Hal Linker reminisces, part 5

Let’s read what Hal has to say about bars in the fifth excerpt from his e-mail, which the Guinness people may want to measure for a world record:

Narod’s in Chino (on Central between Washington and Walnut) had some nightlife and reasonable food, and they had very attractive waitresses, two of whom I dated, circa the cocaine era. I just didn’t dig the overall redneck nature of the clientele. The building survives and is occupied by Godfather’s.

The Little Club on Central in Montclair pretty much fit the same description. It became a Latino bar for a long time. Might be a sports bar now. I’d hate to own a bar now with the current climate towards drinking. Everybody’s pretty much legally drunk just because they walked into the place.

(I used to milk cows and finished work about 3:30 a.m. I can’t tell you how many times I was pulled over while driving home, not because I was drunk, but because I was out on the street at that hour. It really sucks to be perfectly sober and get pulled over, get forced to do a sobriety test, have a warrant check run on you, just because you are driving around at a weird hour.)

For more interesting nightlife there was The Broadside on West Mission in Pomona. The Mothers played there before fame; later it was Walter Mitty’s, and Van Halen played there before being famous.*

But let’s face it, if you really wanted quality entertainment you had to head for Hollywood: The Whisky, Troubadour, The Roxy (after 1973), Gazzari’s/Billboard Live/now the Key Club, Classic Cat — all of which except the Classic Cat (best strip joint of the late 1960s/early 1970s) still stand, although only shadows of their former glory.

Who mentioned The Green Door? Central in Montclair. Some name acts played there in the 1980s. Located near the old Holiday Skating Rink and the wonderful Holiday Liquor which supplied kegs for so many of my parties, in the days when everyone cut everyone some slack. Anybody remember the
huge parties which were thrown on Arrow near Central with live bands and scores of kegs? And that rundown motel on the property too.

I have a story that ties all of these locations together, but it’s best not told here.

Fair enough. On Monday: burgers, fried chicken and tacos.

* While the Mothers did come into being at The Broadside, the bar’s location was on Holt east of Towne. And Van Halen played at Harvey Wallbanger’s on West Mission, musician John Harrelson informs me. He muses: “I think it’s interesting that he didn’t mention Saints and Sinners on East Mission near the airport. And why not the Test? The Posh? The Sahara?”

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Hal Linker reminisces, part 4

Day 4 and we’re barely one-third of the way through his e-mail. Don’t worry, we’ll take a break this weekend for the Restaurant of the Week and “Pomona A to Z.” Here’s what Hal has to say about movie theaters and a fondly remembered restaurant:

I remember the opening of Cinema I and II and their SMOKING SECTIONS and ashtrays. The Montclair Theater on Holt began life as a single-screen theater in the late 1960s before becoming a tri-plex by the 1970s with, yes, smoking sections — from back in the days when we had nothing to fear but fear itself.

Pre-Cinema I & II you could find me at The Fox, United Artists in Pomona or the Village in Claremont. What gorgeous theaters these were. Unfortunately, the last thing I ever saw at The Village Theater was a Cheech and Chong movie and the place really was Up In Smoke. At some point a restaurant was opened at the old theater and later shops. I think the restaurant was called Square One or Harvard Square. Maybe it’s still there.

I used to love the corn chowder soup at The Old Montclair Peanut Company. My date got sick once there after consuming too many Rusty Nails. I warned her that Drambuie was bad stuff and shouldn’t be messed with! All I got for my cautions was puke on my shoes and pants.

Isn’t that how it always is? And yes, Harvard Square Cafe is still in the old theater space and goin’ strong.

Next time: bars and nightclubs.

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Hal Linker reminisces, part 3

The third section of Hal Linker’s epic e-mail, picking up from his comments about the Wherehouse and Pacific Stereo at Indian Hill and Holt Avenue circa 1970:

Also in this strip was Xochomilcho’s Mexican restaurant which I think is still there. I loved Xochomilcho’s back in my youth, not so much for the food, but because the waitresses were young and hot and served alcohol to minors like myself (the statute of limitations is long up, right?).

Anybody remember Muntz Stereo Pak on Holt just west of East End a bit? That was the place for eight track tapes and car units. Another place was Foster’s Tapes on Mission just east of Central. I think it’s the Maylly Oriental Massage Parlor now. That’s progress for ya.

Anybody remember The Wild Cat on West Holt just up the street a bit from Orlando’s? Best topless bar in the area. Great place to shoot some pool too.

Speaking of barely clothed women, The Ritz Theater in Ontario devolved into a XXX house by the late 1960s, eventually changing its name to the Pussycat and then being torn down.

I’ve never heard the Pussycat name, although it’s possible. The place burned in a fire in 1978 and was torn down. As for Xochimilco, it went out of business circa 2005.

Next up from Hal Linker: Movie theaters.

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Xavier Alvarez meets the Gray Lady

The New York Times (whoa!) wrote Tuesday about the Xavier Alvarez case and the interesting issue it raises: Can a lie be criminal? Experts weigh in on both sides of the question.

You remember Alvarez, of course, the Pomona water board member who claimed to have a Congressional Medal of Honor, but didn’t. He’s being prosecuted under a 2005 law that, explains the Times, “makes it a crime to lie about having received certain medals.”

Note the photo is by the Daily Bulletin’s Therese Tran — congratulations, Therese! — and that this newspaper gets name-checked toward the end of the story. In fact, the quote is from my Oct. 21 column on Alvarez.

It’s probably the closest I’ll come to making the New York Times. (We already know from reader Dick, in his comments about my Three Forks visit, that I’ll never write for the L.A. Times. Perhaps a career at the Los Gatos Weekly Times awaits.)

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Hal Linker reminisces, part 2

More from Hal Linker’s epic note, this section about music:

I was kind of a Beatle / hippie kid and really dug music, so I remember Rudy Pock’s in Ontario. An old-school music store — meaning that it sold musical instruments, stereos, transistor radios, sheet music and records.

I bought my first few Beatles and Stones records there. Bought my first Dave Clark Five record at Fedway in the Pomona Mall — saw “A Hard Day’s Night” movie at United Artists Theater in Pomona just up the street from The Fox.

David Platt Music was also on Euclid. And Ontario Music, where I got my initial guitar and drum lessons, still stands on G Street! It blows me away that they have survived all these years!

And who could forget White Front, which was located on Mountain in Ontario just past the cemetery a bit. Back in the 1960s you could buy three albums with 10 bucks and still have change — most LPs were $1.97 unless they were doubles. And even some of the doubles were $1.97 when specially priced.

As a record buying enthusiast, White Front was tough to beat — a lot of my collection of vinyl was bought there. And just up the road was a House Of Pies for munchies afterwards. (For those interested, there is still a House Of Pies in the Los Feliz area of L.A. near the Greek Theater.)

Pacific Stereo on Indian Hill near Holt (across from Boys Market). They opened in the early 1970s. And I spent a great part of my youth and money putting together different stereo systems. They even had a record department in Pacific Stereo for a short while — it was managed by the same guy who had worked the White Front record department, and also worked at the Wherehouse in Pomona — was his name Mike Parra? Not sure.

In the same strip complex was The Wherehouse which opened circa 1970 — I think it might be a karate studio now. I actually bought bootlegs in the back room there when this dope-smoking Dutch draft dodger named Jan (Yawn) was managing the place. Jan later had a short-lived record store on Foothill called Atlantis Records in the late 1970s.

More soon.

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Hal Linker reminisces, part 1

A reader named Hal Linker,* and his wife, Hadla, found this blog recently and left a comment in the “Things That Aren’t Here Anymore” thread. And what a comment! It may be the length of two, or three, or even four of my columns, full of memories of our various cities.

Rather than bury it back there in that thread, I’m going to run it here up front, serialized in manageable chunks over a week. Or two. Or three. We’ll see. Take it away, Hal:

David,

I’m a bit late with these comments but just stumbled onto this blog when Yahoo-ing “DiGangi’s.” My wife and I were just remembering how great their grinders were. We were shocked to see something came up on the search. So, sorry if we’re beating a dead horse.

My family moved to Chino (from Bellflower) in 1956 when I was just a tot. My dad had a dairy farm. Chino had very little in the way of civilization at that time. It was a prison town. Getting groceries in the 1950s was a weekly family event for which we all got in dad’s DeSoto and headed for the Market Basket on East End and Holt. It was like going into town for supplies / vittles.

At that time Chino had nothing close to a supermarket. This would change in the 1960s when Alpha Beta opened a location on Central and Walnut (now defunct — torn down and converted into offices — though some of the adjacent buildings still stand — including the old Alphy’s Restaurant which is now a medical building, but prior to that, had been a restaurant called Bailey’s).

Next time: record stores.

* Update: As corrected in part 2, Hal Linker was a pseudonym.

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‘Pomona A to Z’: J is for Juanita’s

[Pomona has plenty of outstanding Mexican restaurants. One local favorite is Juanita's, where you can always find people lined up on the sidewalk. Interviewing the owner proved impossible despite several attempts, as she was running not only the restaurant but a Juanita's booth at the fair, but I got enough of the story, and customers gave the piece its flavor.

The downtown jazz concerts mentioned toward the beginning are now history, and Juanita's II in Ontario, noted toward the end, became Juanita's III after a family dispute. Yes, there is no longer a Juanita's II, just as the Traveling Wilburys went directly from Vol. 1 to Vol. 3. Oh, and the wacky Juanita's menu board remains exactly as it was when I wrote about it. But the restaurant has an A grade now.

The stand continues to thrive, it seems, although it's a major annoyance that the Carl's Jr. next door has added a Green Burrito. Anyone who eats there with the real stuff next door must be nuts.

This column was originally published Sept. 19, 2004.]

Not to spill the refried beans, but J is for Juanita’s

“Pomona A to Z,” my alphabetical look at the city’s jewels, now jumps to the letter J. Forgive me for jabbering, but Pomona is so jam-packed with J candidates, it’s like a jamboree.

Among them:

* Jelly Donut, named the region’s No. 1 doughnut shop by Inland Empire Magazine and a Pomona favorite.

* Jazz concerts downtown the fourth Saturday of each month.

* St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, built in the Spanish Colonial Revival style and one of Pomona’s largest and loveliest buildings.

* Hilltop Jamaican market and restaurant, mon.

* Jon Provost, a Kingsley Elementary student who played Timmy on TV’s “Lassie” from 1957 to 1964. “What’s that, Lassie? Somebody’s trapped in the old well again?”

Quite a jackpot. But our jury-rigged J is none of the above, as you no doubt expected. (You’re so jaded.)

Our J is Juanita’s.

A taco stand on South Indian Hill Boulevard, Juanita’s Drive-In has provided cheap, tasty eats for a quarter-century.

Customers swear by the place.

“The food’s phenomenal with a capital F,” said Steve Hammitt, 54, an insurance agent from Claremont waiting for his pork burrito last week.

Tucked between a Carl’s Jr. and a 7-Eleven, Juanita’s doesn’t look like much. The small building with no indoor seating began as a Tastee Freez around 1956.

The food is takeout only, with two outdoor tables for dining. You place your order at the window, pay, get a slip with your number and wait. Service is speedy, but there’s almost always a few people fanned out on the sidewalk.

Naturally, Juanita’s has its quirks. Like a student trying to pad a book report, the menu details every conceivable variation on its burritos and tacos, sending the combinations sprawling across three
menu boards.

Say you want a pork burrito. Here are the head-spinning possibilities:

* Meat bean rice cheese $3.25

* Meat $3.25

* Meat bean cheese $3

* Meat bean rice $3

* Meat rice cheese $3

* Meat bean $3

* Meat rice $3

Can we get an organizational coach in on this? (And yes, somebody forgot “meat cheese.”)

Eccentricities of the menu aside, the food is top-notch. Several diners raved about the pork. I go for the chicken-and-rice burrito myself. Some of my newsroom colleagues like the chile relleno burrito, in which a chile relleno is tucked inside a tortilla.

Juanita’s is one of the great social levelers. At lunch last Tuesday, I saw all walks of humanity, from twentysomethings to senior citizens, the well-to-do to those with no visible means of support, drivers of SUVs to delivery trucks, all lined up for a five-buck lunch.

Car dealer Hal Assael, a 52-year-old who pulled up in a BMW, traveled 15 miles from Glendora, no doubt passing hundreds of other Mexican restaurants along the way, just for a chicken-and-rice burrito.

“It’s the best food in town,” Assael said. “I’ve been coming here almost 20 years.”

Finn Englyng, a 27-year-old cabinet maker from Claremont, was there with three buddies.

“I think it’s absolutely spectacular,” said Englyng, who was waiting on an order of tacos. “I like hole in the wall places. You come to a place like this, you know you’re going to get real Mexican food, not some Taco Bell or Del Taco crap.”

Well said.

Of course, there is the matter of the B grade from the Health Department. As one diner told me: “I don’t care about the B. If it got to a C, I’d be concerned.”

Juanita’s took over the spot about 1976. The first owner, Maria Tucker, had the restaurant only briefly and, in a poignant touch, named it after an adopted daughter who died at age 5.

Tucker sold the business in 1977 to her niece, Theresa Cerna, who expanded the menu and has owned the restaurant ever since.

It’s a family operation. Cerna and her husband, Jess, are often found there, as is her daughter, Marina. (A son, Ray, manages a second outlet in Ontario, Juanita’s II, owned by Cerna’s ex-husband.)

Theresa Cerna has had a Juanita’s stand at the county fair since 2002, so she’s pulling double duty right now.

Carne asada and the green chile pork are the best sellers, she told me. Tortillas are made on-site, as is the hot sauce, which comes in lidded plastic cups the size of lip balm.

Juanita’s has lasted longer than any other business in that location, including the Tastee Freez, Jess Cerna told me.

“The couple that used to have the Tastee Freez,” he said, “even they come here.”

(David Allen writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, tres columns.)

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Restaurant of the Week: Three Forks

CLOSED; now Eureka

Three Forks Chop House, 580 W. 1st St. (at Cornell), Claremont

To celebrate my 11th anniversary at the Bulletin, a friend treated me to dinner at Three Forks, a Montana-themed steakhouse in the Packing House and perhaps the valley’s most expensive restaurant. Hey, anything to avoid having to fork out (three fork out?) that much dough myself.

Three Forks was the first 909 restaurant to be reviewed in the L.A. Times in recent memory. Ol’ S. Irene Virbila gave it 2.5 stars out of 4 and for her, that’s a positive review. There was amusement over the photo, which included a man in very casual attire at the bar, on a local blog; someone said dismissively that they wouldn’t pay those kind of prices to sit near a man in a tank top. The review, which is posted outside the restaurant, has other problems: S. Irene manages to use the word “rustic” four times, including twice in the same sentence, to describe the tart, the sausage, the food in general and the atmosphere.

The restaurant has a website but no prices are listed on the online menu.

We sat outside near a heat lamp. We shared the charcuterie platter ($18), a plate of cured meats, olives, brie and something called ramp. I had the filet mignon, 10 oz. ($46), and she had the lamb chops ($39).

What arrived first was an amuse bouche — they don’t typically serve these things at the burrito stands I frequent — of, it was explained, “crab and cucumber with vinaigrette aged 12 years…excuse me, a vinaigrette reduction…to spark the appetite.” Whichever, the bite-size dollop had a pleasant mix of flavors.

Now bring on the meat!

The appetizer was quite good, although the ramp and olives were nothing exciting, and any more than two people would not have found the size adequate. The lamb was tender. The filet mignon, which I asked to be cooked medium, may have been overdone (that was my friend’s opinion; I’m no expert), a bit chewy on the inside and charred on the outside. But, as one who accepts what he is given in life, I accepted it and enjoyed it.

For dessert, we split the lemon tart for two ($12), which was excellent, very lemony, although not of the size you might expect from a dish billed as being for two.

Take points off the meal for a few aspects: the “artisan” bread that came with the meal wasn’t as good as that at Le Pain Quotidien a block away; the service was fair but not outstanding; and the view, of an industrial plant across the street, isn’t what you would call inspiring.

Total bill, by the way: $144.51. Gulp.

That said, the experience was a cut above Fleming’s, the steakhouse in Victoria Gardens, if a cut below Ruth’s Chris in Pasadena. Would we go back to Three Forks? On a rare occasion, sure. Perhaps to try the farmers market dinners on Sundays, which sound intriguing.

Plus, you never know when you might want the Three Forks specialty, a reduction of your bank account. And a dose of rusticity.

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‘You say it’s your birthday’

It’s my birthday! I’m 44, making this the most symmetrical birthday since I was 33, and until I’m 55.

No huge plans for today, other than making deadline for Sunday’s column. After work, some colleagues are taking me to Mix Bowl Cafe for dinner. Yes, a birthday celebration in Pomona. Where else?

Maybe I can mark another menu item or two off my Mix Bowl list. Can I persuade my friends to order the soup with both liver and tendon, so I can eat a few spoonfuls but not have an entire bowl of it? Probably not. But I’m looking forward to experiencing firsthand the Asian-pop version of “Happy Birthday” I heard on a previous visit, plus the complimentary bowl of mixed fruit with ice. So nice.

* UPDATE: The dinner was fun, nobody ordered the liver and tendon soup (probably contributing to the fun-ness) and the mixed fruit with ice was yummy. But they didn’t play the prerecorded “Happy Birthday” song. Well, maybe next year.

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Nader Khalili

A man named Nader Khalili died March 5, a death reported in Wednesday’s L.A. Times. A funeral took place Tuesday at Pomona College before burial at Claremont’s Oak Park Cemetery.

I had met Khalili a time or two and he made an impression.

He was an Iranian-born architect who had a spread in Hesperia where he and some students from the Southern California Institute of Architecture tried to garner interest in “super adobe” structures. These were made of plastic bags filled with dirt and held together with barbed wire. He thought the dome-shaped houses could provide simple, cheap housing for the world’s poor.

He also built fired-clay ceramic houses that resembled oversized bowls and vases in their texture and ornamentation. His Cal-Earth Institute has details on its website.

I met him in the mid-’90s when I was a reporter at the Daily Press in Victorville. Lots of reporters made the trek to Hesperia and found Khalili a visionary, even if his designs haven’t been widely adopted here, due to earthquake codes and people’s preferences. He was mentioned on my blog in a post about Laura Huxley’s death.

Khalili, a warm, personable man, had studied Persian literature and poetry at the University of Tehran and continued to find inspiration in them. He translated two volumes of Rumi’s poetry.

When we parted, he pressed upon me a copy of his autobiography, “Racing Alone.” I’ve since culled it from my bookshelves, which I regret, but the inscription, a wise line from Rumi, is burned into my brain:

“Seek not water, but thirst.”

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