Restaurant of the Week: Pho Vi


Pho Vi, 281 S. Thomas St. (at Third), Pomona

Pho Vi opened in early 2008 in downtown Pomona, in a corner of the 1912 Founders Building that had seen a variety of marginal businesses in recent years. In preparation for its opening, the sidewalk was widened to allow patio dining.

As aficionados know, Pomona is home to several exemplary Vietnamese restaurants, most of them on East Holt between Clark and Indian Hill, but Pho Vi is the first attempt downtown. It may have represented something of a gamble, but perhaps because downtown is light on sit-down restaurants, Pho Vi was an immediate hit, especially during the monthly art walk or when there’s a concert up the block at the Glass House.

I first went there last May and I’ve gone back almost a dozen times, ordering something new each visit. The menu has 222 numbered items, which should keep me busy through Obama’s second term. (On one visit, employees were overheard testing each other on their recall of the menu: “147!” “Sauteed mixed vegetable fried noodle!”)

I’m far from an expert on Vietnamese cuisine, but my own experience and that of friends tells me Pho Vi, while perhaps not the best in Pomona, is among the best.

There are three dozen examples of pho (pronounced “fuh”), the Vietnamese beef noodle soup, most of them under $6.50 even for a two-person bowl. You also get a plate of mint leaves, bean sprouts and lime wedges to season the soup to your taste.

(The very long thin noodles are a challenge to eat if you’re not good with chopsticks; I always, rather shamefacedly, twirl them with a fork against my soup spoon, like spaghetti, hoping no one sees me.)

There are dozens upon dozens of rice and noodle dishes, often with charbroiled pork, beef or shrimp. I’ve had a few of these too and liked them quite a bit.

The restaurant is L-shaped, done in shades of green, with an industrial look. Each table has jars and bottles of various spices and containers of cutlery and chopsticks. The service is prompt, but rather than make you feel rushed, they rather quaintly never bring a bill until you motion for it. The place is family-run, with the oldest member of the family usually seen sitting at a table reading a Vietnamese-language newspaper.

Also, their neon sign, which lends an urban feel to the corner, is really cool.

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Off this week

As noted here previously, I’m on furlough this week — no work, no pay, for those who don’t know the term; everyone in our chain is affected at varying points in February and March — so don’t look for much activity here. There will definitely be a Restaurant of the Week on Friday. I’ll stop by here once or twice per day to approve and post comments.

What can I tell ya? The economy affects newspapers too.

But this would be a good week to catch up on posts you’ve missed, via the categories along the right. You can find the last several months of my columns at

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Sunday column preview

Sunday’s column is mostly about this week’s Ontario council meeting, which provided plenty of fodder on such topics as Mayor Paul Leon’s duties, Mayor Paul Leon’s personal life, a lawsuit by police officers, plans for Guasti and the loss of sound for viewers at home. They may have been the lucky ones.

In addition, there’s an item about an unsung bookstore in Claremont and an explanation of why my column won’t be in the paper next week: I’m on furlough. Well, that’s the way things go in the new depression.

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Bookstores in Claremont

My statement in Feb. 15’s column that the loss of Second Story Books “will leave Claremont without a bookstore — other than the one at the Claremont Colleges — for the first time in decades” drew comment from two other stores that sell books: the Thoreau Bookshop in the Packing House and the Friends of the Library store in the Claremont Library.

For various reasons, I can’t exactly qualify them as bookstores, since both are nonprofits that rely on donated material and hence have very small collections. I give them a shout-out in Sunday’s column anyway. And I’d like to quote the e-mails I got. The one concerning the Thoreau store was, as one would hope from bookish people, particularly well-composed.

First, here’s what Rachel McDonnell, office manager of the Claremont Forum, had to say about the Thoreau:

Continue reading “Bookstores in Claremont” »

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Restaurant of the Week: Sal & Sons Pizza & Pasta


This week’s restaurant: Sal & Sons Pizza & Pasta, 1520 N. Mountain Ave. (at Sixth), Ontario.

Sal’s opened in November in the modern-looking shopping center visible from the 10 Freeway across from the Edwards 14. Sal’s has some connection to the Graziano’s chain, although it’s unclear what. The menus are similar.

It’s a peppy, fast-food-looking place, on the small side, with yellow and red being the dominant colors. You order at the counter. They have a variety of pizzas, a dozen pastas, plus calzones and hot and cold sandwiches.

I’ve now been there twice. In January, I got one of the lunch specials, a half-order of lasagna with a salad and soda (price forgotten, but under $7). Kind of thin — it was like the half order was done horizontally, giving you two layers out of four — but good, and the price was right.

On Wednesday I returned for a pizza. I got an 8-inch mini-pizza, luna style ($7.70), a small salad ($2.35) and small drink ($1.25).

The pizza had olive oil, garlic, mozzarella and romano, no tomato sauce. Perhaps too much olive oil, but the crust was nice and thin, with a light, crunchy edge. The salads here are just chopped lettuce and a single tomato slice. It might be worth adding a topping for 95 cents. Or not, since for $5.25 you could get a small antipasto salad.

Sal’s has a variety of lunch specials and dinner specials, all under $7. Not a bad place for a low-cost meal if you’re in the neighborhood, such as before or after a movie.

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Friday column preview

For weeks I’ve been stymied at trying to watch “Lost,” my favorite show, because with my digital converter, I can no longer get Channel 7. Ah, the wonders of the digital age. ABC never came in well with just an antenna, but at least I could watch it. So I’ve been going to friends’ homes to watch the show.

Tune in Friday when I offer an update on the pitfalls of digital TV — but with a (whew!) positive conclusion.

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Everything must go at Chino Hills Library!

Chino Hills’ new library opens Feb. 28 and with 60,000 books it sounds well-stocked. But this weekend, the old library is holding a moving sale, selling purged or donated material at fire sale prices. Everyone else is liquidating, so why not a library?

“We are selling the books, with a few exceptions, for $5 per bag,” says Geri Moore of Friends of the Library. She adds: “The bag is the size of a paper grocery bag and we supply the bags.”

Free bags too? This deal just got even better.

“We have a wide variety of books,” Moore says. “We have a large selection of children’s books. In addition, we have adult fiction and non-fiction (cookbooks, biographies, travel, crafts, and large coffee table books) in both hardcover and paperback.”

Various “antique” books, VHS tapes, DVDs and CDs will be priced individually. Maybe you still get a free bag. Shelving, display racks, carts and other odds and ends will also be sold.

C’mon, you know you’ve always wanted your very own library cart.

The sale will be held in the old library building at 2003 Grand Ave., in the old Civic Center complex, on Friday from noon to 8 p.m., on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

The Friends of the Library is hosting the sale, with proceeds to help fill gaps in funding at the new library. Friends, for instance, pays for some reading programs and bought children’s furniture for the new library.

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Bogie in Ontario, sweetheart

Looks like we’ve missed “The Big Sleep” and “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” earlier this month, but two more Bogart classics are playing at the Ontario City Library, 215 E. C St., the next two Thursdays.

“Casablanca” is playing tonight and “The Caine Mutiny” rounds out the month. I love “Casablanca” but have seen it often enough that I’ll take a pass. “Caine Mutiny,” however, I’ve never seen. Barring complications, I’ll be there.

Screenings begin at 6:30 p.m. and admission is free.

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The answer is no

Spotted in Upland on Wednesday: a McDonald’s 18-wheeler whose side panel consisted of a giant closeup photo of a Big Mac and the motorist-friendly phrase “merge at taste and quality.”

On the rear of the truck was the loaded question “are we there yet?”

Is McDonald’s at the intersection of taste and quality? Better keep driving, pal.

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Tavis Smiley in La Verne

I get used to all the big names coming to the Claremont Colleges for lectures, all of them within walking distance from your humble blogger.

But the University of La Verne is getting into the act, next Tuesday bringing out Tavis Smiley. Smiley has a PBS talk show and an NPR radio show and has authored 11 books, including the soon to be released “Accountable: Making America As Good As its Promise.”

In your face, Claremont!

Smiley’s talk is free, but you need to reserve a seat, pronto. To do so, call Christina Massengale at (909) 593-3511, ext. 4682.

The talk begins at 7:30 p.m. in Founders Hall Auditorium. Maps, directions and campus parking information are available at

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