The latest out of Upland City Hall consumes Friday’s column. The city manager is retiring June 30, but almost everything about his departure, announced Tuesday, raises questions. I list the ones that occurred to me and try to answer them.
Green Banana Leaf, 13089 Peyton Drive (at Beverly Glen), Chino Hills
One of the valley’s few Filipino restaurants, Green Banana Leaf is located in a sprawling shopping center with a Costco, Sport Chalet and vacant Best Buy. Several Asian eateries are in an L-shaped wing by Peyton Drive, including Guppy House and The Boiling Point, with The Crabby Crab coming soon.
I met a friend at GBL for lunch. It’s an inviting spot, with a row of private-seeming booths, a red and black color scheme and hanging fixtures. Snazzy.
We ordered off the lunch menu: pork BBQ skewer and chicken BBQ ($6.50 each, below and bottom). First came cups of mushroom soup in a clear broth. The plates had lumpa, which is akin to a small egg roll, and rice with dried garlic; I had noodles and my friend had a salad. The entrees themselves were mouth-watering. We liked the rice and lumpia. The noodles were nothing special, but neither was the salad, although it had romaine rather than iceberg.
These lunch plates were very filling as well as delicious, and for the price, even better. “It was like comfort food: wholesome, good food,” my friend remarked. We also tried traditional beverages ($2.50 each): sago at gulaman, a slushy cola with boba, and guyabano, which my friend said would be “perfect with rum and an umbrella.”
I don’t know how this stacks up with other Filipino restaurants, having only had that cuisine a time or two before, but this was one of the better meals I’ve had recently.
Wednesday’s column is a rarity for me: a celebrity interview. I chatted by phone with Terri Nunn, frontwoman of the band Berlin, with some trepidation. Would this work as a column, or would it end up being merely a promotional piece? (She’s performing and signing CDs Saturday in Claremont.) I think it works as a column — if not, it’s not Nunn’s fault, as she was engaging, relaxed and funny — but you can be the judge.
I can’t be the only who sees these campaign signs for Grover Merritt (above) and immediately thinks of the “Sesame Street” character (below).
I’m unaware of any political aspirations on the part of the blue Muppet, but people of a certain age will recall that he often daydreamed he was a crimefighter, Super Grover (bottom), a role that may not be so distant from being a district attorney. (Super Grover, whose alter ego was doorknob salesman Grover Kent, was described in the opening as “smarter than a speeding bullet.”)
Sunday’s column is about the late musician John Harrelson, who has inspired three events this week in Claremont: a screening of Harrelson documentary “Dead Man Rockin’,” a tribute concert at the Folk Festival and a release party for a new CD of a live performance from 1995.
Friday’s column resurrects a bit of hamburger history (the best kind of history?) to talk about Burger Chef, which reappeared courtesy of the 909 in an episode of “Mad Men.” After that is an item about my vacation in St. Louis (the St. Tropez of the Midwest?) and a few Culture Corner briefs.
Above is Burger Chef as it appeared on “Mad Men,” from the site IndieWire; below is a vintage Burger Chef, location unknown, from the French Fry Diary blog.
The Brick Market and Deli, 105 E. Arrow Highway (at Garey), Pomona
Step inside the Brick, which opened in February, and you might not believe you’re in Pomona. It’s a convenience store stocked mostly with organic and specialty products. Quinoa, organic salt, wasabi peas, bottled root beer and Newman’s Own products fill the shelves. Paper and cleaning products are Seventh Generation brand. This might be the only place in Pomona where you can buy biscotti.
They also have beer, lottery tickets and candy bars. I mean, it is a convenience store. You can stray from the concept, but you have to have the basics. It’s also a deli, and a good one, with an array of hot and cold sandwiches, side salads, even cupcakes. (See the menu here.)
I’ve been in a couple of times. First time I had the roasted pork, which came on garlic rosemary sourdough with provolone, cole slaw and mayo, toasted, with a small Greek salad as my side ($9 as a combo with drink). Wow, what a sandwich. Delicious. The salad, recommended by the server, was basically marinated cucumbers with a little feta and didn’t do much for me. (They have a Coke Freestyle machine for those that love them.)
Next visit I got the sausage sandwich, which came on an Italian roll with monterey jalapeno cheese and grilled peppers and onions, this time with a fruit salad as my side ($8.50 as a combo with drink). Good, if not as satisfying as the pork, and the fruit cup had a nice variety.
The Brick has free wifi and they’re active on Twitter, Facebook and Yelp. They seem like a smart, sophisticated bunch, the kind of business you’d expect to find in Claremont and thus great to see in Pomona, even if the location, by fast food row, is a pleasant surprise. They seem to be making it work.
There is very limited seating inside, only one table on my first visit, with a second one added by my second. But there’s a cute patio out back, shaded by the building, with a view of the next-door drive-thru for Johnny’s Hamburgers. Nothing wrong with Johnny’s, but you’ll be glad you’re at the Brick.
When last we left the subject of office decor for Stephen Dunn, Upland’s city manager, he had received a print of “Dogs Playing Poker” from an Upland man who was tickled by a reference in my column to the famously low-brow image. (Dunn had taken everything off his walls and might be thought to be in need of art.)
Then came reader Bob Terry, who dug up a “Dogs Playing Poker” 3-D piece of, er, art from his garage, left over from his days as a salesman for Novelty Inc. Terry gave the piece to me and I presented it to Dunn a couple of weeks back. He promised to hang it if the City Council lets him keep his job. Neither of us are holding our breath on that.
It’s hard to tell from my photo, but rather than a painting, the piece is at least an inch deep and contains figures of the dogs and tables, all handpainted, behind the glass. Let’s see the Getty match that!
I got to spend some time with Guido’s Deli proprietor Guido Sciortino on Monday, watching him work, seeing him interact with customers and asking questions when no one was waiting. The sign says Guido’s Pizza but everybody calls it Guido’s or Guido’s Deli, since he hasn’t made a pizza in years — one of the quirks that made this story irresistible.
He’s retiring May 31 after some 57 years of serving customers at Guido’s and his earlier post at Santolucito’s. You can read about him in my Wednesday column.
Below, Sciortino talks to Anita Schroeder and her mother, Marian Michael, whom he’s known for decades. Schroeder was soon wiping away tears. Below that, Sciortino assembles a sandwich for a customer. At bottom, the Guido’s menu; click on the photo for a larger view.
Also, you can watch a short video of a customer interaction.
My vacation trip home to the Midwest went well and I arrived back in Claremont on Saturday night. My first outing was Sunday morning, when I stopped at an ATM in the Village.
“Are you back from vacation?” a stranger (or at least a reader whom I didn’t immediately recognize) shouted from his car at a stop sign. I whirled and, surprised, said yes.
“Good! Looking forward to your next restaurant review!” he said before turning the corner. His companion in the passenger seat must have asked what that was about, because I heard him say my name to her.
I can’t ask for a much better welcome back than that — a greeting from a reader of this blog, the only ones who knew I was away, moments after first stepping out.