Michael J’s, RIP

The Ontario location, 201 N. Vineyard Ave., closed recently, depriving Best Western guests of the chance to walk to pancakes or a cocktail, or both. I got the news from reader Bruce Henning, who said Michael J’s had been there for years.

A sign on the door blames a decrease in business.

I ate there once, in 1999, for breakfast with my colleague Monica Rodriguez to commiserate on her recent, and my impending, 35th birthday. The food was serviceable but uninspiring.

There was a second Michael J’s at 2315 Foothill Blvd. in La Verne. I tried the phone number and it’s been disconnected. Uh-oh.

If memory serves, there was a Michael J’s on Foothill in Rancho Cucamonga that several years ago became something else, I think a BC Cafe.

Sounds like the Michael J’s mini-empire may be toast. Anyone know any history of the place?

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  • http://mrontemp.blogspot.com/ Ontario Emperor

    Back when I moved here in 1983, there were Michael J’s all over the place. The one that I went to most often was their Upland location, which was on north Mountain Avenue where the Tequila Hoppers bar is now. Eventually they began closing, including the Rancho Cucamonga location that you mentioned.

  • Ramona

    The coffee shop on Foothill (at Hermosa) in Rancho was a BC cafe (Breakfast at Carl’s) and re-named Kick Back Jack’s some time ago but the BC Cafe name is there in smaller letters. The phone book lists it as a BC. It was still in operation this AM when I drove by.

    I’ve had some great breakfasts and/or lunches there with my grandson.

    Sad to watch various institutions dropping like flies. Or needing federal bail-outs.

    Shall we blame gas prices, the current administration, or one of the several hurricanes?


    [I think it was a Michael J’s before it was BC or Kick Back. The previous commenter seemed to think so too. I remember there was a Michael J’s somewhere along Foothill. — DA]

  • Will Plunkett

    The former Foothill Grill (I always liked to pronounce it “Foo-thill” Grill) just west of Haven on Foothill Blvd. is now a Michael J’s… wait, sorry, it’s now a Spires, which is (still?) another restaurant near where the recently-closed Michael J’s is/was on Vineyard. I get confused so easily about these things…

    I remember I first tried New England clam chowder at the Vineyard/Holt MJ’s, and it’s now my favorite soup. I am sure there were more locations back-in-tha-day, but I can’t recall where right now.

  • D-Force

    There is a Michael J’s in La Puente on Hacienda/Vincent. Never been to any of them, probably won’t miss it.

  • Jim L

    It’s a shame about Michael J’s. It seems that in this age of fast food or specialty menus, a restaurant that strives to offer a wide variety of quality food just can’t compete. Same story as when Benjies, another similar longtime establishment, closed.

  • Don J

    Magnolia’s Peach, Bengy’s, Flakey Jake’s, Yankee Doodle’s, MacArthur’s.

    {A roll call of the departed. — DA]

  • Preston Tucker

    I recall in the dim past (1979) or so the waitresses at the Michael J’s on Mountain had the highest hemline for a skirt. A guy I worked with said it was always a treat for him to have lunch there. He especially enjoyed watching them reaching over to serve drinks at the other tables. The fact they had nice legs too didn’t hurt either.

    I also add to the list of “Don J” the first club dance bar I ever went to…Club 66. I went there often after work on Friday nights. For what it’s worth I happened to go there on a Sunday night once. Entering I was amazed to see the place full of screaming excited chicks! But no guys. Except…on the dance floor. History
    of some sort was being made as I was watching a Wet Shorts Nite. Some young Navy guy won it. He slid down his boxers …….and behold..Speedos. Never saw those before (1980) or so. For San Bernardino County this was a first. Far as I know anyway. And no I did not compete. Kept my amateur status that way.

    [This is why this blog is so valuable: The crucial history that’s being preserved. Thanks for the funny comment, Preston. — DA]

  • ray

    Hey Hal Linker….. how would you best describe the waitresses at Michael J’s ??? or your experiences at DON JOSE’S, CLUB 66, etc….

    [We’ll see if that coaxes “Hal” out of retirement. — DA]

  • Robert Carr

    Is anyone in contact with the bartender Marie from the Michael J’s on Vineyard Ave in Ontario that recently closed? I have some Green Packers stuff for her… if so, have her call me…

    Robert Carr
    (760) 525-8403 Cell

  • Robert Bunch

    David as odd as it sounds me and my partner made a lot of money at Michael J’s in La Verne, As subcontractors we did work for [this is a free plug ed] Forbes Electric out of La Verne in the earliy 80’s. The only time we saw the office was to get paid, all other busness was done at Michael J’s over breakfast.

    We had blueprints, map to job and list of lumber yards and wholesalers in area to deal with. So much work was done in those early hours they should have charged rent. Maybe they would still be open. We were only on the carpentery half, the other trades met there also.

  • Derek Christensen

    Yes, Michael J’s. I used to dine there often (or camp out in the lounge).

    As suggested earlier, a HUGE draw for the male clientele were the waitress uniforms: one-piece, brown with white trim, veryyyy short skirt-length, low-V-cut top, complete with white ruffled panties. Very sexy indeed.

    Unfortunately, the uniforms were relegated to history some time during the 1990s, due to sexual-harassment lawsuits (or the fear of them). Sort of like Hooters, yet Hooters somehow managed to keep their dress-code intact.

    I once dated a waitress from the Vineyard avenue location in the early 1990s.

    I remember when they opened the (then) New Michael J’s on the S.E. corner of Foothill at Hermosa in Cucamonga around 1982. That location is now a BC Cafe.

    Michael J. (short for Jovaovich IIRC) had a son (Steven) that went to an eastern, Ivy League college, and worked summers in his father’s restaurants learning the business.

    Upon graduation, he gave over the Mountain Avenue MJ’s location to his son who renamed it “Stinky Stevens” restaurant.

    [Thanks for the description of the waitress getups. Ooh-la-la. — DA]

  • Cheri

    Whoa now…I was a waitress at Michael J’s in LaPuente on Hacienda in the late ’70s. I believe he had nine restaurants around the valley at that time.

    We wore white uniform dresses…yes, short! But they were topped by colored flowered aprons with gathered skirts and ruffled bibs….I know because we were issued one that had to be washed continually, so I found some fabric and made several for myself & the other girls. Eventually Michael caught on and had me make them for all his “stores” which is what he called the restaurants.

    He was a great guy to work for — exacting but generous. The customers were gentle people…many regulars every day. Those were great sunny days! I could tell some good stories!

    [Come back and tell some. And thanks for the insights into Michael J’s. — DA]

  • ardee

    Managed for Michael for about six years. Ruffled panties were a big draw, especially for the bar crowd. When I first started there were stories that some of the waitresses would take breaks in customer’s cars, but I never saw any of that. The girls were very attractive, and mostly young. When business slowed down, Michael changed uniforms to be more “family friendly” and he lost his niche. Food was good, service okay, but the eye candy was gone.

    [*Sniff* — DA]

  • tino romero

    Michael J’s in Upland had great Cheese Sticks.

  • disqus_S1ql48Vi9i

    Many fond memories!

  • Rich P

    Miss all the Michael J’s family. Worked for Michael from the early 70’s, to the late 80’s. So, where is everyone?