Restaurant of the Week: King Taco


Photo by Neil Nisperos

This week’s restaurant: King Taco, 406 N. Mountain Ave. (at D), Ontario.

Admittedly, most of my dinner experience was covered in my Wednesday column, but that was more about being there than the actual food.

In short, it’s a very busy place, with long lines. You order at the counter, sit down and pick up your food when your number is called.

Quality-wise, King Taco could be the In-N-Out of Mexican fast food, or the Tommy’s, another cult-like place with long lines for simple fare. The five of us at our table were all impressed by the quality of the meats especially. You can view the menu here.

On the authenticity scale, King Taco doesn’t seem to have watered things down despite being a chain: Fillings include lengua (tongue), cabeza (head), buche (pig stomach), molleja (chicken stomach) and suadero (beef brisket), besides the more common asada (steak), pollo (chicken), carnitas (pork) and al pastor (marinated pork).

We stuck with the basics — al pastor and carnitas sopes, al pastor and carne asada burritos, carne asada and chicken tacos — being willing to carry adventurousness only so far.

We also liked the chile and verde salsas, which come in small plastic cups and pack a punch. But there were some downsides.

One of us ordered chips and salsa. The chips were bagged and only average, and she didn’t like paying 69 cents for salsa when, as she learned when she took her seat, the exact same containers were given out for free on request to others at the table. Also, $1.25 for a tiny cup of guacamole seemed rather high.

There’s also the matter of whether the food was worth the half-hour wait from walking inside to picking up the order. You can get essentially the same food all over the valley with no waiting. The lines will die down, but perhaps not that much; King Tacos are high-volume outfits and the layout, with four cashier stations, is set up in anticipation of crowds.

A poll of our table revealed that everyone was willing to come back despite the lines and the hectic, noisy atmosphere. Actually, I may have been the only lukewarm voice on that count. Another said he was more likely to take his food to go, or even eat at the curb (there’s no outdoor seating), because of the hubbub.

The restaurant, btw, is closed today for Good Friday.

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Claremont to reveal ‘truth’ about Harry Potter

Pomona College is hosting a panel discussion today (sorry for the late notice) with the subject “Veritaserum: The Truth About Harry Potter.”

No, it’s not one of those Potter-is-satanic deals. From the announcement:

“The Pomona Student Union and a panel of Pomona College professors Heather McWilliams (Politics), Oona Eisenstadt (Religious Studies) and Kathleen Fitzpatrick (English) will address the philosophical, political and theological questions that the beloved Harry Potter series poses, such as:

“What does finite life mean in the context of ghosts and live paintings?

“Why is religion absent from the text?

“Does the process of sorting parallel segregation?

“Why is power considered evil?

“What are the ethics of house elves and slavery?”

Hmmmm (cue the stroking of long wizard-like beard). Sounds intriguing, and surely the wonkiness will be leavened by wackiness. The details: 4:15 to 5:45 p.m., Rose Hills Theatre in the Smith Campus Center, 170 E. 6th St., Claremont.

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Five days in Arizona


Here’s some traditional cactus at the Desert Botanical Garden in Tempe, seen during my vacation last week…


… and some untraditional cactus in the same place.


I had ice cream at the Sugar Bowl in Scottsdale, a very popular pink-and-white ice cream parlor founded in 1958 and featured in several “Family Circus” panels…


… and soul food at Mrs. White’s Golden Rule Cafe in downtown Phoenix, where payment is on the honor system. I also had a terrific waffle at Matt’s Big Breakfast, recommended by reader, um, “breakfast weasel.”


And I rode on the Metro, Phoenix’s brand-new light rail. If sprawling Phoenix can get light rail, maybe there’s hope for us.

The Metro, where the doors are just inches above street level, is more user-friendly than L.A.’s Gold Line, where the doors are higher and the platforms harder to get to. But a better-styled train isn’t worth moving to Phoenix for.

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The Buffums’ chicken salad sandwich


Courtesy Pomona Public Library Special Collections

Each week, author Charles Phoenix sends out an e-mail with his “Slide of the Week,” featuring a vintage, and usually silly, photo rescued from someone’s collection of slides. (Sign up for his e-mails on his website.) The accompanying message describes the photo and sometimes goes off on an entertaining tangent.

Such was the case recently when Phoenix, a native of Ontario, shared a photo of a man eating a chicken sandwich in front of chicken-patterened wallpaper (!). Phoenix passed along a recipe:

“My recipe is inspired by the chicken salad sandwich that I devoured many times as a teenager lunching with friends at the oh-so-elegant Palomares Room Restaurant at Buffums’ department store in Pomona, CA.

“Their special nutty-fruity version of the Americana lunchtime classic is quite memorable. It was served on raisin bread and it had nuts I it. I would have it for lunch every time we ditched our fifth and sixth period classes to go thrift shopping in Pomona. Lunch at Buffums’ was always our first stop. And yes, the thrift shopping was always a learning experience.

“I will be using Miracle Whip to bind and enhance the flavor of all the chopped bits that make this sandwich so delicious. Miracle Whip is an Americana condiment of the highest order. Kraft Foods first introduced the mayonnaise wannabe at the 1933 Chicago Century of Progress Fair. According the legend the tangy-fatty, emulsified mystery matter is seasoned with 20 different spices. All the better to make your chicken salad sandwiches taste their best!”

His recipe, which apparently is an approximation of the Buffums’ sandwich rather than being the exact version, goes like this, in his words:

Fruity-Nutty Chicken Salad Sandwiches

8 chicken breasts baked the night before

1 cup finely chopped celery

I cup declumped raisins

I cup finely chopped walnuts meats

2 cups Miracle Whip

16 pieces of fresh buttered white bread (toasted or not)

Chop the breasts into small bite size pieces. (Careful not to make them too large because no one wants to choke on a chicken sandwich!) Mix in other ingredients and bind it together with Miracle Whip. (And NO the lo-cal version won’t ever do!) Salt and pepper and generously spread between two slices of bread. Press the palm of your hand down firmly over the sandwich to ‘glue’ it together. Slice diagonally and serve with chilled long sliced curled carrot strips and your favorite pickles.

Makes 8 sandwiches

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Restaurant of the Week: The Seafood Kitchen



This week’s restaurant: The Seafood Kitchen, 612 N. Euclid Ave. (at F Street), Ontario.

The Seafood Kitchen is a newcomer to downtown Ontario, taking over a venerable location. Walter’s Coffee Shop was there from 1960 to 1980, succeeded by El Mexicano II, which was there from 1982 to 2008. (Thanks to the Ontario Library’s Kelly Zackmann for the research.)

Two restaurants in 48 years? That would seem to bode well for Seafood Kitchen’s longevity, except that when I was there for lunch on a recent Monday, there were only two other diners. Hope it was an off day.

The menu is heavy on shrimp, leavened with scallop, cod, whitefish, catfish, calamari, snow crab and tilapia items. Some are battered and fried, others are steamed or grilled. The presentation is partly Mexican, partly Cajun, partly Asian. That must explain my order, the No. 4 combo ($6.95), which consisted of shrimp scampi atop chow mein, with Cajun fries on the side.

The meal came with a dozen small tail-on shrimp atop chow mein noodles with bits of celery, cabbage, carrots, onions and pineapple. The fries were the crispy kind you get at Popeyes. There was some Asian-style marinated cabbage on the side.

You have to give them points for creativity. And even though the result seemed like a reject from the Panda Express test kitchen, it wasn’t bad, and the service was friendly. The menu includes several seafood tacos and salads, Cajun hot wings, ramen soup, lunch combos from $3.95 to $6.95 and dinner platters up to $12.95. They also have beer and wine.

Although the concept could use some focus, the interior space is classic mid-century coffee shop. Small lamps are suspended over the booths on long cords from the sloping ceiling. A giant plate-glass window fronts Euclid. The whole effect is striking and, I would imagine, largely unchanged since the Walter’s days. If you’re a nostalgist, take a look.

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