Restaurant of the Week: Cock-a-Doodle

Cock-a-Doodle, 12940 Central Ave. (at Riverside), Chino; open daily

This year Cock-a-Doodle, which opened in 1957, turns 60. I think it’s the second-oldest restaurant in Chino after Centro Basco down the street. It’s got a great name, with chicken and roosters a motif in the decor and the exterior window box. Devotees just call it The Doodle. Because you’re not going to shorten the name from the back end.

It’s in what’s left of downtown Chino, a wan business district. I’ve eaten there a couple of times over the years. In the last few months I’ve made a point of going back. Under the motto “family dining since 1957,” they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a menu of country fried steak, sandwiches, salads, prime rib and more.

For starters, I had lunch there with Al McCombs last fall. Lunch started with cabbage soup. It’s different, and I like it.

That was followed by the filet of sole ($12) with a side of steamed vegetables. Lunch on the lighter side.

I went back before a council meeting a few weeks later, but I wasn’t hungry enough for a meal, getting only a shrimp cocktail ($8). It was fine but not something to base a Restaurant of the Week post around.

Finally, I went back for a full lunch, armed with notes from a 2008 blog post here (concerning the vintage calendars on display; I’ve updated it with photos). In the comments section, an employee gave some insider details about the restaurant, including its (shades of In N Out!) secret menu, a few specialties that fell off the menu but which they’ll still make for you if you ask.

First I ordered an iced tea and they gave me a mini-pitcher. That’s not secret, that’s just unexpected.

Then I got the Tony’s Special: a chicken breast smothered with shrimp scampi, plus rice ($17). Great pairing. Soup or salad (I got the cabbage soup again) come with any entree, free.

For dessert, I ordered strawberry shortcake ($5.25), another secret item. It’s strawberry compote on warm biscuits with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. The server told me it was small, but it didn’t strike me that way. Apparently nobody has ordered either item in a while, but the server knew what they were, and the owner came over to ask how I knew about them. I felt like an insider.

Most of the activity whenever I’ve eaten there is in the dimly lit bar. The cheery dining room tends to be little occupied, or even empty, although I suspect it’s busy certain nights or for weekend breakfasts. Anyway, I like it better for reading purposes, and the high-backed booths are cool.

There’s nothing trendy about the Doodle, and nothing spectacular either, but the down-home food is pretty good, the service is friendly, the owners are local and the ambience is old Chino, a quality in shorter supply every year. If that sounds appealing, do the Doodle.

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Mural in Montclair enlivens mall

While we await, patiently or not, long-promised upgrades to Montclair Place, the former Montclair Plaza, a colorful mural has gone up on a 145-foot blank concrete wall of the parking deck ramp, visible from the Macy’s lot off Moreno Street.

Claremont artist Chris Trueman led some of his former Chaffey College students, including Peyton Warrick, Jarmaine Pascua and Andrea Hernandez, in painting the mural, which depicts the San Gabriel Mountains.

“We chose to represent one of Montclair’s most distinguishing aspects; the mountain range, which serves as a backdrop and ever present landmark visible from most vantage points in the city, reminding the community of the beautiful place in which we live,” Trueman said in a written statement.

The mural was painted in four days, ending Saturday, and is said to be the start of a year-long series of interior and exterior art installations. It’s off to a strong start.

The above photos were provided by Killackey Media for Montclair Place; I shot the one below on Monday. The bright colors are a welcome sight.

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Memories of Upland (and San Antonio Heights)

Sue Stone grew up in San Antonio Heights in the 1950s and ’60s, attended Sierra Vista Elementary, Upland Junior High and Upland High, now living in Ventura County. She found my blog and enjoyed mentions of “old” Upland.

Here’s what else she had to say:

“I very well recall my family going to the Sage Hen for dinner on special occasions. When it was changed to New China, I don’t think we ever went back. We also would go to the Sycamore Inn on very special occasions. I remember when a prime rib dinner was something like $3.95, and then when it went to $4.95, my father was incensed.

“Another restaurant I loved was Martinez’s on Foothill Boulevard, and their tacos were the best I’ve ever had over all these years. I tried to search out the recipe online, but I was never successful.  Other places from the old days: Stinky’s at the NW corner of Mountain Avenue and Foothill Boulevard, the Magic Lamp on Foothill, Taka Taco on the west side of Euclid somewhere south of 11th Street, The Stuffed Shirt at the NW corner of Foothill and Euclid, Betsy Ross Ice Cream on the north side of Foothill, and the Donut Shop on the east side of 2nd Avenue.

“There was the Central Market on 2nd Avenue. I was always fascinated by the sign that said ‘In Uplands (sic), it’s the Central Market.’ There was a pricey women’s clothing store called Town and Country downtown. Atwood’s was a very nice, small department store with wood floors and wood display shelves. I loved the old Carnegie library and spent many hours there. When the new library was opened, it was very disappointing because it had no atmosphere whatsoever.  I could go on and on but won’t take up much more of your time.” [No bother at all, I assure you.]

“In one of your columns, I saw a photograph of a small white church in San Antonio Heights, read the caption and thought I’d send you a bit more information about that building. As a child, I attended Sunday school there when it was called Bethany Union Church, and I have a Bible that was presented to me by that church on October 13, 1957, according to the handwritten inscription.”

“As an added piece of information, across the street somewhere from this church was a tiny, old market, the name of which escapes me, probably because everyone in the Heights referred to it as ‘the little store.’ It had one of those screen doors that banged whenever someone walked in or out. It was like something out of Mayberry.

“I hope these recollections add just a little something to your knowledge of the past history of Upland and the Heights. It was a great place to experience my childhood years.”
Thank you, Sue.
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Restaurant of the Week: The Upper House

The Upper House, 352 S. Indian Hill Blvd. (at Arrow), Claremont; open daily until 11 p.m.

Located in Peppertree Square, the center most of us visit only for the Peruvian restaurant Kykirykithe Upper House opened in January, replacing Royal Panda, which by all accounts (I never ate there) was your typical quick-serve Chinese restaurant.

The Upper House, by contrast, is a sit-down spot, and it serves real Chinese food. I met some friends there for lunch on a recent Saturday.

Inside it’s all blond wood, light and airy, and the service was exceptionally friendly. The menu is long, typical for a Chinese restaurant, but not absurdly so. In an unusual touch, the lunch menu ($8 to $10) is good seven days a week. But we ordered off the regular menu: cumin lamb ($14), pineapple chicken ($10, below), combination noodle soup ($10) and vegetable lo mein ($8).

We all liked our food; one, in fact, even liked the water: “This water is so good. Write it down.” [I dutifully complied.] “It’s got jasmine in it.” [Note: Water not pictured.]

Speaking of his soup, one declared fulsomely: “It was a delightful combination of flavors and textures.” Once that was out of the way, he said: “It was really good.”

A second said of the chicken: “Mine was also delicious.” Chiming in about her lo mein, the third said: “Ibid.” (Yes, she really said “ibid.” The water must have gotten to her.)

I got the cumin lamb, a dish I’ve had at a couple of other restaurants, one in Chino Hills, the other in Alhambra, and this version was their equal. By my standards, then, the Upper House is among the handful of authentic Chinese restaurants in the Claremont-Pomona-La Verne area.

(That said, while the menu avoids orange chicken and cream cheese wontons, it does, confusingly, have a section labeled egg foo young, another, dated signifier of Americanized food, But who knows, maybe they put their own spin on it.)

As for the name the Upper House, we asked and were told it doesn’t really mean anything. But it’s more interesting than the generic Royal Panda.

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Column: His mission: explore San Juan Capistrano

On a recent day off, I took a day trip by train to San Juan Capistrano. (Three hours there, three hours back, $23.) While there (six hours), I toured the Los Rios District and Mission San Juan Capistrano. It was a fun, informative outing, and the tale is told in Wednesday’s column. Have you been to SJC? What were your impressions?

Above, the other side of the tracks is quite nice; both sides are. Below, a view inside the Serra Chapel.

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