Restaurant of the Week: Beard Papa

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This week’s restaurant: Beard Papa, Food Hall, Victoria Gardens, Rancho Cucamonga.

Founded in Japan in 1999, Beard Papa outlets have been springing up in L.A. To see one in Victoria Gardens lets us know the 909 is hipper than it’s given credit for. Their cream puffs are made on the spot and cost $1.95 ($2.25 with tax). The shell is lightly crunchy and the custard filling is creamy good.

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Restaurant of the Week: Crepes de Paris, RC

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Crepes de Paris, 7876 Monet Ave. (at South Mainstreet), Victoria Gardens, Rancho Cucamonga

This was a pleasant surprise. They sell crepes both savory (entree-style) and sweet (dessert), plus salads, hot and cold sandwiches, French onion soup and coffees. I ordered a chicken-spinach crepe ($9.95) and, while it appears I ended up with a chicken-mushroom crepe, it was large and tasty and, the place being crazy-busy and the staff shorthanded, I had no complaints. There are cheerful French cartoon drawings on the wall. A better-than-average dining option, especially if you’re tired of the same old same-old.

* Update: Evidently my tastes haven’t changed much in three years: Turns out I ordered the exact same thing when I went back in 2011 for photos and lunch. Same price for the chicken-spinach crepe, too. And this time it had spinach.

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Restaurant of the Week: Central Burgers

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Central Burgers, 10340 Central Ave. (at Bandera), Montclair.

I went here before a Montclair council meeting. This location was Andy’s Burgers No. 2 until fairly recently. This is one of those burger places (like Jim’s in Upland and Terry’s in Rancho Cucamonga) that has a surprisingly broad menu.

For breakfast, eight omelets, eggs, bacon, hotcakes; 13 types of burgers, plus a patty melt and chili size; burritos, tacos, quesadillas, taquitos and tostadas; tuna, fish, steak, chicken and gyro sandwiches; five salads; steak dinners ($6.55!); and even a cup of chili ($3.25) and a cup of rice ($1.75).

I had a burger combo ($4.37 with tax) and enjoyed it while watching “King of Queens” on the dining room TV.

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Restaurant of (Last) Week: Crepes de Paris, Beard Papa, Central Burgers

Although I did write about Chinese restaurants and noted therein my lunch at Foothill Bistro, I didn’t have room last week on this blog for an official Restaurant of the Week. And I ate at four new-to-me places too.

Belatedly, here’s where else I ate:

* Crepes de Paris, 7876 Monet Ave., Victoria Gardens: This was a pleasant surprise. They sell crepes both savory (entree-style) and sweet (dessert), plus salads, hot and cold sandwiches, French onion soup and coffees. I ordered a chicken-spinach crepe ($9.95) and, while it appears I ended up with a chicken-mushroom crepe, it was large and tasty and, the place being crazy-busy and the staff shorthanded, I had no complaints. There are cheerful French cartoon drawings on the wall. A better-than-average dining option, especially if you’re tired of the same old same-old.

* Beard Papa, Food Hall, Victoria Gardens: Founded in Japan in 1999, Beard Papa outlets have been springing up in L.A. To see one in Victoria Gardens lets us know the 909 is hipper than it’s given credit for. Their cream puffs are made on the spot and cost $1.95 ($2.25 with tax). The shell is lightly crunchy and the custard filling is creamy good.

* Central Burgers, 10340 Central Ave., Montclair: I went here before a Montclair council meeting. This location was Andy’s Burgers No. 2 until fairly recently. This is one of those burger places (like Jim’s in Upland and Terry’s in Rancho Cucamonga) that has a surprisingly broad menu. For breakfast, eight omelets, eggs, bacon, hotcakes; 13 types of burgers, plus a patty melt and chili size; burritos, tacos, quesadillas, taquitos and tostadas; tuna, fish, steak, chicken and gyro sandwiches; five salads; steak dinners ($6.55!); and even a cup of chili ($3.25) and a cup of rice ($1.75). I had a burger combo ($4.37 with tax) and enjoyed it while watching “King of Queens” on the dining room TV.

So that rounds out last week’s dining. I’ll get to this week’s dining soon — hopefully before next week.

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If you build it, will they cross?

Responding to my column last Friday on the planned Claremont Trolley to ferry people around the Village, reader Ken Rowland says that while the trolley doesn’t seem worthwhile to him, he does like Mayor Peter Yao’s earlier talk of a pedestrian bridge over Indian Hill Boulevard to connect to old and new Villages.

Rowland visited Tacoma, Wash., and admired the Glass Bridge there, a structure designed by artist and Tacoma native Dale Chihuly that leads to the Museum of Glass. Artworks are displayed along the path.

Says Rowland:

“My thought was that the local art colony, located in Claremont — both in the old village and in the village west — would have a place to prime visitors for things to come as they cross through this novel bridge. I have no idea of cost but the $886K noted (for 3 year trial) for a ‘free’ tram system seems like it would be a recurring cost, as opposed to a lesser ongoing cost of maintaining an overcrossing.”

Well, it does look nice, and perhaps it’s adaptable to Claremont, although I remain skeptical.

Note that the Tacoma bridge is 500 feet long and “soars 70 feet into the air,” linking downtown and the waterfront. After being narrowed a couple of years back to make crossing the street on foot more inviting, Indian Hill is only three lanes wide. Still. give Rowland credit for thinking imaginatively.

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100 comments

Comments on this blog have picked up of late, with the Chinese restaurant entry drawing an impressive 16 reactions at last count.

But what’s really wild is the “things that aren’t here anymore” thread topped 100 comments on Monday. Whoa!

You can find that entry, and others like it, if you click on the “Reminiscin’” button on the right.

Frankly, by this point the “aren’t here anymore” entry is all over the map (literally). Its popularity hasn’t been lost on me, and as you’ve noticed in the weeks since then, I’ve had several daily blog entries on specific nostalgic topics such as Buffums’, with more to come. That’s probably more useful, at least for people who check this blog regularly.

Feel free to continue posting to the “things that aren’t” thread, and if you have ideas for more such nostalgia topics — for instance, places or things you’ve always been curious about — I’ll consider doing entries on them.

And while it may go without saying, I’ll say it anyway: Thanks to everyone who’s posted comments.

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7 ancient wonders

Last Aug. 22 I wrote a column on the Seven Wonders of the Inland Valley, a silly local response to the global Seven Wonders list that had just been revised.

Like the revision, my list was made up of seven things still in existence: The Donahoo’s rooster, the Montclair Mystery Tower, the Magic Lamp Inn, the University of La Verne Super Tents, the “full order” at Vince’s Spaghetti, 94-year-old restaurateur Ramon Sanchez of Ramon’s Cactus Patch and, to throw in a ringer, a completely faded stop sign in Rancho Cucamonga (which was replaced by a cherry red model within days of the column’s appearance).

After my list broke, reader Derek Deason sent me a note with an idea:

“Hey, about your Seven Wonders of the Inland Valley, you should do a column on the Seven Ancient Wonders of the Inland Valley. One could be the Valley Drive-In sign. Or the big Christmas tree that used to be at the Pomona Valley Center mall at Holt and Indian Hill, before Sears left and it was an open-air mall.”

Not a bad idea, eh? I let this sit around (in those pre-blog days)(how did we ever get along without my blog?) with the thought of following up at some point.

Well, let’s do it here. Any ideas of iconic, vanished wonders that should be on the list?

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‘Pomona A to Z’: C is for Citrus

And so “A to Z” careens to the letter C, with a topic bursting with Vitamin C. Pomona being the goddess of fruit, recognizing the city’s citrus heritage was a must.

The Cal Poly Farm Store, mentioned herein, remains one of Pomona’s best-kept secrets despite the publicity here and elsewhere. So does the Pomona Concert Band. The wonderful Stan Selby, its founding conductor, died on Nov. 23, 2004, I’m sad to say, but the band soldiers on.

This column was originally published Aug. 1, 2004.

C is for Citrus: ‘Pomona A to Z’ finds groves aren’t pulp fiction

Part 3 of “Pomona A to Z” brings us to the letter C, as we continue our countdown of the city’s charms.

Making it to C, by the way, puts Pomona ahead of Katharine Hepburn, who was once famously panned by Dorothy Parker for a performance said to run “the gamut of emotions from A to B.”

Trust me, Pomona’s got more range than that.

Central among the city’s C candidates:

* The Concert Band, which performs each Thursday night in Ganesha Park in the summertime under the direction of G. Stanton Selby, who’s led the band since its first season — in (wow!) 1947.

* The Clock Tower, a landmark at the County Fair.

* The Carousel Chorus barbershop group.

* City of Churches, Pomona’s old motto, reflecting the large number of congregations.

* Cinnamon doughnuts at Carl’s, a West Holt Avenue fixture since 1956.

Culling this collection was certainly complex! But my C is of the vitamin variety, because C is for Citrus.

Pomona and the rest of the valley, as you surely know, once grew some of the best oranges, lemons and grapes in the world. The sight and sweet smell of those long-vanished groves remain fond memories for longtime residents.

But here in 2004, is there any citrus left? Backyard trees and a few small lots are all you’ll find.

Except at Cal Poly Pomona!

True to its roots as an agricultural school, the college still has an expanse of orange and grapefruit trees in production as a learning tool.

“We’ve got about 20 acres of citrus,” Enrique Hernandez, Cal Poly’s farm supervisor, told me Friday.

That’s about 2,000 trees, producing some 180 tons of oranges and grapefruit a year in 23 varieties.

Hernandez oversees this bounty — the largest citrus grove left in the valley.

“It’s not as big as the ones that used to be here,” Hernandez allowed. “But for being the last one, it’s not bad.”

A Cal Poly graduate who’s now a full-time employee, Hernandez proudly showed me around the orange groves. Navels were recently harvested, but Valencias were still on the trees.

Walking amid the neat rows of bushy trees, dirt underfoot, I got a sense of what the valley must have been like a half-century ago.

Only the distant hum of Interstate 10 traffic, and the homes visible along the top of the hills, were reminders that this grove is more a part of the valley’s past than its future.

A country boy from San Diego County, Hernandez, 33, grew up surrounded by citrus. He prefers open spaces, not tract homes on tiny lots.

I asked about the blight reputed to have killed or weakened most of Pomona’s citrus trees. Pests are more of an issue today. That and urbanization — “creeping 2-by-4 disease,” Hernandez jokingly called it.

“Pretty soon the only agriculture you’ll see in Southern California is gonna be greenhouses,” Hernandez said.

After I dried my tears, we visited the Farm Store at Kellogg Ranch, a campus market that has sold Cal Poly-grown produce and other select items to the public since 2001.

Fresh orange juice too, in your choice of Valencia or Mandarin.

A sign on the refrigerator case reads: “Cal Poly Pomona orange juice separates because it is pure without additives.”

Right there in the store, I downed a Mandarin OJ, squeezed just hours earlier. It was so astoundingly good, it knocked my socks off.

(I found my socks later, near the summer squash.)

The upscale, air-conditioned grocery resembles a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s except with more produce.

“We would like more people to know about it,” student manager Melynda Holm said.

Let me help: Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week, the address is 4102 S. University Drive at Temple and the phone is (909) 869-4906.

So C is for Citrus at Cal Poly. It’s great to know that despite creeping 2-by-4 disease, a sliver of the valley’s citrus heritage is alive and well.

Orange you glad?

(David Allen writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, three lemons a week.)

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Trader Joe’s!

Rancho Cucamonga’s long-awaited Trader Joe’s opened Friday. Joe’s has had a smallish Upland store forever but no others in the valley.* The new one fills the empty Vons space in a shopping center on Haven just above the 210.

I met friends for lunch at Corky’s in the same center. Just getting into the parking lot took effort, because of the crowds. I’ve never seen the center, or Corky’s for that matter, so packed.

After lunch, we checked out Joe’s. It’s a 12,000-square-foot store, said to be midsize by Joe’s standards, but clearly larger than the Upland store. The aisles are a bit wider and the refrigerated section looks three or four times larger. According to an employee, there wasn’t more, or much more, product on display than in Upland, just more of each item.

In a cute touch, the checkout lanes are marked with street signs mimicking Rancho Cucamonga street names: Lemon, Vineyard, Archibald, Haven, Milliken, Day Creek, Base Line and Foothill.

The store seemed to be a hit on opening day and I’d say it’s almost guaranteed to be a success. We don’t know what took you so long, Trader Joe’s, but we’re glad you’re here.

* Unless San Dimas counts, as two readers pointed out.

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Where are the great Chinese restaurants of the Inland Valley?

Not long ago I had dinner with friends at China Gate, the Chinese restaurant in Upland by Trader Joe’s. China Gate is probably the best Chinese eatery in the Inland Valley, and one of the most popular.

We had two of the specialties, the sizzling beef plate and the seafood clay pot, plus the kung pao chicken. The food was good, as it reliably is at China Gate (although the seafood clay pot, we couldn’t help but notice, did not come in a clay pot). The service was friendly and attentive. When the third member of our party finally arrived, 15 minutes late, the waiter, hands on hips, asked with perfect comic timing: “What took you so long?”

So there’s a lot to be said in China Gate’s favor.

But in looking over the 100-plus-item menu, it must be said that there’s a 1980s feel to it, and maybe even older. Have you noticed they still serve not only egg foo yung, but chop suey? How very Yangtze of them. And China Gate may be the valley’s most authentic Chinese restaurant.

What’s strange is that you can get fairly authentic Thai food, or Japanese food, or Korean food, or Vietnamese food at any number of restaurants out here. Asians and non-Asians alike pack into, say, Sanamluang in Pomona or Pho Ha in Rancho Cucamonga. Nobody’s catering to American tastes there by serving pho with, I dunno, pepperoni, or pad Thai with bacon and avocado.

And yet whenever somebody opens a Chinese restaurant here, they feel obliged to serve cream cheese wontons and orange chicken. Why not go for the Chinese audience? The rest of us might follow.

This isn’t to say our valley has no decent Chinese food, just nothing that isn’t Americanized to a greater or lesser extent.

Among the best, besides the aforementioned China Gate: Noble House and Chu Chinese Cuisine, both in Rancho Cucamonga; Chopsticks House, with two locations in Ontario; and Chinese Pavilion and Phoenix Garden, both in La Verne.

As far as chains go, Panda Inn in Ontario and P.F. Chang’s in Rancho Cucamonga offer superior meals, and Pei Wei, in Rancho Cucamonga, a P.F. Chang’s spinoff, has good Asian-inflected food at modest prices.

On Tuesday, I had lunch at Foothill Bistro, which two months ago took the place of Emperor’s Kitchen at Hellman and Foothill in Rancho Cucamonga. (The same center has good Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese restaurants, plus a boba shop. Also, a Chuck E. Cheese.)

“Hong Kong Style Chinese Food,” the banner says. Foothill Bistro was pretty good. They have Singapore-style chow fun and a menu of 137 more items. It bears further investigation. There’s even a B in the window.

Still, there’s no congee or dim sum or other items (my experience is fairly limited, I’m afraid) that one would find in Alhambra or Chinatown. And the name is kind of bland. At this point, though, Foothill Bistro ought to be encouraged.

Let me end with a question for you foodies:

Can anyone recommend an authentic Chinese restaurant in Diamond Bar, or anywhere else east of San Gabriel?

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