Column: Stars (bronze ones) come out so skaters won’t

A story kind of fell in my lap as I walked out of Upland City Hall to see work being done to the Veterans Monument to deter skaters. That seemed newsworthy and became the top part of Friday’s column, followed by a Cinema Corner and other items. (Several other items prepared for the column are bumped to next week, or never. That’s the way the items crumble, folks.)

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Restaurant of the Week: Mi Cafecito

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Mi Cafecito, 101 S. Main St. (at First), Pomona; 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; closed Monday

A coffeehouse with a Latin twist, Mi Cafecito is the first independent coffee shop in downtown Pomona in some years. It’s in the former VFW building, renovated and carved into storefronts and offices, by the railroad tracks.

I met a Pomona friend there on a Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago. It’s a small place on the corner, with floor to ceiling windows on both sides, letting in lots of light, and the interior is cheery.

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The menu has espresso and coffee drinks, most available hot, iced or frozen, all 16 ounces, with such flavors as cajeta, caramelo and hazelnut, plus brewed coffee and pour-overs. They also sell some bakery items, including flan, cookies, dessert empanadas and cakes, made by a bakery owned by the owner’s father.

My friend had a frozen coconut latte with almond milk ($6) and I got an iced horchata latte ($5.45). We took one of the small tables and on this warm afternoon caught up over our cold drinks.

She called hers “yummy,” said she’d be back (she has) and hoped Mi Cafecito would succeed despite its corner location a block above Second Street.

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Since then it’s become a near-weekly stop for me. I’ve ordered something different each time. I’ve had two iced lattes — tres leches (made with three milks: regular, condensed and evaporated) and coconut — and four frozen lattes: mocha Mexicano, churro (!), masapan and vanilla. The latter three are my favorites. Tres leches, pictured above, was a little sweet for my taste, but that’s personal. I tried an apple empanada ($1.50), which I liked, on the same visit. The churro latte is below.

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The staff I’ve dealt with are exceptionally nice and remember my name, and on my fourth visit even recalled the three previous drinks I’d ordered. On one visit they had cafe de olla, which they don’t always make, and gave me a small cup. (They have no idea I have a blog or anything; they just recognized me as a regular and gave some away near closing time.) That was actually among my favorite drinks too, and I’m not a hot coffee person.

Mi Cafecito seems to have caught on. It’s got a five-star rating on Yelp, and on my visits, a heartening range of customers walk in, from chipsters to middle-aged couples to families with small children or grandchildren. Hours have increased, another good sign: They recently added an extra hour in the evenings and two hours more on weekend mornings, although they’re still closed Mondays.

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A bookish friend doesn’t like the stark, modernist seating, all stools with high-top tables, and it’s true too that the tables are so small it’s hard to get more than two drinks (if you’re with someone) or a drink and a laptop on them; on one visit I put my dessert plate on a nearby chair.

But they’re trying to make good use of a small-ish space, and they are. Warm regards to them. Also, you can watch trains go by, which is kind of cool.

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George Chaffey at ONT

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Traveling from Ontario International in June, I paused to take a look at the George Chaffey relief sculptures on permanent display in Terminal 4. They were done in 1998 by sculptor John Svenson, who died in April.

With Svenson’s life and work fresh in my mind, and with time before my flight, this was a good opportunity to examine them more closely, and take photos to document them here, a less harried place than an airport, for everyone’s examination and contemplation.

The individual panels, presented in a row (two can be seen above), illustrate aspects of the Ontario and Upland founder’s legacy or accomplishments, followed by an angled view of the main image, to highlight the lizard at Chaffey’s foot, and the artist statement.

Take a look at the sculptures in person next time you’re flying Southwest, and reflect on Chaffey, not to mention Svenson.

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Where to eat?

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A few years ago, I started jotting down Restaurant of the Week possibilities by city, crossing out spots where I went or that closed, adding new spots that I saw or that were suggested to me. It was only recently that I started over with a fresh sheet of paper. Above is the endlessly revised first list; click on it for a readable view if you like. Even without clicking, one thing is obvious: This list should have been tossed long before I finally did so.

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Column: Azusa to Santa Monica by rail: It can be done

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For Friday’s column, I write about traveling the breadth of the Metro rail network, Azusa to Santa Monica, for dinner. It was a long night, but a cheap one. Above, a view of the pavement mentioned in the column, which gives a sense of the effect. Even in the photo, it appears to rise and fall, but it’s flat, really.

Update: Metro’s transportation blog The Source linked to my column with some commentary about the length of my journey compared to NYC rail lines and about (eventual) ways such a trip will be marginally faster. I like the Google map too.

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Restaurant of the Week: Lettuce Toss It

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Lettuce Toss It, 15934 Los Serranos Country Club Drive (at Torrey Pines), Chino Hills; closed Sundays

The above is, by the way, the most high-falutin’ street location of any of the hundreds of Restaurant of the Week posts here, but pay that no heed. This is simply a restaurant, one where you order at the counter, in a fairly ordinary neighborhood, even though there must be golf nearby. It’s not in the shopping center on the corner of Soquel Canyon Parkway but in a small complex north of there.

With that out of the way: Lettuce Toss It, a pun business name of which I approve, is one of the few places in these parts that specializes in salads. I had lunch there recently with two friends.

There are 16 pre-designed salads, some of which sounded good to me; I almost opted for the Strawberry Sweetness before deciding to go for the Toss It Your Way, in which you pick the lettuce, six toppings and a dressing ($8.50).

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My choices, for the record, were spinach, with walnuts, raspberries, oranges, pineapple, strawberries and sun-dried tomatoes, topped with raspberry vinaigrette. (This was my attempt to recreate the Panera summer salad I like.) Very good, and very colorful, although the sun-dried tomatoes, as I suspected at the time, didn’t really go with the salad as composed.

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A friend also built her own salad: spinach, green and black olives, tomatoes and green peppers, adding grilled tofu ($1.50) and avocado ($1.25). “I really outdid myself,” she bragged. The vegetarian had been here twice previously and liked her salad.

The third got a salad-sandwich combo: half a JJ’s Ham and Swiss (plus sourdough, mustard and romaine) and the half Cobbler Gobbler Salad (turkey, bacon bits, cheese, tomato, romaine, egg and avocado). I don’t know why there’s not a scoop of peach cobbler in the Cobbler Gobbler. Price was not noted.

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“Soooo good,” he reported. “I walked in full and thought I would eat only half, but I ate the whole thing.” He’d been here once before and, unaccountably, had a cheese quesadilla, which he said he liked.

The menu has sandwiches (which include my baseline sandwich, the tuna melt, and yes, I almost ordered one), which come with a side of chili, fruit or a salad, as well as wraps and baked potatoes. And quesadillas. And cookies (3 for $1.50): We had the chocolate chip, three of them, and enjoyed them.

We all liked the place, which opened a couple of years ago and is popular enough to have expanded into the vacant storefront next door, vastly increasing the seating capacity. The menu is well thought out and the name catchy, which made me think Lettuce Toss It is a chain, but it’s not. Maybe it will become one. Until then, check them out in Chino Hills, and bring a copy of a Lettuce Now Praise Famous Men.

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