eating in a restaurant in Denver, struck up a conversation with the maitre d’ and it turned out he had been a busboy at Henry’s while I was dining there in the ’60s.

  • Charles Bentley

    Yes, there was a Tin Lizzy in downtown La Verne. I believe it was on the NW corner of D Street and Bonita Avenue. As for eateries past, how about the Bit ‘O Sweden Smorgasbord in Pomona, Renee’s New Mexico in Rancho Cucamonga, and the Mandarin Garden Restaurant in Ontario? All great, all popular in their day, and, sadly, all now just memories in the Inland Valley.

  • JMac

    Whoa, the Bit O Sweden! I had forgotten about that place. Where exactly was it located? Who remembers that before the Cask and Cleaver came into its existence (in then-Cucamonga), it was a Mexican restaurant by the name of the Casa De Mayo?

  • Bob House

    Just wondering if the Charles Bentley posting here is from the Bentley’s Market family in Claremont. I know there was a brother in my generation named Charles. If so, as you likely already know, there must be some interesting stories about this long-time Claremont institution.

    [No doubt true, but Charles is from the roofing Bentleys, not the produce Bentleys. — DA]

    Did you see the news about Wolfe’s Market giving up on groceries and focusing on the sandwich counter? Great sandwiches, I’ll admit, but another bit of history fading away.

  • JMac

    Okay, I shook the few brain cells I have left, and a few other “long gone” establishments fell out. Who remembers these? Seapy’s on Holt, Sherwood Inn on D Street La Verne, Old Hickory on Foothill and Grand in Glendora, and the Heritage House next door to Hamilton Drugs on N. Garey? But maybe someone can remember the name of the burger joint on the corner of Garey & Orange Grove? That place had the best deep fried tacos!!!

  • Bob House

    Was that Burger Chef at Garey and Orange Grove?
    Or was BC further north on Garey, closer to PV Hospital?

    Burger Chef history link:

  • JMac

    The Burger Chef was at Garey & Artesia, and is now a favorite spot of David’s, if I recall……The one I’m looking for is just south of the 10.

    [Garey and Artesia…oh, that’s Golden Wok, the place with chow mein, hamburgers, donuts and Louisiana fried chicken, right? — DA]

  • JMac

    One and the same, David. Originally a Burger Chef, then I believe it actually became another Taylor Maid donut shop in the late ’70s, but I’m a little foggy on that memory.

  • dedication

    how about Taco Lita, Sir Georges Smorgasbord on Garey in Pomona not far from Jenkins supermarket.

  • Dave Linck

    Can anyone tell me if the booths from DiCenso’s now grace the Vince’s on Foothill? They look familiar!

  • Eric

    Oh yes the Tin Lizzy in La Verne…actually a few doors down from the SW corner of D and Bonita. The SW corner of D and Bonita was Winchell’s Doughnuts, and the NW corner was Crocker Bank. I think the oldest institution to make it into the ‘modern era’ was the Homer Dacus filling station at the SE corner, which is a park now.

    And don’t be fooled by the Warehouse Pizza that I think is still there, a few doors down from the SE corner of D and Bonita. In the ’90s (and perhaps now) it was all seafoam green, bright, airy and cheerful. But back in “the day” it was a dark, seedy maze of blacklights put there to make the amateurish little paintings around each booth glow in the dark. It was where you got pizza and beer and played Pac-Man, and it had a bad reputation, which is why teens were always going there, hoping to get a few sips of beer. There was all sorts of junk piled on the rafters, including the old Homer Dacus sign after he closed down.

    The big building of the University of La Verne library used to be an Alpha Beta grocery store, and the smaller building used to be a TG&Y. The little one next door with the peaked roof was a Tastee-Freez.

    Here’s a toughie for anyone out there who can answer…there was a church in La Verne that was turned into a dress shop. One day in the ’70s someone threw a cherry bomb through one of the windows and most of the inventory burned…anyone remember the name of the store?

  • ray

    Was the store called “HOUSE OF FABRICS”?

  • Vincent Lima

    I remember the Bit o Sweeden in Montebello, Calif. Also one in Alhambra I believe! I was just a child so I don’t remember the driving directions but the Montebello location is for sure. Great Swedish MEATBALLS that even kids liked!!

  • Cheryl

    My brother was a busboy at the Bit O Sweden in Alhambra. Valley Blvd. Near Ricky’s SkyRoom.

    What about Betsy Ross? There were a couple when I was at Cal Poly 30 years ago that saved me many a night from actually studying.

  • Ann Berkery

    Can’t forget HOT DOG SHOW on Holt at San Antonio in Ontario, GRISWOLD’S SMORGASBORD & bakery at the old High School site in Claremont and FORD LUNCH at Holt and Euclid in Ontario a very long time ago =) And STUFT SHIRT on Foothill in Upland.

  • Craig E. Hellman

    I worked at the store in downtown La Verne, Alpha Beta.

  • Shelli Anderson

    Oh my gosh, Betsy Ross ice cream on Foothill (I think it’s a real estate office now), down the street from what used to be Griswold’s Smorgasbord.

    I use to get pickle ice cream and bubble gum ice cream there when I was a kid. Mmmmmmm.

  • jennifer lunn

    my mother used to hang out at the midway bar back in the 1970s. her name was patty (patricia) lunn from san dimas, ca…she’s 54 years old….i was wondering if anyone remembers her…i am actually looking for a man named steve who used to hang out there also who met my mom and broke down with her one night on the 57 freeway on his motorcycle…this would be in the year 1977!!!!! does anyone remember them???? please help me i have been looking for him for 20 years at least. i want to find out what his last name is….he is my father and i have never even met him….i dont even know if he knows he has a daughter…..any info will help please …i was born on june 16,1978 in pomona, ca. i am almost 31 years old….my mom has brown straight hair and brown eyes, has an older sister named carol, 4 brothers named lloyd, frank, bobby and kenny……thank you.

    • NightHawk

      There was a regular at The Midway named Steve Burnahm (sp?) who rode a Bike and was real smooth with the ladies. I’d bet $$ it was him.

      • Jennifer Denise Lunn

        I can’t believe it…Do you know anything else…A way to get a hold of him? What school he went to , what city he lived in, a friend or family member. ..I have been trying to find him since my mom told me about him when I was like 9 years old. …thank you so much…..

        • Jennifer Denise Lunn

          Please anyone who knows a man named steve…I need all the help I could get….email me please thank u

      • Jennifer Denise Lunn

        Do u know anything else I need to find him. Maybe a friend he hung with or his age, school he went, if he was in biker club. Please

  • jennifer lunn

    please email any info to my email: jenn_tylers_mama (at) yahoo.

    p.s steve has 2 grand children…
    Tyler 5yrs and MaKenzie 1yr

  • Steve J.

    The Hot Dog Show was on Holt Blvd and originally owned by the Antonelli family of Ontario. They had a daughter named Debby that I knew when I was a kid. Mr. Antonelli worked for the dairy on the corner of Arrow Hwy and Benson Ave in Upland.

    Stinky’s restaurant on Foothill later became The Upper Crust in the ’70s. How about the Magic Lamp restaurant on Foothill Blvd? Or the Pup ‘N Taco drive-thru restaurants?

    There was Taco Lita on Holt Blvd and San Antonio Ave in Ontario. Back in the ’60s, they would have 10 tacos for $1 on Friday nights. That was smart. They made their money off the soft drinks.

    Anyone remember the monkey cages at the Valley Drive in Ontario? I know I am not crazy, they were there I tell ya! Oh, and the Grinder Haven also in Ontario! They were still great the last time I had a grinder there in 1976 or so. It was their flaky crust bread that they baked on the premises that made them special. I grew up in Ontario during the ’60s and ’70s. How about Mi Taco on 7th and Mountain Ave in Upland? Their burritos were huge!

    [Steve, thanks for the memories. — DA]

    • rwk1950

      The Valley Drive-In was in Montclair not Ontario.

  • Ray S.

    Does anyone remember Bob’s Billiard Parlor in downtown Pomona? I believe it was on Second St. in a basement. I don’t think it survived the 70’s. Speaking of the Midway Bar in Upland in the 1960s, does anyone remember the Rock Inn Bar just down the street on Foothill Blvd.?

    • NightHawk

      I *THINK* the Rock Inn was down the street on the opposite side on the road that led up to Cable airport. Ask Bob House.

  • mark h

    green frog – now the buffalo inn

  • Jim

    Ray S, the Rock Inn was the same building as the Midway, just a name change. I tried sneaking into the Rock Inn while still a high school student in the late ’50s, then adopted the place (Midway Inn) in ’63 and spent many, many days there until 1980 and knew many of those who did the same.

    • Jennifer Denise Lunn

      Do u remember a local biker named Steve

  • C. Collins

    Wondering if anyone can share any information about the “old Taco Kitchen” in Pomona, which was owned by my great aunt and uncle for many years before I was old enough to know the place.

    Would especially love to know of any old newspaper articles or photos to add to the family history.

    Thanks much!

  • Ashlie

    All I know contrary to any of this is that the Uppercrust was not at Mountain and Foothill…it was at Foothill and Benson and is now the vacuum cleaner store; my aunt worked grandma and her husband owned Avery Realty which was in the NE parking lot of Foothill and Alta where DMV was way back in the day. Very close to Taco King which is still there! My grandma’s fave ice cream shop was Betsy Ross on Foothill. This is all way too familiar…all the talk about Alpha Beta.

  • David Nyman

    My brother worked at Hull House in Pomona about 1952 and I worked for Melvin Hull at Mel’s Drive-In at Palomares & Holt probably around 1954. No doubt one of the forerunners in fast food. I graduated from Pomona High in ’54. They had a tunnel under Holt Ave, for the students to reach the north side of Holt Ave.

    • wibler

      Wow, I never knew Mel’s was named for a real Mel or that there was a connection with the Hull House (wasn’t that just across the street from Mel’s, later turned into a Mexican food restaurant?). I always just assumed every town had a “Mel’s” just like in the movie “American Graffiti”. I remember back in the ’60s you could get a burger for something like 19 cents.

      I don’t remember the tunnel, but I know they had to fill it in after the high school burned down and it started to attract vagrants.

  • Joan

    I remember The Bit O’ Sweden Smorgasbord in Pomona. It was located on Holt Blvd. between East End and Reservoir. Later some karate school took the building and was there for many years.

    However, the absolute best was Griswold’s during Sunday brunch! WOW, what a spread! The in-house bakery was unbelievably talented and flaunted its superiority to all others every Sunday, accessorizing the most wonderful breakfast one can imagine.

    • wibler

      Yup. We used to have large family reunion dinners there with 20 or more people. The food was good and you could get it immediately without having to wait for your order. Not to mention you could get as many servings as you wanted!

      The people who owned it knew what they were doing. To enter or leave you had to go through a small knick-knack shop which caused a lot of people to stop and browse.

  • Chris E

    C Collins:

    The Taco Kitchen was in La Verne – right on the Pomona border. I worked there through High School – probably for your aunt and uncle but also for the new owners after they retired.

    Weird thing – the owners (your aunt and uncle) were divorced. They took turns (weeks) at running the place and got along fabulously.

    I live in Pennsylvania now, but those were some good times at the ole TK….

    • wibler

      I remember the Taco Kitchen. Growing up we only went out to eat a few times a year and Taco Kitchen was number one on our list. The tacos were greasy and delicious. The restaurant was dark, with every table having a candle holder on it with multiple layers of wax from different colored candles.

  • David R. Graham

    Griwsolds was originally owned by Mr. Griswold, an Old World Gentleman (I knew him, a kindly man), and was a small store on Foothill in Claremont, east of Claremont HS. Bentleys of Bentley’s Market family came into possession of the name and created the restaurant/hotel/retail complex known to later generations as Griswolds.

    Ray S., I think I remember Ray’s Billiard Parlor. I played pool at a basement pool hall in Pomona in the late ’50s, while in HS, but cannot vouch for its name as Ray’s. But I recall the type of venue you recollect. The Peter Gunn series, by Blake Edwards, featured scenes in just such a place, with the justly famous Billy Barty playing Babby. I’m sure you recall that! I was a poor to bad player.

    So many of the names of eateries in the comments here ring heavy, loud bells! Henry’s and Betsy Ross the heaviest and loudest.

    In my mind, La Verne and San Dimas were part of Claremont. I know, provincialism/xenophobia, but, there it is.

    Furthermore, before I left the area for university (1961, I grew up there from 1946 to 1961), the difference between Claremont, San Dimas and La Verne was the extent of the orange groves between and within them. A lot of groves stood between these towns then, and Claremont had the fewest groves within it then.

    I cannot describe what it was like living in a New England village then surrounded (up to the actual foothills but with a few small housing developments thrown down among them) by orange and lemon groves and dry wash that periodically was in flash flood (severe damage was not uncommon) and nearly every winter awash in smudge pot soot (we lived at 150 West 8th Street, the former Norton home, the heart of Old Claremont, and had to keep extra sheets to cover the furniture every winter against settling smudge).

    Here’s some enlightenment from a member of the era, three years ahead of me at CHS:

    I ramble, enough.

  • Ray s.

    Does anyone remember a then upscale restaurant in Pomona named Orlando’s? I’m not sure exactly when it went out of business. It was in existence in the 1950s and possibly early 1960s. It was located on Holt Ave.

  • Ray S.

    I believe there is correction on the transfer of ownership of the Griswolds smorgasbord in Claremont. I believe the original owner was George Griswold and the business was sold to the Sanford family which moved it to the old Claremont High School property. They also owned a Griswolds in Fullerton.

    • wibler

      There was a Griswold’s along the I-10 near Calimesa that was also owned by the family.

  • Ray S.

    I believe there is correction on the transfer of ownership of the Griswolds smorgasbord in Claremont. I believe the original owner was George Griswold and the business was sold to the Sanford family which moved it to the old Claremont High School property. They also owned a Griswolds in Fullerton.

  • Ray S.

    Does anyone remember the Padua Cafe? It was still another dive bar. Located on the northeast corner of Foothill Blvd.and Padua Ave. in Upland across the street from the Midway Inn.

    I can remember Claremont was surrounded by bars and liquor stores because it was a dry city meaning no alcohol could be sold within the city limits.



    • Steve Berge

      I was cruisin and stumbled upon this site. Yes I can remember going down to the Palladium Roller Rink with my friend Brian. A Band called the Esquires (?) would play in the center of the rink. We were both about 13 and Brian would get to use his Mom’s Rambler. We both were about 6′ so we never would get pulled over back in those days. Drive Responsible. While I’m at it, Wow I saw Ross above talking about the Midway Inn. Cool hangout. I had the honor of playing on their Pool Team.

    • rwk1950

      My fifth grade class(1960-61) at Margarita Elementary School in Montclair would go one night a month to the Palladium Roller Rink. It wasn’t an official field trip, just a fun skate night organized by our teacher, Mr. Snowden. Is the building that housed the Palladium still standing? My family used to go to the Montclair Drive-In Dairy on San Bernardino St.. It was owned by the Van Andel family. The dairy had a statue of a purple cow in the front. I remember Hall’s Lawn Mower Repair on Arrow(?) in Pomona. The owner’s son was a Political Science professor at Chaffey College, and a very good professor at that!

  • Scott

    Does anyone remember a little bar in either Covina or West Covina called the Pine Away or Pine-a-Way? My folks used to own it in the late 50s, but I can’t remember the street address. Thanks.

    [I’d recommend contacting the library there to look up the address in old phone directories. — DA]

  • Erika Goodkin Domingue

    I grew up going to Di Censo’s. There was Mama and Papa, Fina, Pia, and Toni. Then, there were the grand kids of whom I only remember Johnny, Fina’s son. Toni was always driving his Ferrari and I remember my mother setting him up on a date. Mama and Papa were forever pinching my cheeks and giving me Jordan almonds.

    Sometimes, Papa would have me come around the counter to the kitchen and watch him make pasta dough, or cut cheese. Mama was the boss, with her blue eyes the color of ancient glass. Mama would call my mother Gini in her thick accent. They were a great family with big hearts, really genuine. As a kid, I thought of mama and papa as my adopted grandparents. Of course the food wasn’t bad either : )

  • Ross

    Remember Griswalds when it was on the south side of Foothill in the basement? The Raku was across the street at the corner of Via Zarita and Foothill before it moved downtown.

    In the early seventies, my brother Frank and I worked at the Midway Inn and almost bought it.

  • Alan

    Interesting that no one here mentioned the “Magic Castle” in Claremont, on Foothill, about a block east of town. The owner was a Swiss gent who supposedly worked in British Intelligence during World War II and the food was exceptionally good — great steaks, entrees. It was a favorite of my family’s – and I’d celebrate a birthday there or two. Sadly it seemed to disappear around the early or mid-1970s.

    [I don’t recall ever hearing of that restaurant, Alan, so thanks for bringing it up. — DA]

  • bflaska

    Now that I’m older, I realize I loved the way small tenuous businesses grew up and out of the surrounding river rocks on Foothill. In that distant time, there was much expanse of cherished space around them and between them, and so it was not easily walkable from place to place.

    Small eateries like the Magic Castle or Soup’s On as I recall were cottage affairs, constructed from dark wood with trim painted a dark brown as well to imply a bit of coolness and the structures rested in the shade of benign fast growing pepper trees.

    With enough people posting here, we will have a glimpse of the beating hearts of these places that are now long gone.

  • Dick Schoenbrun

    Yes! I remember Stinkie’s well. I attended Pomona 1951 through 1955 and we all went there often. Best hamburgers ever.

  • Spin Daddy

    The Midway Inn (affectionately known as “The ‘Dway”) was run by Willy and Ethel. Rumor had it that they paid off the Sheriff’s Department to stay away because they served so many underage drinkers. They also served great hamburgers.
    The Padua was the only tavern in the area that served Schlitz on tap;: a great brew.
    Stinky’s was run in the mid ’60s by Les who was rumored to be selling certain kinds of illegal intoxicants out the back door. You couldn’t get french fries with your chili size there, only hashed browns. Go figure.
    Don’t forget The Sagehen, a tavern east of the Midway on Foothill. It was named for the Pomona College athletic teams and Pomona students (snobs all) hung out there whereas CMC and HMC students and Scrippsies tended to favor the Midway.
    Also, The Ice House in the little village of Mt. Baldy served sit down meals and had entertainment on the weekends.
    Let’s see, on Saturday you could go to the San Bernardino civic auditorium and see Dick Dale and the Deltones or stay in Claremont and see Manuel and the Renegades at the Claremont Civic Centeron Indian Hill. No levis or capris, please!

  • Jennifer Denise Lunn

    Jim you posted that you hung at the Midway…Do remember a guy named Steve who was a local and rode a bike and as my mom said gorgeous. (Popular) my mom was Patty Lunn…they must of meet in 1977 …I was born June 16,1978……if you remember him or knew someone who knew him and could tell me anything that could help me locate him I would be so thankful…He is my Father and I would Love to meet him or find out what his last name is….mom never asked him…I don’t even know if he knows about me….I’ve been looking for him with just a first name and a bar location. ….ever since my mom told me about my Dad. …please