A glitzier Glendale

Last Sunday I ventured to Glendale to Brand Bookshop, one of my favorite used bookstores, for its 30 percent off sale. (Which continues through June 1.) The new Grove-like outdoor mall, Americana at Brand, turns out to be just three blocks south on Brand.

Thus, I left my car in the parking garage and hoofed it down to Americana to check it out.

My initial impression was positive, although I didn’t spend much time there. The $400 million Americana seems to be modeled on early 20th century downtowns. At least one streetcorner has an antique-like clock jutting from the building, as if it were the town bank. A residential tower maybe nine stories high has a glass elevator fronting the central plaza; gears and a counterweight on the elevator exterior rise and fall with the cars. Again, it’s a visual reminder of long-past times.

Plenty of families were enjoying the plaza’s lawn and massive pool-like fountain as a rock band played.

I noticed a kiosk selling pizza by the slice and a small round building modeled on a ’50s diner, both of which bear culinary investigation. A Good Humor ice cream wagon was parked, apparently permanently, and employees sold treats from its freezer compartment.

Like the Grove, there’s not a lot of shops that appeal to me, but there is, like the Grove, a three-story Barnes and Noble.

The buildings are several stories taller than at the Grove but Americana does repeat some elements, including the trolley (although I never saw it, just the tracks). The movie theater has more screens than the Grove — 18 vs. 14 — but lacks the limited-release arty movies the Grove usually includes. Glendale must be considered the boonies.

I’ll go back sometime…while visiting the Alex Theater or downtown’s two used bookstores (the other one is Bookfellows). To me, downtown is the real reason to visit Glendale. Americana just adds another element of interest.

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Restaurant of the Week: Barboni’s Pizza

CLOSED

This week’s restaurant: Barboni’s Pizza, 7270 Victoria Park Lane (at Base Line), Rancho Cucamonga; also 9792 19th St. (at Archibald).

I’m a flexible diner, rarely so gripped by desire for a particular cuisine that I can’t be waylaid by something else. Case in point: I was in northern Rancho on Thursday at lunchtime and figured I’d head east on Base Line past Day Creek to Nodaci (?), an out-of-the-way sushi bar I’d once seen a sign for. So, I’m there at the quaint Victoria Park neighborhood center, walking under the awning toward the sushi place, when I see the B in the window.

While I’m not totally opposed to eating at a B, it did give me pause, especially for raw fish. Barely breaking my stride, I veered a few feet to the right and into Barboni’s Pizza.

This is a new-ish second location for Barboni’s, with the original location on 19th. According to the menu, they’ve been in Rancho Cucamonga since 1986, which makes them practically historic. I’d never been there. The menu is slightly broader than most pizza parlors’, with more than a dozen pastas, all said to be prepared fresh daily.

I ordered the half lasagna lunch special ($6), which comes with a salad, garlic bread and drink, and took my seat. The dining room is spartan, well-lit and set up for families and sports teams, with most of the seating picnic-style on long tables with benches. A women’s softball game played on the flat-screen TV that dominated one wall.

As for the food, I wasn’t blown away, but for a six-buck lunch it was pretty good. A simple salad of shredded lettuce and mozzarella was improved by the oily Italian dressing. The lasagna came out bubbling in a teardrop-shaped dish. And I mean bubbling aggressively. It continued bubbling for 1:15 (I timed it, fascinated). My expectations dropped. But the sauce had some kick to it and in the end I wasn’t displeased.

Service was indifferent even though at 1:45 p.m. I was the sole customer.

Like a lot of places I visit, Barboni’s is a neighborhood restaurant, not one worth driving across the valley to try. But if you’re in the neighborhood, they may be worth investigating. Even if you thought you were in the mood for Japanese.

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Campaign update

In a blow to the campaign of Norma Torres for a state Assembly seat, the powerful Mix Bowl Cafe in Pomona has unveiled its endorsement of rival Maurice Ayala, allowing him to post one of his signs out in front of the restaurant.

“Ayala for Assembly/A Name You Can Trust,” the sign reads. This is like the Jim Hahn/Kenneth Hahn approach — run on your father’s name. (Ruben Ayala was a longtime state senator from Chino.)

Maurice Ayala introduced himself to me at Mix Bowl a couple of months ago, so my guess is he’s probably a regular who persuaded the restaurant to let him post a sign.

Still, Mix Bowl’s coveted endorsement could spell trouble for Torres. Hmm. Wonder if Donahoo’s Chicken has weighed in yet?

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Indiana in Ontario

Two straight Saturday mornings I’ve hit the AMC 30 Ontario Mills for an early movie. Did you know they have multiple showings of the big movies before noon, for a mere $6? Saw “Iron Man” a week ago at 10:45 a.m. and “Indiana Jones and the Very Long Title” this past Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

Not only is the price right, but at that hour you can get decent parking, there’s no line for the movie and not much of one at the ticket booth, and the theaters are at least 3/4 empty, allowing you to see a blockbuster in relative peace.

Not that you asked, but “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Computer Generated Effects” was enjoyable for what it was, but I left the theater feeling full of empty calories. The first half was sharp and then came the descent into incoherence and spectacle. As a friend said later, the movie had Spielberg’s first boring aliens.

As for Ontario Mills, it’s been years since I spent much time there, which I did back when it was the only entertainment option, so seeing it again had sociological interest.

Also, horror. On Saturday, performing under gray skies out on the promenade near the AMC ticket booths, was a mime. Yes, a mime in the 909. Near him was a cardboard sign reading “Mime School.” I gaped for a moment before heading into Market Broiler for lunch. When I exited, he was gone. Maybe he was there early for the parking too.

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Beatle browse

I hit Rhino Records’ 15 percent off sale on Memorial Day, but I also made time for Montclair’s Circuit City, which was having its twice-a-year sale in which all CDs from $10.99 to $13.99 are discounted to $9.99. The selection gets skimpier every year but 10 bucks does make some “wobbler” CDs worth taking a chance on.

You get used to seeing CDs misfiled at chain stores, where the customers’ sloth is probably matched only by the employees’. My compulsion for order sometimes compels me to carry a few into their rightful place, especially for musicians I like.

Funniest misfiling of the day: Under the “George Harrison” tab, there was one single CD. Who was it by? Paul McCartney. I guess at this point in history, it’s all the same thing.

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Blond-striped wood

I’ve certainly written my share of clunkers over the years, but then, I don’t write for a big-time newspaper with big-time editors (and pull down a big-time paycheck). Even the mighty have fingers of clay, I guess is the lesson of the following.

Here is the first line of S. Irene Virbila’s restaurant review in the L.A. Times last week:

“Seated at the sushi counter at the new Nobu Los Angeles, the three of us are oddly the only ones at the long counter made of blond-striped wood.”

What were the other customers made of, knotty pine?

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‘Pomona A to Z’: S is for Spadra

[Spadra was a natural choice for the letter S when I was writing this series. Not only is Spadra a crucial part of Pomona's origins, but people remain fascinated by the place, mostly because of its cemetery and the legends about frontier life and mysterious deaths. I've been in the library's special collections room more than once when some young person has come in to inquire politely about Spadra.

Mickey Gallivan of the Historical Society will be the first to tell you she plays up the drama because that's what people want to hear about Spadra. Too bad people persist in trespassing in the cemetery, which is private, and trashing the place. Not very respectful.

This column was first published Jan. 23, 2005.]

Suddenly, ‘Pomona A to Z’ spotlights Spadra

Salaam, sahibs! “Pomona A to Z” today surveys the letter S for a symbol to sum up the city. There’s such a surfeit, we won’t have to scrounge.

So silence, please, as we sequester ourselves in our shacks and shanties, there to solemnly scan the scads of specimens:

* Sugar Shane Mosley, the boxer, and Suga Free, the rapper, who hail from Pomona. Sweet!

* The stylish stables built in 1909 for City Hall’s horses in those pre-car days. They still stand at White and Monterey.

* Sacred Heart, St. Madeleine’s and St. Joseph’s, three churches serving the Catholic population.

* Special Collections, the room at the Public Library where you can research Pomona’s past.

* Soap Opera Laundry, whose sign bears the image of a washing machine with TV-style rabbit ears.

Scintillating!

As you’d suspect, those only scratch the surface. We should also stop to salute Stan Selby, who led the Pomona Concert Band for an astounding 47 years until his death last November.

But our S is something different: Spadra.

Now absorbed into west Pomona, Spadra lay roughly between today’s Valley and Mission boulevards on either side of the 57 Freeway.

The village sprung up in 1866 along a stagecoach line, then began crumbling a decade later as the railroad passed it by. All that’s left is the stately Phillips Mansion, which was built in 1875 and looks a lot like the house in “Psycho,” and a rather sad cemetery.

Residents never saw the end coming. When the upstart settlement of Pomona began in 1875, Spadra’s oldtimers derided it as “Monkey Town,” for reasons that remain obscure.

“They just thought Pomona would never be anything,” said Mickey Gallivan, president of the Historical Society of the Pomona Valley.

But it wasn’t just Spadra that had a short life. So did an alarming number of people who lived there.

As “The Village That Died,” a Historical Society booklet, puts it darkly: “The village of Spadra was characterized by murder, suicide and mysterious deaths.”

Maybe S should be for s-s-s-spooky.

Many Spadra stories start at Billy Rubottom’s inn, which is also where Spadra began. He’d bought 100 acres from Louis Phillips and set up shop along the Butterfield stage line.

To call Rubottom a colorful figure is like saying Shakespeare was a fair writer.

A rough frontiersman, he was wanted in his native Arkansas for killing two men with a knife. (I’m referring to Rubottom, not Shakespeare.)

And in El Monte, Rubottom shot his own son-in-law to death. Even more destructively, he’s been blamed for importing California’s first opossums.

Rubottom may have been the meanest man in Spadra, but he had competition — even from a man of the cloth.

In 1872, the Rev. William Standifer, a farmer, angrily confronted the town constable, knocking him down twice. A bullet in the shoulder from the constable’s gun only made Standifer madder. So the next bullet found the minister’s heart.

Spadra also saw a murder-suicide between two lovers and an ex-con stabbed to death by his brother-in-law, among other untimely demises. As recently as this month, January 2005, a ghostly figure has been reported in the Phillips Mansion.

The cemetery in Spadra has 212 graves, officially.

If you were killed in a barfight at Rubottom’s for, say, cheating at cards, “the rumor is they just dragged you off to the cemetery and buried you,” Gallivan said. “So there are probably more than 212 people buried there.”

The name Spadra, by the way, was stolen by Rubottom from his hometown in Arkansas. According to Gloria Ricci Lathrop’s “Pomona: A Centennial,” though, it was his second choice.

The valley was already known as San Jose from its days under Spanish rule. But Rubottom’s application for a post office by that name was rejected, because California already had a San Jose.

He succeeded with the name Spadra. We know it as Spah-dra, although the Arkansas pronunciation is said to be Spay-dra.

Opened in 1868, the Spadra post office was among the first half-dozen in California. The village was off to a good start.

Settled mostly by poor families fleeing the South, bustling Spadra soon had a school, a major road, warehouses for trade goods, three stores and two blacksmiths. All it lacked was a Starbucks.

Unfortunately, it soon lacked more than that. While Southern Pacific extended its line eastward to Spadra in 1874, by the next year the line went as far as Colton.

The train didn’t stop in Spadra anymore, and almost no one else did, either.

So long, Spadra.

(David Allen writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, sentimentally.)

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Restaurant of the Week: Swasdee Thai Cuisine

Swasdee Thai Cuisine, 14720 Pipeline Ave., Suite B, Chino Hills.

One reason I kept going to events concerning development of The Shoppes (ground breaking, media tour, second media tour) is that each one was in the late morning, perfect timing to eat lunch afterward in Chino Hills. (The developers provided food each time but I skipped it.) Not that Chino Hills is a culinary mecca — the city is just so far from our Ontario office that it’s a rare treat to be there.

And the city does have some good places to eat. Residents there are always complaining about the lack of sitdown restaurants, but their city has more than they think. It’s just that most are ethnic eateries, non-chains, and maybe for that reason they’re not quite what the average person is looking for.

All I know is, my list of places to investigate in Chino Hills is a half-dozen long, and that’s pre-Shoppes. On Thursday I went looking for one of two sushi bars I’ve read about and couldn’t find it — drat those giant shopping centers and five-digit addresses — but while exiting Chino Hills Marketplace on the Pipeline side, I looked across Pipeline and saw a sign for Swasdee Thai. Well, any port in a storm. I drove directly across the street and into the business park.

Swasdee (the word is said to be a greeting in the Thai language) is a brand-new restaurant in a brand-new building, open “one month and one week,” the server told me. The interior has a sleek, mod design with comfortable booths and a small bar. The lighting is dim, the glasses are fluted. Definitely a swankier environment than Mix Bowl.

The menu is upscale too, as are the prices. Appetizers are $6.95 to $15.95; entrees range from $7.95 to $13.95. I had Drunken Noodle ($8.95) and a Thai iced tea ($2.25). Important note: With some of the noodle dishes, the price is without meat; adding chicken, pork, beef or shrimp is $2 more, and seafood is $3 more. So my noodles with chicken actually cost $10.95.

A little pricy. Still, I have to say, my food was a cut above. Drunken Noodle was a bowl of broad, flat noodles with generous cuts of carrots, onions, tomatoes and chunks of chicken, all mildly spicy. The serving was large enough to take home half.

Across from the entrance just feet from the door was a second building with Roscoe’s Famous Deli, and based on the names on the door it’s owned and operated by the people formerly behind Heroes in Claremont.

So there’s yet another Chino Hills restaurant to try, not to mention two sushi bars, two more authentic Chinese eateries and who knows what else. As we left The Shoppes Thursday morning, the city’s spokeswoman suggested a tour sometime of the under-construction City Hall and I’m certainly amenable to that.

As long as we schedule it for around 10:30 a.m.

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Your Chino Hills traffic report

Expect traffic backups in Chino Hills today and throughout the weekend at The Shoppes, which open this morning. (Imagine me in a traffic helicopter, or maybe beating my palms against my chest to sound as if I were in a traffic helicopter.) Peyton Drive is being widened to six lanes but in the meantime it’s squeezed to two or three because of construction. If you go, enter off Grand Avenue or you may regret it.

I had a tour of The Shoppes, which we here at the blog pronounce “Shoppies,” on Thursday morning. Workers swarmed the place, washing windows, sweeping sidewalks, laying tile, painting overhangs and finishing mosaics.

It was sprinkling rain during the tour, which didn’t augur well for an open-air shopping mall. I suspect today’s opening will be a little damp.

As temples of commerce go, The Shoppes isn’t bad. It’s akin to Victoria Gardens, if one-third the size — all outdoors, walkable, chockful o’ chains and, if not exactly a radical design, rather pleasant. Unlike the VG, it doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not as far as a retro look goes. (Although when the architect told our group solemnly that “we weren’t building a project, we were building a community,” I had to suppress my gag reflex.)

Despite the economy, the center is almost completely leased. Only about half the shops and restaurants will open Friday, though, so if you want to skip the madness this weekend, visit in a week or two and more places will be open.

Here’s the flackage:

“The Shoppes at Chino Hills is a 400,000-square-foot open-air lifestyle center, built by Opus West Corporation … The lifestyle center will be home to more than 60 retail and restaurant merchants. Among the merchants that have already been announced are the first H&M in San Bernardino County, Banana Republic, Victoria’s Secret, Trader Joe’s, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Chipotle Mexican Grill, California Pizza Kitchen, Yard House Bar & Grill, Pinkberry, Barnes & Noble Booksellers and Bath & Body Works.”

One tip: Don’t miss the mural inside P.F. Chang’s. Depicting a rural China scene of centuries ago involving a river, laborers and a cart, it’s six panels long — maybe 20 feet? — and handpainted. Check it out.

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Stinky Upland

58038-stinkys.jpg

Photo from the 1958 CMC yearbook, The Ayer

Reader Mary Simon, who calls herself “an old Upland girl now living in Lexington, Kentucky,” writes:

“Does anyone remember a nasty little dive called Stinky’s on the corner of Mountain Avenue and Foothill Boulevard in Upland? It was a little stone building with picnic tables inside, all carved up by decades of miscreants. But they had the most sinfully messy and delicious hamburgers!

“When I was 10, my 16-year-old sister and I were broadsided in a pretty awful car accident at the intersection of Foothill and Mountain before there was a traffic signal. I was the only one hurt (concussion) and I recall staggering with my sister over to Stinky’s to call our parents. They offered me a hamburger, but for once in my life, I wasn’t in the mood.

“I know it was there through the 1960s; it was later torn down and replaced by a Bank of America. Isn’t progress wonderful? A crummy restaurant called El Gato Gordo was also put up right next to it.”

If it’s any consolation, Mary, El Gato Gordo has been torn down. I know many people remember Stinky’s because it’s been brought to my attention numerous times over the years. Anyone want to share memories?

What I’m especially curious about is that I’ve also been told of a place named Stinky Stevens that used to stand at Mountain and 8th in Upland. Two restaurants named Stinky in the same town?

So, while we’re on the topic, can anyone enlighten us about Stinky Stevens?

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