Wednesday column preview

I got a tour of the Fox Theater in Pomona on Monday to see the renovation in progress, two months before the opening. It’s pretty awesome, even with a lot of work left to go.

Since I’m a guy who loves old theaters, movies, music and downtown Pomona, the Fox provides no shortage of interest. Besides, there’s a lot of history and sentiment behind the Fox’s return. It may end up as the Inland Valley’s most exciting development of 2009.

I expect to be writing considerably more about the Fox in coming weeks. In the meantime, Wednesday’s column offers a sneak peek.

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Competitive eating in Chino Hills

If you like wolfing your food, or like the idea of watching other people wolf their food, this could be for you. Jody Maroni’s Sausage Kingdom is opening a location at The Shoppes at Chino Hills — and marking the occasion with a sausage-eating contest.

It takes place at 2 p.m. Saturday on a stage in the Promenade area of the open-air mall. Anyone interested should show up at 1:30 to fill out forms and such. Unlike the famous Nathan’s hot dog contest at Coney Island, contestants only have to eat two “fully loaded” sausage sandwiches. Whoever finishes first, wins coupons for five free combos. Thankfully, they don’t have to be redeemed immediately.

And no, you won’t find me within miles of the place. I prefer to eat less, and more slowly.

Maroni’s will also give out free samples from noon to 4 p.m. and donate 15 percent of any proceeds to a Chino Hills charity, the Let It Be Foundation, which offers support for the families of Chino Valley children with life-threatening medical conditions. They’re calling the event Haut Dogs for Hope.

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Seeking closure on closures

Reader Shirley Wofford writes:

“Do you think you could come up with any information on Barbeques Galore, formerly in Upland on Mountain in the Home Depot mall, and Janie’s Sports Lounge, formerly in Montclair? Both businesses have disappeared without fanfare — at least I never saw any news notes on either one.

“I was planning to get a customized fireplace screen and glass enclosure at Barbeques. I thought they would always be there when I finally got around to it. Now, I don’t know where to go.

“Janie’s Sports Lounge was a fixture at the strip mall anchored by Stater Bros. Market (Montclair’s only supermarket) for many years and was very popular with its regulars. I was not a patron, but it always seemed to be an integral part of that neighborhood.”

I have no knowledge of the circumstances of either business’ demise, Shirley, nor do I know where else you might get a customized fireplace screen. Readers?

The owner of Janie’s, Janie McLaren, sent me a nice note a year or so ago, inviting me in for lunch sometime. Sorry to say, I never took advantage of the offer. Oh well. Anyone able to share any memories of the place?

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Restaurant of the Week: Stevie Dee’s Cafe

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Stevie Dee’s Cafe, 8890 E. 8th St. (at Vineyard), Rancho Cucamonga

Stevie’s is the shack perched a few feet below the railroad tracks on Vineyard. The blue and white striped building appears to have been there forever. (The staff thinks it dates to the 1940s.) The building was Chuck’s Diner for at least a decade prior to Stevie Dee’s arrival. Anyone know more of its history?

Inside there’s a counter, a few tables, frilly curtains on the windows and ’50s kitsch on the walls: Marilyn posters, Elvis photos, etc. The walls also hold 45s tacked up in a row near the ceiling and an autographed photo of that late-night yodeler, Slim Whitman.

I’d been to Stevie’s once, maybe three years ago, eating a fish sandwich and a cup of soup. The sandwich was fine and the soup was the standout. This time I went with two friends who’d always been curious about the place. It serves breakfast and lunch and now also has dinner.

Our sandwiches — tuna melt ($7.25), tuna sandwich ($6.75), avocado burger ($6.99) — were deemed average to slightly above. They were all generously sized. The burger seemed to have both mayo and Thousand Island, which made it a little goopy.

An order of onion rings to share ($2.75) was thick cut and tasty. Our sandwiches came with a side of soup, salad, fries, onion rings or zucchini. My salad was standard. My friends got two of the day’s housemade soups, Northern bean and beefy noodle, and that’s where the action was. Instead of cups, the soup came in bowls and could have been meals in themselves. The beefy noodle had big pieces of tomato, as well as pasta, beef and corn. “I would come here just for the soup,” one friend said.

Twice during lunch a Metrolink train roared past, whistle blowing. People have been hearing train whistles in that building for decades. You could do worse than to join them.

Here’s a review with photos at the fun Dinerwood blog.

* Update, March 2014: I went in for lunch on a Monday and everything seemed unchanged, thankfully. I had a $7 Philly steak sandwich with onion rings (same price as fries, a rarity). It’s not Phillys Best, but the sandwich was tasty enough. My only regret is that they didn’t have any of their famous soups that day.

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A scent-imental Valentine’s Day

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What a difference a letter makes, as this sweet message at a florist’s shop in La Verne becomes something more pungent. Says the friend who tipped me off to the sign: “One colleague said he was going to take a picture and send it to his wife on Valentine’s Day. I said he needed to include an image of Gabe Kaplan.”

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Says who?

Spotted on the rear window of a vehicle in Ontario, the self-dramatizing logo: “Only God Can Judge Me.”

Really? The court system might disagree with you, pal.

Which reminds me of the woman in a Pomona courtroom a couple of years ago who was there (as was I) as a potential juror. She said she would prefer not to serve on a jury because she didn’t “believe in the court system.” “It’s here,” the judge replied. “It exists. Trust me.”

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Wednesday column preview

I almost never attend Upland council meetings, being rather busy following Ontario and Pomona politics. Yet there were two good reasons for me to attend Monday’s Upland council meeting:

1) a controversial proposal for a social hall in a residential neighborhood and

2) the strong possibility that people would talk about Councilman Ray Musser’s comment at the last meeting about the “nonwhite” people at the inauguration who were “well behaved.”

Well, the first matter was withdrawn, it was announced at the meeting’s start, so that the proposal could be rethought. This confirms my theory that any city meeting in Upland is likely to be half as interesting than one would hope.

Despite that loss, the meeting was pretty entertaining. I got a whole column out of it. Which confirms my other theory, which is that Upland is still more interesting than one might think.

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RC loses Long’s, gains Valero

Your Rancho Cucamonga business report:

* The Long’s Drugs location at Haven and Base Line closed a couple of weeks ago, a victim of the chain’s purchase by CVS, reports reader Marilyn Varney. Don’t know what this means for other Long’s in the valley, or whether all or any will reopen as a CVS.

* The long-closed Mobil (I think) station at Arrow and Vineyard is going to reopen as a Valero station. Just saw the banner on my lunch hour Monday. The station is half-hidden behind a berm of lawn at the corner and you’d hardly know there was a gas station there. Which may be one reason it failed.

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Valentine’s Day ‘fun’

Stuck on how to spend Valentine’s Day? Worry no more. At 2 p.m. that day, the Pomona Public Library is hosting a talk by a Pomona Valley Genealogical Society member on the pulse-quickening topic “Beware: Modern Records Can Be Just as Inaccurate as Older Records.”

Sounds like a great place for a first date. Or not. For information: (909) 646-9216.

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Restaurant of the Week: City Broiler

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City Broiler, 12959 Peyton Drive (at Rock Springs), Chino Hills.

In a standalone building in a shopping center on the north end of Chino Hills, City Broiler is reminiscent of New York Grill at Ontario Mills. Both are white tablecloth restaurants, lightly swank, with a Big Apple theme. City Broiler took over in 2007 from Peppino’s, a short-lived Italian eatery.

The interior is brick with wood trim, brass and etched glass. There are some stylish B&W NYC photos dotting the walls. The restaurant feels urban, certainly more urban than Chino Hills, even if it is across the parking lot from a Wendy’s.

I ate there Wednesday night with a couple of friends who live nearby and like the place. We sat in the bar area, which I would recommend for a casual experience. We ordered the mini-pizza with mushrooms ($6) and the crab cake sandwich ($8) off the bar menu and the fish and chips ($12.50) off the regular menu. The latter two came with a side dish; we got fruit and mixed vegetables, respectively.

We traded food and none of us were disappointed. I wasn’t blown away, but I would eat there again. Service was attentive and the atmosphere is appealing. It’s nice to see a family-owned sit-down restaurant.

The specialties are steak and seafood, by the way, although they also have sandwiches, salads and pizzas. You can view the menu and photos here.

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