Friday column preview

I’m a big fan of Mix Bowl Cafe, a Thai restaurant in Pomona, as some of you know (because I see you there). Finishing up a long-range project, I recently ate the only four menu items, out of 144, that I hadn’t tried. Why did I eat every item on the menu? Because it was there.

You can read that piece Friday. In the meantime, you can read the menu online, which is accompanied by an achingly slow slide show of photos of the colorful restaurant. You can also read reviews on Yelp. They run the gamut from love-it to hate-it but average out to 3.5 stars out of 5, which is about right.

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Wednesday column preview

Readers with sharp memories may recall a fanciful column of mine from New Year’s Day 2006 consisting of an imagined (duh) dialogue among various Inland Valley statuary. You can read that one by clicking below.

Wednesday’s column is a New Year’s Eve reprise of that strange idea. I’ll be interested to hear whether people like it or think it’s the biggest waste of space since, well, whatever my last column was.
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R.I.P.: Old Baldy Brewing Co.

This is old news, I’m afraid, but I only now heard about it: Old Baldy Brewing Co., 271 N. 2nd Ave. in downtown Upland, is out of business.

It’s been a long time since I’d been there, but the bar, which opened circa 1994, became a mainstay of downtown. I first visited in ’98 or so. Something of a dive, although less so than the Sea Cove used to be, Old Baldy had decent grub besides brewing its own beer, which was good enough to win some awards. The bar occasionally hosted bands or standup. Some co-workers saw rising band Abe Vigoda there a few months back.

A friend used to live in the apartments above the brewery, which was cause for envy, although he said it was no picnic trying to sleep anytime before 2 a.m.

Comments on Yelp shed some light on the bar’s history. Its MySpace page indicates the place was taken over earlier this year by the former Margarita Beach owner, who planned to change the name to 2nd Avenue Saloon. I stopped by last night and saw by the sign in the window that the alcohol license transfer to that new name is pending.

(The street, btw, was about as devoid as life as I’ve seen it, although there is a bar virtually next door to Old Baldy named Dallison’s that looked lively. I have a sneaking suspicion the D is a joke on the D’Uplanders banquet hall across the street.)

As we belatedly bid farewell to Old Baldy Brewing Co., anyone have any comments about or memories to share concerning its decor, its characters, its owners, etc.?

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Kind of fun, but not really fun

Reader Gene Harvey phoned to tell me KFI-AM quoted from my Top 10 strange news of 2008 column, attributing the countdown simply to the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, yours truly not being a household name. Well, nice of KFI to let me speak for the entire newspaper, I guess.

Harvey said the station referenced items 10 (the road rage chaplain), 9 (Ontario confusion) and then jumped to No. 1 (Thanksgiving at Condit Elementary).

“Too bad they didn’t mention your name. That would have been kind of fun,” Harvey said.

Yes (sob!), it would have.

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Restaurant of the Week: Tokyo Wako

This week’s restaurant: Tokyo Wako, 4480 Ontario Mills Parkway (at Franklin), Ontario.

This teppan grill restaurant is in a minimall on the south side of the Mills. A fire pit near the entrance provides a place to warm up if you’re waiting to be seated. I don’t know if that’s ever the case in this economy: A friend and I were seated immediately on a Tuesday night around 8 p.m. and the restaurant was mostly empty.

The interior, however, is enormous: a large sushi bar and dining area as well as a large teppanyaki room. And it’s lovely too, even if the koi “river” (a la Tokyo Tokyo) was dry.

The special is worth trying: For $29.95, two can have the full teppan experience with both chicken and steak, plus soup, salad and rice. The results were pretty good, too.

But one has to ask: What is the point? Benihana does the exact same thing. And I mean the exact same thing. The grill seating, the soup, the salad, the shrimp appetizer, the vegetables (zucchini, onion, mushrooms and bean sprouts), it’s awfully familiar. Ditto with the chef’s tricks, which mostly involve randomly knocking various implements and containers against the edge of the grill, and making the de rigeur onion volcano.

The food at Tokyo Wako was fine, the decor was a cut above Benihana and you can probably be seated faster. But how about a bit more wako?

View the menu here.

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Sunday column preview

There are a series of columns I always do at year’s end, and one of them is a countdown of the Inland Valley’s Top 10 strange news stories. Feel free to mull over the possibilities as you await Sunday’s column. I believe the same issue may include my annual compilation of the year’s most interesting quotes.

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La Verne and its ‘Magic Christmas Tree’

NPR and Slate teamed up for a feature titled “The Best Merry Scary Christmas Movies,” the capper of which was “Magic Christmas Tree,” an ultra-low budget movie from 1964 described by reporter Marc Jordan Legan as an example of “deeply rich bad cinema.”

“Shot in lovely La Verne, Calif.,” Legan says, the movie “looks like it was made for about 12 bucks.”

The plot involves a boy who rescues a cat from a tree for a woman reputed to be a witch. He falls, hits his head and the movie suddenly, a la “Wizard of Oz,” switches from B&W to color. The witch gives him a ring with a secret compartment holding a magic seed that, if planted “beneath the wishbone of a Thanksgiving turkey in the dark of the moon,” will become “a magic Christmas tree.”

Soon, the magic Christmas tree indeed appears. “And of course, since it’s magic, it can talk!” Legan enthuses. But, he wonders, why does it have “the voice of an irritated antiques dealer”?

Be that as it may, the movie takes an even stranger turn when the boy wanders into the woods and is accosted by a burly giant, who nearly kidnaps the boy. (“Suddenly ‘Magic Christmas Tree’ turns into ‘Deliverance,’” Legan says.) The boy escapes and promises never to be greedy again. Gosh, how heartwarming.

Legan advises showing “Magic Christmas Tree” toward the end of a holiday party if guests won’t take the hint to leave.

Perhaps, but now I really want to see “Magic Christmas Tree.” Listen to the NPR story’s audio and then watch the video here.

Thanks to readers Don J. and Eric, we also have a 9-minute YouTube clip. Eric advises to let the thing load and then skip ahead to 5:15, when we get four straight minutes of La Verne circa 1964. I see signs for Mellin’s, a cafe named Pat’s and something that looks like Millions, plus the Fire Department.

Can any longtime La Verne residents clue us in about the route taken and the landmarks seen?

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Wednesday column preview

At Trader Joe’s in Claremont, there’s a “wish tree”: a Christmas tree decorated with tags on which customers have penned their Christmas wish. I think Yoko Ono (of all people) may have created the idea: She had a wish tree in Old Town Pasadena earlier this year.

The wishes on the Claremont tree are alternately funny, sweet, poignant and greedy. I stood there Monday evening jotting them all down and in Wednesday’s column I present virtually all of them for your edification and amusement.

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