Column: Dining hall masterpiece provides food for thought

In writing last month about the Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA show at Pomona College, I said I’d come back to the topic of the college’s celebrated “Prometheus” mural. At last, I do so in Sunday’s column, where you’ll learn how the first Mexican mural in the United States came to be painted in Claremont, what it’s about and what (tee-hee!) seems to be missing.

It’s a relief to have written this, by the way: My research started in March 2016 when I attended a talk on the mural and continued through the reading of two college-published art books, attendance at two events this fall around the PST show and interviews with several of those involved, all culminating in lunch in the dining hall earlier this month where I could see the mural. Whew!

Now I can finally get these books and notes off my desk. My only regret is that I forgot to make the dining hall my Restaurant of the Week — but maybe I’ll do that this week.

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Restaurant of the Week: Guadalajara Bakery

Guadalajara Bakery, 4727 Riverside Drive (at Yorba), Chino; open daily, 4:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

A friend who was making an informal survey of local panaderias scored Guadalajara Bakery fairly high. Two years later, this fact clicked in on a morning in which I had to drive to central Chino. So I headed to the Stater Bros. Plaza to find the bakery.

It’s a small place with three bakery cases. At mid-morning, I was the lone customer at that particular moment. I grabbed tongs and a tray and picked up six items. Cost: a mere $5.05. The nice woman behind the counter rounded the bill down to $5.

Unusually, some of the decor is vintage Coca-Cola items. The woman told me the bakery has been there 16 years. As I left, another customer entered.

Back at the office, I laid out the pan dulce expectantly. It turns out I’d picked a day when literally nobody was in the newsroom but me. So much for my heroic effort. Later an editor came in and had half a pastry. I ate a couple and took the rest home, polishing them off the next two mornings.

Not bad for five bucks.

My friend, it turned out upon a rereading of his recommendation, had said Guadalajara was essentially a solid middle-of-the-road panaderia, one to use as a baseline from which to judge ones worse and better. I don’t have a lot of experience with panaderias, so that’s good to know. I had found Guadalajara Bakery perfectly good but not amazing, which may mean my tastes are in line. But besides being good, it’s friendly. Also, according to Yelp, they have tamales.

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The new Proud Bird

Have you ever been to the Proud Bird, the aviation-themed restaurant near LAX? Even if you have, you may not recognize the space after a renovation this summer.

The 1967 restaurant was, in LA Weekly’s words, “a dark, crowded, wood-paneled relic” — but beloved. Now it’s a “food bazaar,” with several food stations from rotating operators, plus a permanent stand for Bludso’s, a barbecue joint whose Compton location has closed (but which still has one in Mid-City; it gets my vote for best barbecue in LA).

I had never been to the old version of the Bird but recently combined a stop there with my visit to LAX’s Lost and Found to retrieve my keys. It was a good twofer. Now, in some respects Proud Bird was a letdown, as I was picturing something livelier like Grand Central Market. Still, a plate of ribs, brisket and greens from Bludso’s salved that disappointment.

And the aviation memorabilia, and replica P-40 Flying Tiger suspended from the ceiling, were fun to see. Some vintage planes are on display in front and out back, and through the expanse of windows one can watch planes coming in for a landing on the parallel runways 25 and 25R.

The lunchtime crowd on a weekday seemed to be mostly made up of people who work nearby, plus a few travelers. I saw a family with a son wearing a shirt from Austin’s famed Franklin Barbecue. Proud Bird didn’t strike me as worth a special trip from our parts. But it’s worth a visit if you’re near LAX with some time to kill, especially if you like planes.

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Taft’s tush

Have you seen the Taft Chair at Riverside’s Mission Inn?

When President William Howard Taft visited the baroque hotel in 1909, a special chair was built to support his 350-pound frame. This followed an infamous incident in which the 27th president got stuck in a bathtub and it took five men to haul him out. Taft is said to have initially declined the chair but was persuaded to use it, which he did under the proviso that he not be photographed in it.

It’s there in the Inn’s lobby, where anyone can take a load off — but probably not as big a load off as Taft could — and unlike Taft will welcome being photographed doing so.

A few paces away is the grandly named Presidential Lounge and portraits of the 10 presidents who’ve visited the inn.

In other excellent trivia notes, Richard and Pat Nixon were married in what is now the Presidential Lounge and Ronald and Nancy Reagan honeymooned at the inn.

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Column: Alta Loma High alums recall school, town of the 1960s

Alta Loma High School opened in 1963, with its initial three grade levels graduating in ’65, ’66 and ’67. When the organizer of the joint 50th reunion contacted us about coverage, the topic seemed like it might make for a good nostalgia column. What was Alta Loma like before the growth boom? I talk to some alums, one of them the mayor, and write about it in Sunday’s column.

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Restaurant of the Week: Jack’s Urban Eats

Jack’s Urban Eats, 7811 Monet Ave. (in Victoria Gardens), Rancho Cucamonga; open daily

Victoria Gardens earlier this year gained a Jack’s Urban Eats, a self-described “urban cafeteria” with an emphasis on seasonal vegetables. It currently has 14 locations, all in California and most around Sacramento. The closest to us is Fresno.

At the mall, it’s just south of King’s Fish House along the street that got a hip makeover a year or so ago, with design-conscious pavers, benches and lights, and which has gradually focused its stores and restaurants to match the feel. I checked out the restaurant recently at lunchtime with friends.

There’s a faux brick exterior, a high ceiling with exposed duct work, tables and booths and a few outdoor tables. You take a menu and line up to order, then move down the line to pay and collect your food at the end.

They have salads, which you can build to order, sandwiches such as tri-tip, chicken, reuben, cheese steak and club, plates such as tri-tip (a specialty), chicken or turkey, and beer and wine.

I got the steak salad ($11.75), with tri-tip, mixed greens, cranberries and bleu cheese. I liked it.

Someone else was set on one item but impulsively ordered a summer special item, the Hawaiian chicken sandwich ($9.50). I would describe it, but I forgot to ask what was on it. Odds are good that pineapple and teriyaki were involved. He said: “Delicious. I want to come back and try one of their regular menu items.” His wife has had their banh mi and loved that.

Our second friend, a vegan on a repeat visit, ordered the grilled portabella sandwich ($9.75), with a mushroom, sprouts, tomato and grilled onion on a ciabatta roll, holding the provolone. “Second time I’ve had it. Still good,” she said. So noted.

Our only complaint was that at the height of the lunch rush, the restaurant was noisy with not just conversation but music. As people cleared out, talking became more comfortable. You’re too urban, Jack!

I kept thinking of Tender Greens, a similar but better cafeteria chain that hasn’t ventured east of Pasadena. Probably we’re not yet worthy. Nothing wrong with Jack’s, though.

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