I’m midway through a road trip, so no columns or further posting this week. I’ll be back at my desk Sept. 30 and back in print Oct. 2. Let’s enjoy our break, shall we?
I set out to crank out a column before vacation rounding up recent comments by readers, starting with ones on my recent effort about trying to find a print New York Times for sale after Starbucks quit carrying newspapers. And there were so many of those comments, that turned into my entire Sunday column. Well, I’ll get back to those comments on other topics another time, perhaps.
A long stone wall along Claremont’s Foothill Boulevard wasn’t exactly invisible before, but its full extent became more obvious when much of the greenery in the parkway was torn out as part of an improvement project. I look into (but not over) the wall in Friday’s column.
This column, by the way, began as a blog post, but it proved long enough that I thought it might as well be a column. So I expanded it and rewrote it quite a bit.
Luchador Urban Taqueria, 341 S. Garey Ave. (at 4th), Pomona; open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday
Luchador, named for masked Mexican wrestling, opened in December 2018 in the former Papa’s Tacos spot around the corner from the Fox Theater. I had tried Papa’s only once with friends prior to a concert by the National, and we were so hungry, one memorably said, “This is the worst Mexican food I’ve ever had. But I can’t stop eating.”
Luchador, by contrast, is by the chef and owner behind Corazon Urban Kitchen, Sergio Nogueron. He had opened Corazon downtown, then after a spat with his landlord moved it uptown. Corazon closed a few weeks ago. But Luchador seems to be going strong.
I ate there in May, the afternoon of the Alejandro Aranda concert outside the Fox. I forget what I’d wanted, but they were out — it was a busy day, what with the crowds — so I went for the sopesitos, one carnitas, one al pastor, plus a pineapple agua fresca (total $8.23 with tax).
They were delicious and just the right amount of food, filling without weighing me down. There’s not much seating, a couple of tables inside plus a bar. A woman behind me said to her friend about her own meal: “This tastes like what my grandmother would make. My mom’s mom.”
I meant to come back, but it took me a while. Last Saturday, chatting with a friend downtown at Cafe con Libros, we headed over for an impromptu dinner. She’s vegetarian and got taquitos de papa ($8.50); in deference, and also because I’d had steak picado at lunch, I got two veggie tacos ($2.50 each). The restaurant was busy, which was encouraging. We got a sidewalk table. It was too dark to take photos of our food.
My tacos, on handmade tortillas, had poblano and bell peppers, onions, spinach and cactus, an unusual mix (no beans?), but it worked. The taquitos weren’t the typical fried tubes but more like rolled tacos. “They were very good,” she said, impressed. “I thought they might be saturated with grease and crispy. I could taste the potatoes.”
Pomona has a few restaurants in the modern Mexican movement, not the same old stuff (that we love) but with a more creative touch, better ingredients and with multiple vegetarian or vegan options. Many are along Garey: Dia de los Puercos, Borreguitas, Just Vegana, El Jefe and Luchador.
It’s a good trend. And Luchador is a good spot.
Have you ever taken the Sky Ride at the LA County Fair? I hadn’t, despite years of thinking that I ought to; fear of heights was a big reason. But finally I rode it. Watching the ground drop away was slightly terrifying, but the view was great. I ride about the Sky Write, I mean, I write about the Sky Ride in Wednesday’s column.
The Hollywood and Vine station of the Red Line subway was produced in 1999 by pioneering Chicano artist Gilbert “Magu” Lujan. He spent some of his later years in Pomona. My 2004 interview with him is in my book “Pomona A to Z.” I’m a fan of his subway station, which I’ve seen dozens of times. I took photos on a couple of recent visits.
The piece is titled “Hooray for Hollywood” and pays tribute to the fantasy of the movies in various ways. Above, the tiles form a pattern that is probably meant to evoke the Yellow Brick Road from “The Wizard of Oz.” At top, a couple of vintage movie cameras stand near pillars resembling palm trees.
Dozens of hand-painted tiles on the walls meld movie and Chicano imagery, especially cruising cars, a particular interest of Lujan’s.
Note the film strip-like molding around doors.
The ceiling is made up of film reels. The effect is kind of hypnotic, isn’t it? On the platform, walls seem to have film sprockets and stars (see below). That touch had never occurred to me until I was looking closely. Ditto with the music notes that are part of the decoration on the stair railings.
In an appreciation after Lujan’s 2011 death, L.A. Times arts writer Christopher Knight concluded: “Luján’s unexpected vision of cinema as mass transit yielded one of the most engaging stations on the Metro Red Line.”
One tidbit I couldn’t squeeze in abbreviated form into Friday’s column on the fair gets a longer treatment in Sunday’s, as I highlight the coincidence of asking if there was any Ritchie Valens tie-in at the fair (Valens played there in 1958) and then stumbling across one. That item doubles as a mini-profile of a musician and his wife who perform at the fair. That’s followed by a few Culture Corner items and a Valley Vignette. To steal from a Valens song title: Come on, let’s go…to my Sunday column!
I visited the LA County Fair on Wednesday for the first time this season to take a walk around and see some sights. I focused on the LA Pop Architecture show on the hill, but also stopped at a vegan food stand and the Millard Sheets Art Center. That’s all part of Friday’s column.
It was a fruitful visit that will result in a column item or two on Sunday and possibly a full column next Wednesday. Above, the trippy art piece “Emergence.” Stand in front of it and the elements might appear in motion.
Kiku Sushi, 3090 Chino Ave. (at Emerald Way), Chino Hills; open 11:30 to 10 p.m. daily
Chino Hills has more good Japanese restaurants than any other Inland Valley city. I tried Kiku Sushi recently; it’s in the same center that has a Harkins 18 cinema and a few so-so restaurants. Kiku means “chrysanthemum.”
A friend and I arrived just as the place opened for lunch, which I say to explain the photo below of a seemingly empty dining room. The restaurant was nearing capacity by the time we left.
Apparently Kiku is known for its all you can eat sushi, but that’s how I (crunch) roll. I just ordered off the sushi menu.
I had albacore ($6.50) and yellowtail ($7.50) nigiri sushi, with large pieces of fish. Unusually, besides the two pieces each on rice, a third piece of each fish was provided. That was new to me, but a nice bonus.
I also got my standby, the salmon skin cut roll ($6). (As the tuna melt is my baseline sandwich, the salmon skin cut roll is my baseline sushi.) Not the best version I’ve had by any means, but acceptable.
My friend got the tonkatsu bowl ($7), a fried pork cutlet over rice. No Japanese food enthusiast, she liked it.
Service via an English-language server was helpful. A giant video screen played YouTube music videos, which was a little tacky. A better touch were the slatted screens over the windows, which muted the light coming in from outside. It’s hard to block out an ocean of asphalt, blinding noontime sun and throngs of people headed for the multiplex a few yards away, but the screens did a commendable job of creating a cozy atmosphere.
Kiku is fairly average as far as Japanese restaurants go in Chino Hills (and some on Yelp say it’s really gone downhill after an ownership change), but I’d go there again for a semi-civilized meal before or after a movie. It’s got to beat Buffalo Wild Wings.
Do you want to know about the “Unheard LA” show in Claremont last Saturday that had yours truly as a participant? I went back and forth on that, before deciding that perhaps you would, even if you weren’t there. Tipping the scales, writing about it was a simple way to share the video for the show. Read about it in Wednesday’s column, and if you watch the video, be kind. (I start at about 33:00, but all 90 minutes are worth watching.) Above, a view of me from the audience. Look at all the people! Maybe it’s just as well I couldn’t see them.