No columns

I’ve been out from work sick the past three days, which means no column today or Sunday. I hope to be back at it next week. My annual roundup of my favorite Inland Valley quotes of 2011 will be in the paper Saturday and I’ll link to that here once it’s online.

Oh, and happy New Year!

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurant of the Week: Windy C’s

57399-windycs 001.jpg
57400-windycs 002.jpg

Windy C’s Chicago Hot Dogs, 140 S. Mountain Ave. (at 8th), Upland

Upland is now home to two independent, non-Wienerschnitzel, non-Jody Maroni hot dog joints, which I believe is two more than any other city in the valley. Johnson’s arrived this fall. Windy C’s (visit its website here) has been around since 1999.

It’s a dinky place with 11 seats in a storefront by a Rubio’s and in the same center as Fresh & Easy and Dollar Tree. A brief experiment with a second location downtown (on C, appropriately) failed, but the Mountain storefront continues.

I’ve been there a few times over the years. I don’t have any experience with Chicago hot dogs, so I can’t say how this place measures up. Chicago dogs are loaded up with too many condiments for my taste anyway. But I went in again recently for a Wrigley ($7.39 as a combo with soda and fries), which comes with sauerkraut, mustard, cheese and a pickle slice on a steamed bun. I liked it.

Other dogs have Windy City-friendly names like Rush Street and Comiskey, and they also serve chili, corn, Polish dogs and Italian beef. There’s a signed photo on the wall from Richard Daley, who presumably signed the photo in the City of Broad Shoulders rather than the City of Gracious Living.

Windy C’s uses Vienna beef dogs, which owner Freddy Johnson says is more authentic than the red hots at Johnson’s. (Note how the competing place’s name is also his own name. That’s gotta smart.) Signs proclaim that Vienna beef is the official dog of the Sox and Cubs.

Now, about the service. A lot of people hate it here. As one Yelper put it: “I believe the owner is at his wit’s end and has the attitude that he’s super fed up with your BS even though you’ve never met him before.” Overall the place gets 1.5 stars. The New Diner blog didn’t like it either. Two reviews on Trip Advisor are brutal, with one comparing Johnson to “Seinfeld’s” Soup Nazi and other other saying the owner laughed at his complaint.

Johnson is abrupt and that obviously rubs a lot of people the wrong way, although from my observation over a lunch hour he has friendlier interplay with customers he knows. People always wonder how he can stay in business, but the New Diner asked that question in 2005, and you’ll notice Windy C’s is still hanging tough. People who aren’t on the Internet must be made of sterner stuff.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Reading log: December 2011

57392-books 035.jpg
57393-books 033.jpg

Books acquired: “Obsolete: An Encyclopedia of Once-Common Things Passing Us By,” Anna Jane Grossman; “The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick,” Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem, eds.

Books read: “The Definitive Prince Valiant Companion,” Brian M. Kane; “Vineland,” Thomas Pynchon; “Smile: The Story of Brian Wilson’s Lost Masterpiece,” Domenic Priore.

To finish off 2011, I read three books in December to bring my total to an even 60. (A complete list will appear here soon.) After hitting 35 before July 1, I concluded to aim for 60 rather than 70 and get in some longer books. For December, that meant finishing a very wordy book about the “Prince Valiant” comic strip, a dense 400-page novel and, as lagniappe, a volume about the Beach Boys’ unreleased-until-2011 “Smile” album.

“Prince Valiant Companion”: I was expecting a more user-friendly guide to the Prince Valiant universe, one that would compile every known Foster interview or contain thoughtful analysis. The actual book is for the uber-fan, which I thought I was until laboring to read the 60 pages of tiny type recounting every PV adventure, 1937-2009. OK, and some of the interviews later in the book were interesting, but for diehards only. Also, the synopses are laden with typos uncorrected in the 17 years since the first edition. Is this really “definitive”?

“Vineland”: This novel by the famously reclusive Pynchon was published in 1990, 17 years after his previous book, “Gravity’s Rainbow,” and was deemed a disappointment on that score. The plotting is untidy, the sentences twisty, but I liked it. Any novel that tries to make sense of the ’60s from a Reagan-era perspective yet also makes room for ninjas and a cameo by Godzilla is all right by me. Also, loved the tossed-off names, such as More is Less, “a discount store for larger-size women.”

“Smile”: This is a book about the famously unreleased 1967 album by the Beach Boys, which was rerecorded by Brian Wilson in 2004 to great acclaim; the original 1967 tapes finally came out late this year. I almost gave up on this book on page 2 due to the writing. (For one thing, a quote by Van Dyke Parks on page 1 describing someone as “a gyro, gear-loose kind of a fella” shows Priore didn’t get Parks’ reference to the Disney mad-inventor character Gyro Gearloose.) But I’m glad I kept going because there was worthwhile info and analysis about “Smile” and Beach Boy internal dynamics amidst the fanboy worship.

I’m reading several other books with an eye toward a boffo start for 2012. Seventy is a possibility.

As for where the above books came from, “Valiant” was bought this year at Comics Factory in Pasadena, “Vineland” was a birthday gift in 2010 (hi, Mason!) and “Smile” was bought at Rhino Records a couple of years ago.

What were you reading in December?

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurants of the year

Not much point in penning a Restaurant of the Week for Dec. 23, although if you were planning to get a burrito or Thai food this weekend and needed my guidance, my apologies. Instead, let’s look back at 2011.

I wrote about visits to 39 restaurants, and to my knowledge only one of them (Buckboard BBQ) later closed. Then there was Freddie Mae’s, which closed after my meal but before I could write it up. Hiccups like that, plus vacations and special features like this, kept me from writing 52 RoWs in 52 weeks.

I hit at least one restaurant in every city of our coverage area, from Fontana to Chino Hills.

Among the highlights: Magic Lamp, Pho Ha, Senor Baja, Babylon, Eureka, Corner Deli, The Deli, Roberta’s Village Inn, The Heights, Red Chilli House, Nara, Sabor Mexicano and Molly’s Souper. None of my meals was terrible or inedible, although lunches at 2nd on 2nd St. and Zeke’s came close.

It’s too much trouble to look all those up and link to them, but if you’d like to read or reread them, that’s what the search function is for, as well as our city-by-city category listings. I’d encourage you to make use of both.

Where did you have a memorably good or bad meal in the Inland Valley in 2011?

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Column: Employee at fictional store speaks out!


Screen shot courtesy Greg Schmauss

Friday’s column (read it here) follows up my Dec. 2 column about how the Outdoor Man store on the sitcom “Last Man Standing” is based on Rancho Cucamonga’s Bass Pro Shops.

One of the background actors on that series is Greg Schmauss of Rancho Cucamonga. He’s one of the store employees who has no dialogue but fills space in the background. Schmauss supplied the above photo — he’s the one at left, with Tim Allen — and told me about working on the show. Imagine, two Cucamonga connections to one sitcom.

So no one feels left out, Friday’s column also has a clutch of Valley Vignettes and other items from around the valley.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

ONT cleared for takeoff


Photo by Kristine Suminski

This front-yard Christmas lights “runway” combines with a message aimed at the city of L.A., which owns Ontario International Airport. Even more pointedly, the whole thing decorates the house of Ontario Mayor pro tem Debra Dorst Porada. She’s had the runway in past Christmases, but this year it fit perfectly with the message.

Now, can the message be read from airplanes overhead…?

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email