Restaurant of the Week: Pancakes R Us

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Pancakes R Us, 2282 N. Garey Ave. (at Arrow), Pomona; open daily.

The first location is in Costa Mesa, the second in Pomona, an expansion model you don’t see very often. Pancakes R Us took over the closed Sizzler between a KFC and a shuttered classic Arby’s in north Pomona earlier this month.

It was moderately busy on a Sunday morning. We were immediately greeted and sat, and our beverage orders taken. Service was a little shaky, but attentive. What surprised me was how few pancakes a place named Pancakes R Us had on its menu: 10 varieties, by my count, including buttermilk. apple, blueberry, boysenberry, peach, strawberry, country nut and grain, chocolate chip, potato and pumpkin.

What, no banana? I thought banana and blueberry were as basic as you could get. I went for pumpkin ($8). They were acceptable, and with no syrup accompanying, I used the maple at the table. The second person got pigs in blankets ($7), four sausages in four buttermilk pancakes. He had no complaints.

That didn’t hold true for the third person, whose huevos rancheros ($8.29) were poor: scrambled rather than fried, with canned refried beans and clumpy rice on the side, and pickled jalapenos on top rather than the roasted whole jalapenos depicted on the menu (with fried eggs). She was told corn tortillas weren’t available for her side, only flour, but the eggs were served atop fried corn tortillas. “I’d give this one star,” she said, picking at her inedible rice.

So, it’s good to see a middle-of-the-road restaurant open in Pomona, one serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, but my first visit was not promising. In fact, it fell flat as a pancake. Well, there’s a Carrows a few blocks away on Foothill, and Flappy Jack’s in Glendora serves up a lot more pancakes.

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Pomona Gold Line station would be a fun zone

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The best part of last week’s “kickoff meeting” for the Gold Line light-rail extension from Azusa to Montclair was the conceptual art for Pomona’s station. Artist Steve Farley incorporated the L.A. County Fair’s old Fun Zone arch — see below — into his station design.

Not only that, but to spell out “Pomona,” Farley used individual letters, ransom note-style, from notable signs around town. Farley, who like the artists for the Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, Claremont and Montclair platforms was at the meeting, stresses that this is just an initial design and that a committee would help him refine the approach.

Farley explains his concept to me in this video. Note his Bob’s Big Boy T-shirt.

The Ontario native, who grew up across from Chaffey High School, now lives in Arizona, where he’s a rarity, an artist and a state senator. He’s friends with fellow Ontario native Charles Phoenix, the source of the image below. Phoenix says the Fun Zone arch was in existence from 1950 to 1980. “The entrance to the Fun Zone at the fair was one of Southern California’s most spectacular works of neon ever,” he declares.

The $950 million Gold Line extension may never be built, as currently there’s no funding source, but never count it out. If nothing else, they should build Pomona’s station. Put it on wheels and cart it around town.

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Lou Reed (1942-2013)

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I might be among the world’s least likely fans of Lou Reed, who died Sunday at 71. (This Associated Press obituary is very good.)

He famously devoted a song to heroin; I’ve never even tried pot. He was as New York as Woody Allen; I’m a small-town guy who’s only been to NYC once. He walked on the wild side; I walk on the mild side. (What we have in common, perhaps, is walking.)

But after Dylan, I may own more Lou Reed records than anyone else in my collection, both solo works and his ’60s band, the Velvet Underground. (See photo above, although I actually forgot a couple of box sets and albums.) His music had a lot of range, from dissonance and experimentation to ballads that reflected his love of doo-wop and other classic pop forms.

His lyrics often explored the grimier side of life, yet the college-educated Reed wrote about all sorts of things, far more so than about anyone else you can likely name. One favorite, “Doin’ the Things That We Want To,” is a paean to the plays of Sam Shepard and movies of Martin Scorsese. He’d been on my mind lately because of his elegiac track “The Day John Kennedy Died.”

My album choices would be the VU’s “The Velvet Underground and Nico,” “The Velvet Underground” (their third album), “Loaded” and “Live 1969,” and his solo albums “Coney Island Baby,” “The Blue Mask,” “New Sensations” and “New York,” although if my house were burning I’d try to grab a bunch more. Of course a novice could probably get by with a best-of or two, but which ones? Most are either too much or not enough or, like “The Essential Lou Reed,” kind of a jumble.

On vacation two weeks ago I picked up “Between Thought and Expression,” his out-of-print solo three-disc boxed set, used, for an absurd $10 (Boo-Boo Records in San Luis Obispo probably wishes it had this back). It’s the only chronological best-of and has the stray track “Little Sister”; I’ve kept my LP copy of the otherwise-forgotten “Get Crazy” soundtrack solely for this song. The box also gave me “Satellite of Love” and “Perfect Day,” two of his catchiest songs but ones I didn’t own. Buying it, I felt like my collection was complete — and, as it turns out, just in time.

He had some weird or terrible albums too, and the Upland-based band Wckr Spgt prankishly released a cassette last year in which they covered some of his biggest misfires, like “Egg Cream,” “Disco Mystic” and “Original Wrapper.”

I could write a column about Lou, but may not get to it, what with an Upland City Council meeting tonight that ought to take precedence. (If I do write one later in the week, this post may be something of a dry run.) I never met him, never saw him in concert, but he’s been an important figure in my life anyway. All tomorrow’s parties won’t be the same.

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Column: A bookman’s tour of California: 9 days, 14 stores

Sunday’s column is the second and last about my recent vacation, focusing on all the bookstores I visited as I drove around California. Not that I ever kept track before, but 14 must be a personal record. Even if you don’t care about bookstores, I hope you enjoy the column.

Side-note: In this column, which I wrote last week, finishing on Friday, I mention knocking CDs off my want list from “Louis Armstrong to Ma Rainey.” Alphabetically speaking, I could have written “Louis Armstrong to Lou Reed,” as I remembered before publication that I’d also picked up a Reed box set (for a mere $10). It seemed cooler to give props to the more-obscure blues singer, though, so I left the reference alone. And technically, what I wrote was absolutely correct, as Lou’s box wasn’t on my want list but represented an impulse buy due to the price.

But: How randomly awesome would have been to have had Lou’s name in my column the very day news of his death circulated? He was one of my musical heroes, from the Velvet Underground forward.

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Restaurant of the Week: At Home Thai Fusion Bistro

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At Home Thai Fusion Bistro, 4275 Concours Drive (at Milliken), Ontario; closed Sundays.

At Home (the spelling is actually @ Home) opened in fall 2012 in an Ontario Mills-adjacent shopping center with a Kohl’s and Applebee’s. The space was, I believe, previously occupied by Iron Chef Kitchen, which always seemed a lawyer-letter away from having to change its name.

I stopped in for lunch recently. The interior is spare but stylish, especially the wall treatments and mushroom-like ceiling fixtures. The menu is mostly Thai with some pan-Asian touches. For example, tom yum and tom kha soups, which are Thai, have udon noodles, which are Japanese.

Ordering off the lunch menu, I got swimming rama with shrimp ($9.45; $7.45 with chicken, pork or beef), which is steamed shrimp atop sauteed spinach leaves with sesame oil and topped with peanut sauce. Steamed jasmine rice was on the side and a cup of hot and sour soup came with. The entree was tasty, the half-dozen shrimp an acceptable portion, and the spinach making for a good and healthy pairing with the shrimp and peanut sauce.

Untraditional but pretty good Thai food, and more interesting than many of the restaurants around the mall. At Home’s Facebook page has more photos and the menu.

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Column: How do you break in a new car? Road trip!

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Wednesday’s column is about my vacation, from which I returned Friday. (Unless you paid attention to my Twitter feed, you wouldn’t have known I was gone, as columns and blog posts kept appearing. Neat trick, eh?) I took a road trip up to the Bay Area and back along the coast. Really nice.

Above, the CDs I brought along, atop my California road atlas. Below are a few paragraphs I cut from the column, picking up right after I respond to my friend’s comment about mp3s. I chopped ‘em for space and maybe relevancy.

A few sights along the drive up:
• A shared sign for a new shopping center in Delano has space for logos of a dozen tenants. Only two slots were filled: McDonald’s and Walmart. Well, that covers the lowest common denominators.
• “It’s Happening in Soledad,” a billboard read. Next line: “Gateway to the Pinnacles.” This left me confused where “it” was really happening, Soledad or the Pinnacles.
• Rest stops are a true blessing to the weary traveler, and a couple of the ones on the 99 in Tulare County were especially clean and modern-looking. Nice job, Caltrans. My sole complaint: California maps on display at the rest stops tend to be about water use or Spanish missions and never pinpoint where you are. Is it a secret?
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Your two cents: ‘Lazy’

Responding to my Oct. 16 column about parting with my 1999 Toyota Corolla, reader Robert Kiensler wrote in full:

Why do novice drivers feel obligated to write about their car neglect as if it’s anything more than being cheap and lazy? A mini will cost a pretty penny to repair and the Toyota will end up in the hands of an illegal alien. Any running car is worth double the money you gave it away for. Being uninitiated (lazy) lost you six hundred more out of pocket!

There are a lot of issues with Kiensler’s blast of negativity: How exactly am I a “novice driver”? Or “uninitiated”? “Car neglect”? My mechanic would disagree with that. And Kiensler couldn’t resist playing the illegal alien card. But let’s peer through the haze and look at his complaint.

WAS I lazy to part with my car for $650 to the dealer instead of selling it privately? Even if I could have gotten “double,” to my mind, another $650 may not have been worth the trouble of figuring out how to get two cars to my house, and then advertising the car and dealing/haggling with potential buyers.

But maybe that’s a lazy person’s thinking. What do you think?

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