Restaurant of the Week: Ramen Lounge

Ramen Lounge, 238 Yale Ave. (at Bonita), Claremont; open noon to midnight Tuesday to Sunday; closed Mondays

Six or seven years ago, two friends and I went looking for ramen locally and could only find a so-so version at a Japanese restaurant in Chino. My friends, newcomers to the area, were amazed ramen essentially was unavailable around here. Now, ramen may be the poke of 2019, what with the number of ramen parlors that opened last year and are still opening in the Inland Valley.

Claremont now has two, and they’re less than a block apart in the Village. There’s Menkoi Ya, a more traditional restaurant, and the less sedate Ramen Lounge. I hadn’t been to either when a friend suggested we get ramen.

It was a Sunday and Menkoi Ya was closed, so we went to Ramen Lounge. On such points does fate turn.

Ramen Lounge‘s interior is purposely a bit stark, with a bare floor, a few tables and banquettes, a J-shaped bar and art from famous old-school hip-hop record jackets by De La Soul, Run DMC and the Beastie Boys. One friend calls it skater decor. The restaurant took over last fall from Yiannis, a Greek restaurant that had occupied the space since the early 1960s, initially as the Yale Cafe.

The menu is short: ramen, rice bowls, small plates. We started with two pork belly steam buns ($8), which were garnished with pickled red onions and slaw. We liked them.

We each got a bowl of tonkatsu ramen ($13). It came with pork belly, pickled bamboo shoots, a soft-boiled egg, corn and baby bok choy. The broth was thick and milky. We both liked it. We weren’t impressed by the bacon-sized strip of pork belly, which we extracted and pulled apart into small pieces, and which my friend found too fatty.

There’s a party vibe at Ramen Lounge, not a Japanese vibe. Note the hours: noon to midnight. Servers were dressed casually (one was in a ballcap), matching the skater feel.

I haven’t had enough ramen to pass judgment, although the newfound plethora of ramen parlors will make forming opinions easier. A friend who prefers Menkoi Ya turns up her nose at Ramen Lounge. It’s probably not the best ramen. But it hit the spot on a cold, rainy day.

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Column: Her love for Fresh & Easy hasn’t expired

I had mentioned in late December that I had used up my Fresh & Easy orange marmalade and was one use away from polishing off my Fresh & Easy maple syrup, my last two holdover items from the defunct grocer. A few readers commented, including one who has a half-dozen F&E items she’s still using. I visited with her for Friday’s column, which also includes an item on my using up my Mentadent toothpaste, another brand that’s defunct, and a Valley Vignette.

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Restaurant of the Week: Pola’s Mariscos

Pola’s Mariscos, 8801 Central Ave. (at Arrow), Montclair; open daily 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

I’d noticed Pola’s while driving along Central Avenue, in the aging center with Dolce Bistro, Tokyo Kitchen and more. Pola’s took over a long-vacant Quizno’s whose sign’s ghost image could be easily read even years after its departure.

While no expert on Mexican seafood, mariscos sounded appealing, and a new restaurant in Montclair is almost news in itself. So I arranged to meet a friend for lunch there. I could accurately say this took place on a cold, blustery day, even though this was in the middle of January rather than any time in the four weeks since then, which have largely been just as dismal.

It’s a simple operation with a short menu. I got the campechana ($12.50), with shrimp, octopus, tomatoes, cucumbers and avocado.

The seafood, simply prepared, tasted fresh and of the sea. Does the serving look large in the stemmed glassware? It was. It was all I could do to finish it.

My friend got Reyna’s mix ($13.50), with shrimp, octopus, crab (hence the extra $1), cucumbers and tomatoes. He pronounced himself equally satisfied and stuffed.

The menu has aguachile, shrimp cocktail, molcajete and tostadas, plus menudo on weekends, but no tacos or burritos.

We were given crisp tostadas as accompaniment, plus ketchup, mayonnaise and hot sauce. The staff was friendlier than the norm. Pola’s is a nice place.

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When Ronald Reagan and Bob Hope visited Chaffey College

Photos courtesy Rancho Cucamonga History Facebook page

On Nov. 3, 1990, former president Ronald Reagan came to Chaffey College to stump for fellow Republican Pete Wilson, who was running for governor.

“You have to make sure people know they are violating their heritage by not going to the polls,” Reagan told an audience of 400, according to news reports. “They are supposed to be telling people elected to office what to do.” He contrasted this with other countries, where he said people in office tell the public what to do.

Wilson was there, as were many other Republicans seeking office. Bob Hope warmed up the crowd. “We’ll all be glad when this election is over,” Hope said. “Pete Wilson will be governor, and the rest of us will be able to get our regular commercials back on television.”

Reagan made at least one phone bank call, to Ontario resident Vena Stout, 78. “Hello, this is Ronald Reagan,” the call began. He urged her to get out and vote, which the lifelong Republican promised to do.

If you’ve forgotten, Wilson did indeed win.

Thanks to the Chaffey College library staff for digging up news clippings of the event, just in time for Presidents Day.

Update, June 2021: Todd Stout emails to say the photos were taken by his father, Dennis L. Stout, then the mayor of Rancho Cucamonga, with Todd’s mother’s camera and scanned by Todd. I’ve corrected the source of the photos, which Chaffey had shared.

Stout continues: “Also, the Vena Stout mentioned in the article from 1990 was my grandmother. Mr. Reagan calling her was pure coincidence but rather cool nonetheless. She was actually 79 in November of 1990 and not 78. She and my grandfather lived at the same address in Ontario, CA from 1953 until they both passed away back in the 1990s.”
I appreciate the added details. I can’t accept, though, that it was by wild chance that the former president phoned the grandmother of the mayor. It must have been at someone’s suggestion. But I’m sure it was a thrill to get that call.

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Column: In Ontario, remembering a brother lost in Vietnam

Here’s the story of Antonino Ruggeri, a young man from Ontario who died in the Vietnam War. It came about like this: His sister phoned our newsroom and I picked up. She wanted a remembrance notice of some sort about her brother. She’d probably have been happy to buy an ad, but it seemed like a story I could do something with. We met at our office Jan. 28, I went home ill and pretty much stayed there for the next two weeks. But with Tuesday being the 50th anniversary of his death, I’m pleased to have this be Wednesday’s column, the first after my (semi-) return to work.

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