Column: Penny Lane Records now giving Upland a spin

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Remember Penny Lane Records? I do: I used to visit its Colorado Boulevard store back when Old Town Pasadena was interesting, and it had a bunch of other stores around L.A. I thought it was out of business until a couple of years ago, when a reader alerted me Penny Lane had a small store and Internet business in, of all places, an Upland industrial park. It took me until now to visit, but that’s okay, as Saturday, Penny Lane is participating in its first Record Store Day.

Steve Bicksler, pictured above and below, founded the store in 1985 and, three decades later, is still hanging in there, now as the sole employee. The tenacious store’s new and old lives are explored in Friday’s column.

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Restaurant of the Week: California Pizza Kitchen, Victoria Gardens

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California Pizza Kitchen, 12517 N. Mainstreet (in Victoria Gardens), Rancho Cucamonga

CPK was one of the original tenants at Victoria Gardens upon the center’s 2004 opening and more than a decade later, it’s still serving up barbecued chicken pizzas and more.

I’ve eaten there a few times, in part because it’s one of the most affordable sit-down restaurant at the VG. Recently I had dinner there and figured, well, why not take photos and write a Restaurant of the Week? CPK is pretty much the same everywhere, but we’ve only got two of them (the other one is at the Shoppes at Chino Hills) and the VG is a popular spot. Besides, I like CPK.

The menu has small plates, salads, soups, pastas and various pizzas, both usual and unusual, with gluten-free crust an option. And they have alcohol.

I got the wild mushroom pizza (price forgotten, but about $14), which has four types of mushrooms and two types of cheese, and I got it on whole wheat crust, which I’m not sure I’ve done before. That was a good move and made for a heartier crust. If you like mushrooms, this is a pretty good pie. Feeling flush, I spent $1.50 on a few drops of truffle oil; to be honest, any difference in taste to the pizza was negligible.

Service was friendly. It was a Monday evening, early, and the quiet was welcome. The faux rock wall, broad booths, focused lighting and open kitchen with a counter for solo diners add up to an ambience that could almost be described as swank.

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New Starbucks opens in Pomona

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A skinny little Starbucks opened last week on Garey Avenue and Alvarado Street in Pomona, only blocks from the 10 Freeway and on the western edge of the historic Lincoln Park neighborhood.

It’s not exactly what residents there would have liked, as the coffee house is oriented toward motorists, not pedestrians looking for a place to hang out. There’s no inside seating. There is a walk-up window, like you’re at a Dairy Queen, but the only outdoor seating is a couple of tables with umbrellas by the drive-thru lane, so, not really cozy. (Starbucks got in its application to build before a ban on drive-thrus on this portion of Garey went into effect.)

On the bright side, Starbucks replaces a gas station that had been closed and derelict for years. Its presence may add momentum to efforts to oust the methadone clinic that operates quietly in the building to the north, or to generate interest in redeveloping the long-vacant Firehouse Inn building on the south side of Alvarado. And if the traffic introduces more people to Donahoo’s, that won’t be bad either. (If Donahoo’s were encouraged to fix both its signs — one of which is missing two letters, the other of which has two letters in a different color than the rest — that would also be progress.)

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Mod! 1960s chairs back at Pomona library

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There’s a stylish addition to the Pomona Public Library: 1960s chairs.

“These are the original chairs here for the opening in 1965,” said Muriel Spill, the library manager.

The saucer-like chairs were put in storage in the mid-1980s due to wear and tear on the original cloth.

In recent months, staffers have offered ideas to improve the library at little cost. Circulation desk employee Martha Ramos suggested bringing back the chairs. A retired upholsterer who is a frequent library patron, Pedro Martinez, was approached and agreed to donate his time. Wasn’t that nice of him?

And so the chrome wire chairs, some 20 of them, are newly covered in padded vinyl, in different colors, and are spread throughout the building. They’re certainly in keeping with the library’s modernist look, designed by architect Welton Becket (Capitol Records tower, the Music Center, Cinerama Dome, Parker Center, etc.).

“People are using them,” Spill said. “You should see little kids curl up in them. It’s cute.”

Library staffers had been told for years that the chairs were by Charles and Ray Eames, but some digging at yours truly’s request turned up the real designer: Harry Bertoia. Bertoia did help with the development of Eames chairs but then went to work for Knoll. According to its website: “His iconic wire furniture collection, introduced in 1952, is recognized worldwide as one of the great achievements of 20th century furniture design.”

The library’s Allan Lagumbay turned up two original purchase orders to Knoll from Welton Becket for 22 “large diamond chairs” and 42 “small diamond chairs,” at a total price of $5,344.50. (The chairs, in aquamarine, dark olive, olive and green/blue, ranged from $70.20 to $125.13 each.) Knoll today advertises the chairs for $723 for child size to $1,997 for adult.

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Column: Jenny Lewis invites fan onstage to sing ‘Glendora’ in Pomona

I was in Pomona at a Glass House concert Tuesday, minding my own business, when suddenly news broke out: The singer invited a fan from the audience to come onstage and sing a portion of a song about Glendora.

You can read about that in my Sunday column, as well as about my Ontario film series. I shot a one-minute video of the impromptu performance, which you can watch here (warning: adult language!); a full version from closer to the stage can be viewed here.

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Restaurant of the Week: Zendejas, Chino Hills

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Zendejas Mexican Restaurant, 14670 Pipeline Ave. (at Chino Hills Parkway), Chino Hills

Zendejas has multiple restaurants around the Inland Valley, all connected by the family name but run by various members of the family. In other words, the experience and menu isn’t standard from one to the next. Some are as much sports bars as restaurants.

I’m not sure I’d ever been to a Zendejas, even though there are locations in Ontario, Chino, San Dimas and two in Rancho Cucamonga. A Chino Hills friend whose turn it was to choose a lunch spot picked the new Zendejas that opened in February in what was previously a different Mexican restaurant, Sandra’s.

The ambience is pleasant enough, in a somewhat generic-Mexican way, and there’s a dancefloor (!) for weekend evenings. We took a booth, dug into the chips and salsa and perused the menus.

The four of us got veggie fajitas ($15), shrimp tacos ($13), a Tony’s Special burrito, which is chicken with chile verde sauce and cheese ($13) and, for me, chile verde ($14). Reactions were, respectively, “blah,” “very average,” “It was your basic El Torito burrito especial, at which I’m an expert,” and, in my case, “ehh.”

The service was haphazard: We were asked for our drink orders within seconds of the fourth member of our party joining us (he hadn’t finished saying hello), and then later, he couldn’t get a drink refill. The puny, brownish lemon on one water cup was unappetizing. (On Yelp, this Zendejas as of the end of March had a two-star rating.)

But there’s a full bar, and Zendejas may be an improvement over Sandra’s. The burrito eater, the one who chose the restaurant, said cheerfully that his meal “was tasty enough to make me consider coming back.” I suspect the rest of us won’t be joining him. It wasn’t terrible, but there’s better Mexican food a block away at Las Cascadas.

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Beck in Pomona: the ’90s venues

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Beck performed three times in Pomona in the mid-1990s, as recounted in detail in my Wednesday column.

Above, the former Munchies sandwich shop and bar at 291 E. Second St., where Beck sang one night in 1993; it’s now vacant. Below, the former Haven coffeehouse at 296 W. Second St., where Beck performed on Jan. 22, 1994; it’s now Pizza Beer Wings, a sportsbar. At bottom, the Glass House at 200 W. Second St., where Beck headlined in June 1996 (date unclear). It’s still around — whew.

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The dining circuit

There’s no particular rhyme or reason to how I choose restaurants for my Restaurant of the Week posts, other than that I try not to leave any cities out. But some cities get more exposure here than others.

Fontana, Chino and San Dimas have had the least attention traditionally, with Fontana and San Dimas being on our borders and Chino, like them, being hard to get to on my lunch break. (Poor Fontana had only been featured three times prior to Jan. 1.)

For 2015, though, I decided to start off right by rotating among all our cities. In order, I’ve written about Seventh Heaven (Upland), El Fortin 3 (Chino), Stein Haus (Pomona), Noodle House (Chino Hills), El Gallo Giro (Fontana), 5 Star Pizza (Ontario), Lucille’s BBQ (Rancho Cucamonga), Cafe Moderno (Montclair), the Harvey Mudd Dining Hall (Claremont), Wahfles (La Verne) and Angela’s Italian Kitchen (San Dimas).

From this point, I won’t be sticking to a rotation, as it’s kind of limiting, but at least I got to every city this year, something I can’t always say. And it’s barely spring.

(True, I didn’t get to Diamond Bar, Glendora or Norco, at least not yet, but those are really the hinterlands as far as we’re concerned.)

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