Restaurant of the Week: Zaky Mediterranean Grill, Claremont

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Zaky Mediterranean Grill, 806 S. Indian Hill Blvd. (at Auto Center Drive), Claremont

Zaky has locations in Rancho Cucamonga and Upland, both of which I like for casual Lebanese food. They took over the former World Famous Grill (!) in what some call Claremona, the portion of Claremont below the 10 Freeway. There’s a Starbucks and Denny’s next door.

I hadn’t been to this one, but it’s similar to the others, only a little more stylish (what would you expect from Claremont?), and with a visible grill. That’s the first thing you see upon walking in, before you even get to the counter to order.

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Zaky’s has wraps, kabob and shawarma plates and rotisserie chicken. Baklava was displayed in a case.

I got the two-skewer chicken plate, with hummus and rice as my sides ($12), plus a small soda. They have a Coke Freestyle machine where you can mix and match. (For the record, I got Vanilla Coke Zero.)

Immediately, a skewer of chicken was put in the grill before my eyes.

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My food took a little while, but it was well worth it the wait. Chicken is their specialty, and they know what they’re doing. The sides, pita bread and garlic sauce — oh, that garlic sauce — were all fine too. My only regret was getting two skewers: One would have been plenty.

They’re now selling pork kabobs too. The owner gave me a couple of pieces to try. Unusual, but well done, even though the traditional chicken and beef are my favorites.

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Garfield Park World War I memorial, Pomona

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The dedication on Nov. 11, 1923 of the memorial for the then-recent first world war drew 5,000 people. The monument is intact nearly a century later, other than the sword loosely held by the Goddess of Pomona, which has been stolen or broken and missing for some three decades. In recent years, she’s usually been handing the young worker a bottle of water. Heh.

Below is the plaque on the base listing the war dead from Pomona. “Some gave much. Others gave all.”

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Claremont artist Burt Johnson sculpted the memorial. Below is a photo of him at work on the piece. It gives a good idea of the scale. It’s hard to judge the figures’ height in person because they’re elevated on a base.

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Mickey Gallivan, executive director of the Historical Society, is shorter than the 5-foot-6 sword, which has been cast by Glendora artist Richard Myer from photos.

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I’m not much taller than the sword myself. It’s heavy! Obviously it’s not a real sword or my severed fingers would have fallen to the ground, one by one. The stance was about the only way to be sure I wouldn’t drop the ($3,500) sword.

In retrospect, I should have tried poking the bottle of water free.

My Wednesday column will have more about the memorial. A service will take place at 1 p.m. Monday in which the sword will be briefly mounted.

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Now playing: March 29, 1998

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In our office’s move last fall, I found a 1998 Daily Bulletin and was entranced by the movie ads. Like supermarket and help wanted ads, movie ads have migrated away from newspapers in whole or in part. These 18-year-old ads are of interest because many of the theaters don’t exist anymore. I don’t know the fate or status of them all, but the Mountain Green 4, for instance, is a Michael’s craft store. Click on the images for a more readable view.

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Column: Dog park named for slain police canine

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Taking a break from naming civic facilities after human beings, Ontario named its first dog park after a dog. Not one of the city’s founding canines (George Chasey? Charles Barkish?) but rather a police dog, one who was shot to death in the line of duty. It’s an unusual story, which must be why I’m the one who wrote it. It’s my Sunday column.

A gallery of photos from the event by my colleague Jennifer Cappuccio Maher can be seen here.

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Restaurant of the Week: Blue Fire Grill

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Blue Fire Grill, 5670 Schaefer Ave. (at Benson), Chino

A colleague had recommended Blue Fire Grill to me a few years ago, but I had never seen it and, my knowledge of Chino still tentative, couldn’t picture where it was. The fact that I hadn’t been there nagged at me, though.

Then one evening last month, I was downtown, and hungry, after the end of an early council meeting and thought, Where is Blue Fire Grill? I mapped it and realized it was only a few blocks away. So off I drove.

It’s in an unusual location, an office park, and my eyes weren’t looking high enough to see the sign, as I figured out the location by the address only. The blank exterior is enlivened by the potted landscaping. (On my way out, I asked the server why there wasn’t a sign, she said there is and finally I saw it.)

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Inside, the main dining room wasn’t being used (it was early on a Wednesday). The half-dozen customers were all enjoying the wine bar. Yes, the wine bar. I sat at a table and requested a menu.

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Blue Fire’s menu is mostly barbecue, with a couple of salads and seafood items, plus pizza. (Yes, pizza. And a wine bar.) They do catering, which might be a big part of their business and made me more confident about ordering. I got the Texas brisket ($18.50), which comes with a salad and two sides; my choices were cornbread and mac and cheese.

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The salad was above average and had a flower as a garnish. It might have been edible but just as I was finishing, the entree arrived and I relinquished my plate.

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As for the main event, this was a lot of food, and pretty good: tender brisket, tasty and piping hot mac, with blueberry cornbread in mini-muffin form and a container of apple butter. The barbecue sauce was sweeter than I’d prefer, though. I ate all the mac, half of everything else and took the rest home where I got a second meal out of it.

Blue Fire wasn’t my favorite barbecue, and being the only diner was disconcerting. But the experience was fair. Plus, maybe you’re interested in a wine bar…?

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Hole in the Wall Gallery, Claremont

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On a visit to Bunny Gunner‘s new digs in the old Pigale Optical Parlor space at 230 W. Bonita Ave. in Claremont, I was directed outside from the framing shop and art gallery to see the Hole in the Wall Gallery in the breezeway. First pass through, looking for a door, I missed it. Then someone pointed it out to me.

It’s a cabinet in the wall, about the size of a shoebox, that probably once held a fire extinguisher. Bunny Gunner co-owner Juan Thorp said he’d noticed the empty cabinet when he’d moved in to a nearby space two years ago and got Pigale owner David Wilson’s permission to make use of it. Thorp had turned a similar receptacle in an alley behind his former space in Pomona into a tiny art space too.

“This was empty and I loved it,” Thorp told me as we admired his handiwork. “Dave said go for it. He said it was a drug drop in the ’70s.”

Thorp put in plexiglas and a new light (there’s a key and lock too) and christened the space the Hole in the Wall Gallery. It lives up to its name.

Artist Anne Seltzer has the current show, if that’s not too grand a name for the single piece inside the space. It’s titled “…and now for my next trick” and is priced at $95.

“I’m a fan of alternative spaces,” Seltzer told me, mentioning that she had installed the Little Free Library box at eye level in a nearby alley behind Heroes and Legends. She’s had sculptures or paintings in the tiny gallery several times and has sold half a dozen of them.

Of the location, Seltzer said: “It’s fun to come up on.” In my case, you might come up on it and not even realize it. Keep an eye out for it.

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