Friday column preview

Looks like I forgot to write a Wednesday column preview. Oops. Well, here’s what’s coming Friday: a report from this week’s Ontario council meeting. It was the latest in a post-election string of curious meetings, capped by an angry, oxygen-sucking speech by the mayor.

I hope you all read Wednesday’s column even without a teaser like this.

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Remembering Socorro’s

I haven’t done one of these “remember when” posts in a while, but with the opening this week of Don Marcos Mexican restaurant at 10276 Foothill Blvd., Rancho Cucamonga, this seems like a good time to recall the long-lived restaurant in this building: Socorro’s.

Socorro’s was established in 1969 at 9671 Foothill (at Archibald) and moved in 1981 a bit east to 10276, near Haven. It was a popular sit-down Mexican restaurant run by a woman whose first name (I believe) was Socorro. She closed the business in 2001, I think to retire.

The above dates are courtesy of the Ontario Library’s Model Colony History Room, where Kelly Zackmann looked through phone books and Criss-Cross Directories for me. The only caveat is because of a ’67-’83 gap, she couldn’t say for sure if anything was in 10276 prior to Socorro’s. Our guess is no, but we can’t say for sure.

Sad to say, I never ate there, only visiting a year or two ago to try the Whole Enchilada, which took Socorro’s place. Don Marcos, we can only hope, will be an improvement. Interesting that all three restaurants in this building have had Mexican cuisine. It’s obviously what the building is associated with in people’s minds.

Anyone want to reminisce about Socorro’s — the original location, the later location, the food, the ambience, the owner? To last 32 years, they must have been doing something right.

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Entrepreneur ensures PFF calendar didn’t go pff!

PFF Bank made it through the Great Depression but couldn’t weather the current depression. One bit of fallout from their failure that hadn’t occurred to me is the end of the bank’s long-running series of calendars featuring vintage citrus crate labels.

Stepping in to fill the breach is Randi Marshall of La Verne, who sells labels online on his eBay store. I read about this in John Weeks’ column in the Bulletin on Saturday. Marshall told Weeks he’d been selling PFF calendars for the past five years. “When I found out that the PFF calendar would not be printed this year, I took the liberty of printing one myself,” he said.

Marshall’s calendar doesn’t appear to say PFF anywhere, but each month has an image of a fruit crate label, just like PFF would have done. You can find the calendars here for just $5.99, plus $2.99 shipping. August’s art is from the King label in Claremont that appears from the thumbnail art to depict a lion. And here’s Marshall’s main page.

(While I was on his store, I couldn’t resist buying the Newsboy crate label for my cubicle.)

But back to the calendar. Cool of Marshall to continue one PFF tradition. Alas, I don’t think he’s offering free checking.

Anyone collect PFF calendars or have any particular memories of getting them?

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Chili in the air

The forecast in Pomona on Saturday was chili, as in chili cookoff. Yours truly was invited to co-judge the “first annual” contest with Larry Egan of downtown’s business improvement district.

It was a low-key affair at dba256, the wine bar at Third and Main, with five chilis submitted. Larry and I agreed on the top two, after a re-sample, in our blind taste test. At least three of the five were submitted by dba employees, who seem to know their chili as well as they know their spirits.

You can read a bit more about it here, as well as see a (gasp) full-length picture of me, although my head is turned.

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Why not sale pricing at dying restaurants?

Stores keep having closeout sales. Restaurants keep closing, but they never seem to have sales. Why not?

Menu items could be more heavily discounted as the sale progressed: 10 percent off, 20 percent, 30 percent.

You could make hard choices: “The BLT isn’t worth it at 40 percent off. But when the discount hits 50, I’m all over it.”

At a pizza parlor, pepperoni would be only 10 percent off, because everyone orders it anyway, while anchovies and black olives would be 90 percent off from day one.

The problem is that if you went in to one of these places on the last day, all you could get is stale bread, pepper and relish.

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Sunday column preview

Echoing a couple of blog posts from earlier this week, Sunday’s column is about reading for pleasure. (I hope it will be a pleasure to read.)

Reading is one of my hobbies, but I’ve never been very fast about it. I spend too much time lingering over sentences, my mind is easily distracted and besides, it’s hard to find time to focus on a book.

Have you heard of the book “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die”? Here’s the list. Well, in 2007, this inveterate list-keeper read 10 books. At that rate, it would take me 100 years to read all the books I’m supposedly obligated to read. (Last year I read 24 books, a pace that puts me on track to finish in 42 years if I start this weekend.)

Of course, nobody in his or her right mind would really use that list as a parameter, unless you have a yen to read “Aithiopika” by Heliodorus and “The Castle of Otranto” by Horace Walpole. Even the titles are boring. Heck, even the authors’ names are boring.

For anyone reading this after reading that column, the link to the Sarah Weinman I-read-462-books-last-year interview that I mention is here. It’s also a few blog posts down in the “Speaking of reading…” entry, preceded by a piece about “Billy Budd.”

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Restaurant of the Week: The Habit

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The Habit Burger Grill, 1608 Foothill Blvd. (at Chelsea), La Verne

The Habit opened recently in a standalone building in front of the remodeled Vons center near Wheeler and was busy pretty much from day one. There are two dozen Habits, which began in Goleta in 1969, but the nearest one is in Glendale.

The operation seems perched between Fuddruckers and In-N-Out with its emphasis on fresh, quality ingredients and its somewhat stylish interior. On Saturday, when I visited, the lunchtime line stretched to the door. The menu has charbroiled burgers, some tasty-sounding sandwiches including chicken, tri-tip and albacore tuna, and salads.

I got the No. 1 Char combo ($5.95), a single burger, fries and soda, and took a seat on the patio. My number was called on the loudspeaker in a few minutes. The fries were pretty good and the burger even better, charred to perfection and served on a toasted sesame seed bun with lettuce, tomato, mayo, pickle and, a nice touch, caramelized onions.

The staff was friendly, just like at In N Out. They’ll come take your tray or offer to fetch a soda refill.

The patio is the stroke of genius. Rather than an afterthought with one or two tables, theirs has 12, and the tables and chairs are wood, not molded plastic. Saturday was uncommonly warm, as it’s been all week. I sat outside in short sleeves for the first time in weeks, reading the centennial issue of Westways with its pieces on two SoCal icons, ’30s artist Maynard Dixon and writer Carey McWilliams, soaking up the weather and feeling mighty fine about living in Southern California.

This could become a habit.

* Update, February 2014: And indeed it has. I still eat at the Habit now and then. I should probably try more items on the menu, but the burgers and fries are really good.

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Friday column preview

Did you know Ontario native and bon vivant Charles Phoenix is grand marshal of Sunday’s Doo Dah Parade in Pasadena?

“I don’t even know what it’s like to be a grand marshal,” Phoenix told me Thursday. “I’ve never paraded before.”

I gave him the benefit of my own experience, which is that the whole thing will be over before he knows it. Also, that the actual parade may be anticlimactic. Although that may not hold true for the wacky Pasadena parade, which is more energetic than the low-key Pomona parade I led in 2007.

Phoenix gave me the lowdown on his plans, an interview that kicks off Friday’s column. But I found space for a crack about Bill Postmus and a few words about the Matador Salad.

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2nd Claremont comics show is Saturday

The Los Angeles Comic Con *, which debuted in December in (ahem) Claremont — leading me to think of it as the “Los Angeles” Comic Con — worked out well enough they’re having a second one this Saturday.

Co-founder Chris Peterson said more than 400 people checked out the Dec. 20 show at the Packing House, 532 W. 1st St. The event is expected to continue on the third Saturday of each month.

The Dec. 20 show had a well-known Marvel artist, a half-dozen vendors selling back issue comics, one vendor selling board games and one or two selling merchandise I couldn’t readily classify. (You know how it is at vendor shows: Sometimes you just walk past quickly, trying not to make eye contact.)

All in all, the show was no Frank and Son, the Industry collectibles warehouse, but it’s cool that it’s here, and the venue is a good one. I spent about 30 minutes and $30. My one regret is that I missed the fan dressed as Zatanna.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and admission is free. For details: www.losangelescomic-con.com.

* On Friday organizers announced an improved name: Edge of L.A. Comic Con.

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