Restaurant of the Week: Taqueria Los Magueyes

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Taqueria Los Magueyes, 185 S. Euclid Ave. (at 8th), Upland

This walkup taco stand lies on a quiet stretch of Euclid, a few blocks south of the Civic Center. The 1962-vintage building looks like a classic SoCal burger shack: angled roof, crushed rock facade, an order window and outdoor-only seating.

Actually, though, the building began as Taco Aqui, there from 1962 to 1974, followed by Gus’ Burgers for the next 30 years, according to research by the Upland Public Library. Classic Burger operated from 2003 until Los Magueyes took over in 2010.

As Charles Phoenix put it in “Cruising the Pomona Valley”: “With wings wide spread, this jet age taco and burger stand is ready for takeoff.”

Los Magueyes, presumably an offshoot of the sitdown restaurant in Upland on 16th Street, has tacos, burritos, tortas, sopes, menudo, breakfast items and burgers.

On one of our recent warm evenings I went there for dinner, getting two fish tacos ($1.50 each), a shrimp taco ($2) and a horchata and eating on the patio. The tacos were pretty good, if not on the level of Senor Baja, and the walk-up concept is unusual. It’s like Upland now has its own Juanita’s. Way to go, Upland.

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This exit sign on the westbound 10 Freeway is supposed to say Mountain. I can’t tell what’s up with the U, but there’s either some paint or remnants of a previous letter or something making the U look sort of like an N. The first item of Friday’s column is about the sign. Have you ever noticed the problem?

* Caltrans was out Friday morning to fix the sign. “It appears the ‘u’ flipped over and became an ‘n,’ ” says spokeswoman Terri Kasinga. Mystery solved.

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Max Brooks’ post-college ‘survival guide’

The video of Max Brooks’ commencement speech at Pitzer College on June 2 has been posted by the university to YouTube. It’s entertaining and unconventional, as you might expect from the author of “The Zombie Survival Guide,” a 1994 alumnus.

Fair warning: Hearing the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft talk about his post-graduation struggle with “adversity” might be a little hard to take.

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A fruitful visit

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A rare convergence at Glendora’s Donut Man on Sunday: their fresh strawberry donuts, just ending their season, and their fresh peach donuts, just beginning their season, overlapped. A group of us got a group of donuts; here are two. There was no consensus on whether strawberry or peach was better. “The peach is sweet,” one friend said, “and the strawberry is sweet and tart.”

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Sammy Hagar, the early years


What you might call before-and-after photos of rock singer Sammy Hagar, above, were set to run with Sunday’s column but didn’t (the vagaries of the newspaper biz being what they are). But then another photo surfaced, courtesy of reader Sheree Vath.

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“I read your article on Sammy Hagar’s book and his Fontana years. He apparently spent some time at Alta Loma High School too. Attached is his senior picture which appears in the 1966 Sisunga (yearbook),” Vath writes.

That picture appears at right.

“We’ve had some debates about this subject in our Alta Cucawanda Facebook group,” Vath continues. “Some of the people who grew up in Etiwanda say they remember him. Others say it isn’t true because they researched online and couldn’t find any information about it. I believe he spent some time at Alta Loma High School even if he was just there on picture day. Please take a look at the picture. It sure looks like him even if the hairdo is very different. We have the book to prove it!”

Looks like Sammy Hagar to me, Sheree. His memoir, “Red,” doesn’t name any of the schools he went to, although he talks about wanting to get out of Fontana after high school and he’s known to be a Fontana High alumnus.

Hagar writes that his mom married again when he was growing up and that her new husband was a man from Cucamonga who was a chef at “Chafee” College. (They met at a polka dance.) So it makes sense that Hagar would attend Alta Loma High, even if only briefly.

At lunch Monday at Nancy’s Cafe in Rancho Cucamonga I ran into a regular, Darlene Scalf, who saw me reading Hagar’s memoir and said: “I went to high school with that guy.” In Fontana, she confirmed. She added: “A friend of mine dated him. She had to break it off. Her parents said, ‘He’ll never amount to anything.’ “

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Reading log: July 2011

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Books acquired: “Housekeeping,” Marilynne Robinson; “The Divine Comedy,” Dante; “The Man Who Was Thursday,” G.K. Chesterton.
(All bought at the Borders closeout sale at Victoria Gardens. Sigh.)

Books read: “The Deadly Streets,” Harlan Ellison; “Off Ramp: Adventures and Heartache in the American Elsewhere,” Hank Stuever; “Roadside America,” John Margolies; “The Verse by the Side of the Road,” Frank Rowsome Jr.; “Lonely Avenue,” Nick Hornby; “Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us),” Tom Vanderbilt; “Highway 61 Revisited,” Mark Polizzotti.

Seven books in July, all with titles about roads or driving, even if the insides didn’t always match the theme. (I get a weird kick out of having read “Off Ramp” and “Highway 61 Revisited” in the same month.) What did match was that all seven were pretty good in their own way.

“The Deadly Streets” is a 1961 story collection by Harlan Ellison, a favorite of this blog. He’s best known for his fantasy work. These are stories of street violence, muggings, teen gangs and juvenile delinquency. Grim, brutal, efficient, these aren’t Ellison’s best, but they pack a punch.

“Off Ramp” is a collection by Washington Post feature writer Hank Stuever, who’s become renowned for his indepth approach to offbeat topics. Self-storage facilities, “kampgrounds” and roller rinks are a few of the places in the American Elsewhere where Stuever stops for his closely observed pieces. He makes time for white plastic patio chairs, the creator of Josie and the Pussycats and the longtime stars of “Jesus Christ Superstar” too. In the collection’s epic, he follows an ordinary working-class couple through their wedding, pace by pace.

“Roadside America” is pretty much what it sounds like: photos of motels, diners, coffee shops, movie theaters, gas stations and other commercial structures, some faded, some pristine, from odd corners of America. Some are paired nicely for humorous effect, such as two successive images involving a mock Statue of Liberty, one at a miniature golf course, one outside a heating and air conditioning business.

“The Verse by the Side of the Road” pairs a gracefully written history of the old Burma-Shave roadside signs with a complete compendium of all Burma-Shave jingles, some of which are awful and many of which are hilarious. One favorite, as spelled out on six successive signs: “Riot at/Drug store/Calling all cars/100 customers/99 jars/Burma-Shave.” A fine bit of Americana.

“Lonely Avenue” is a 150-page hardcover of reduced dimensions that came with the deluxe edition of a Ben Folds CD, each song with Nick Hornby lyrics. The book has four Hornby stories, otherwise uncollected. Topics: soccer in the world’s smallest country, a museum guard’s reaction to a hot-button piece of art, a VCR that fast-forwards to the end of the world and parents who discover their teenage son is in an adult film. I liked each of them.

Most of us are worse drivers than we think (not everyone can be above average, after all), and driving is a lot more complex than we dare believe. In “Traffic,” Tom Vanderbilt marshals dozens of experts and hundreds of scholarly studies, in dense but chatty prose, to lay out the psychology and physics of driving. Informative, perhaps too much so. Key points are already slipping away from me. But it’s a worthwhile book about an activity most of us take for granted.

Lastly, “Highway 61 Revisited” is from the 33 1/3 series of slim books about classic albums, this one being an examination of Dylan’s 1965 opus. Worthwhile if you love the album, as I do.

As for where the books came from, the Ellison has been on my shelf for 30 years (sigh), Stuever was bought used in New Orleans in 2008, “Roadside” was bought via mail-order last year, the Burma-Shave book was inherited from another reporter here a few years ago, the Hornby was bought at Amoeba this spring, “Traffic” was a birthday present this year and the Dylan book was bought cheap at Ontario’s Virgin Megastore closeout in 2009.

That’s a wrap for my dozens of Megastore purchases, incidentally, and also for this blog post.

What have you been reading?

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