Restaurant of the Week: Spike’s Cake Shop

spikes1

Spike’s Cake Shop, 660 Fairplex Drive (at Holt), Pomona; open daily

I had never noticed Spike’s, which turns out to be within a minimall I pass all the time, and had I seen it I wouldn’t have thought to go in. But the chef and co-owner of Pappas Artisanal Sandwiches in La Verne advised me that he gets his rolls from Spike’s and that they make excellent burritos there. I made a point of going.

The sign, hard to see due to foliage, appears to be repurposed from a Spike’s Teriyaki. As one Spike’s observer put it, the name might sound inauthentic, but “you don’t get more authentic than saving some coin and using the previous sign.” Point made. Neon signs at the entry tout tacos, burritos, bionicos, licuados, tamales, champurrados and “sanwiches.” No hours are posted, but they seem to be open seven days, and well into the evening.

The doors are perpetually open, with plastic hanging strips to keep out flies. The interior is confusing on a first visit, not to mention subsequent visits: Your clockwise view is of refrigerated cases with pan dulce and bottled beverages; a small open kitchen with a grill and a stove with a couple of pots; a line at a counter to order; and a cake counter. I wondered if I had stepped into the wrong place.

If you want pan dulce, then you take a tray and tongs at the pickup counter. You probably won’t get a tray liner. Otherwise, you get a beverage and get in line, even though virtually everyone in front of you will have a tray of bakery items, and at the register, where there is no menu posted, you’ll attempt to order a torta or a burrito, the ease of which will depend on your facility with Spanish or the employee’s facility with English. You’ll pay and get a receipt, you’ll listen for your number to be called out in Spanish, and probably won’t hear it.

But once you get your burrito ($5.50), you’ll find it long and slim, wrapped in a springy, light and fresh tortilla. A carne asada burrito will contain a kind of stew with rice, beans and bits of meat, a style closer to what I believe is the Mexican version of a burrito than I’ve ever had. An al pastor burrito was meatier. Both were surprising and intensely satisfying, among the best I’ve had, although fans of Chipotle-like stuffed burritos may find them baffling.

The second time, I also got a puffy sweetbread (50 cents). I liked it but have very little experience with pan dulce. A Pomonan whose office has been sampling panaderias hadn’t heard of Spike’s either but, after a couple of visits, was impressed enough to rate it second best in town after Panaderia La Mexicana. And the tri-color cookies at Spike’s were rated No. 1.

Seating consists of a few small uncomfortable tables with swivel seats and a counter for four by the door, which is where I’ve sat. There’s usually a few carts with stacked trays of pan dulce, perhaps cooling, out on the floor as well.

Spike’s is one of the more visually confusing places I’ve eaten, up there with the chaotic Porto’s in Glendale. For the adventurous, the food is good enough to be worth the hassle. You’ll probably want to take it to go, though.

spikes7

spikes6

spikes4

spikes8

spikes9

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

“Special assignment”

special

My assignment isn’t quite as special as the firefighter’s, and definitely not as dangerous. To explain this note in today’s print edition, my column for Wednesday was very different, and on a sensitive but newsworthy subject, one potentially of interest to our sister papers around LA. So we decided to hold it to run Sunday, where it will have more impact anyway, and make sure we’re presenting it right.

That’s a good call, even if it meant forgoing a column for Wednesday.

Now, I’ve got to get to work on Friday’s column, as well as tomorrow’s Restaurant of the Week blog post.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Pomona book signing — in Pomona

If you’ve never attended a performance by the Pomona Concert Band, think about attending Thursday’s. First of all, it’s the last show of the season, and secondly, I’ll be there selling and signing my book, “Pomona A to Z.”

I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me last year to do this, but a few weeks ago, leaving a Food Truck Thursday night at Fairplex and thinking about the concerts in the park nearby, the idea came to me. Linda Taylor, the band’s conductor, agreed.

It could very well be that everyone at the concert will have my book already, there being a lot of overlap between their crowd and my crowd — but my guess is there’ll be some who’ll have no idea a book about Pomona exists. And that’s where I come in.

The concerts are a community staple and, as I’ve written before, a kind of small-scale Hollywood Bowl experience, as listeners fan out on the grass on blankets or lawn chairs in front of the bandshell at Ganesha Park (1575 N. White Ave.) to watch the band perform under the stars. The music might be a little corny or old-fashioned for your tastes, and I’ll admit I’m more of a Glass House guy myself, but there’s no denying the charm or community feeling here.

The show starts at 8 p.m. and I’ll try to get there around 7. Come say hello, even if you have my book. If you don’t, bring $20.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Column: Gabby Ontario councilman likes last word, among others

Sunday’s column is about last week’s Ontario City Council meeting, dominated by the loquacious Paul Avila. There’s some other Ontario news from the meeting, an explanation from a councilman about why he flew from LAX, and a plug for my Thursday book signing in Pomona.

Incidentally, I was startled Sunday (after returning from a three-day weekend in San Diego) to open my Daily Bulletin and find this column was our A1 lead story. As the saying goes, it must have been a slow news day.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurant of the Week: Rita’s Italian Ice

ritas1

Rita’s Italian Ice, 15870 Soquel Canyon Parkway (at Los Serranos), Chino Hills

Rita’s is a Pennsylvania-based chain of 600 locations that recently opened one in the south part of Chino Hills. There aren’t many places around here to get Italian ice or frozen custard, its two specialties. For a break from Sunday’s 107-degree heat, I headed to CHills for some chills.

Rita’s is in a small center off the 71 Freeway with a Wells Fargo, Rite Aid and a handful of other stores. Inside, I was greeted promptly, by the manager no less, who asked if I’d been to a Rita’s before. I hadn’t, so she gave me the spiel about the menu and product. They have a dozen flavors of Italian ice at any given time, made fresh daily. They have frozen custard usually, except due to bird flu, they have only one flavor (I think); the others are soft-serve ice cream.

You can see the daily menu of flavors on the website. That day the ice flavors included cotton candy, birthday cake, root beer, margarita and blue raspberry.

I ordered a Gelati, which is part ice, part custard (or ice cream), choosing blood orange ice with orange and vanilla twist ice cream (large: $4.79 with tax). The large size was more than I needed, as it turned out, but it was an excuse to stay there and enjoy the air conditioning. There was a layer of ice cream on the bottom, a middle layer of Italian ice and another layer of ice cream on top. The flavors paired well.

They have another combo, the Blendini, which is ice, custard and a mix-in, and a beverage called the Misto, which is the Gelati put through a blender.

On Yelp, some people prefer Frostbites, a similar shop in Chino that has Italian ice, custard, sorbet, ice cream and more. Well, I’ll have to give that a try too. On a brutally hot day, though, Rita’s hit the spot.

ritas2

ritas3

ritas4

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Lily’s Tacos to move; former Orange Julius stand to be pulped

lilys2

You may know it as one of Pomona’s better taco shops, but 2128 N. Garey Ave. (at La Verne Street) began its life as an Orange Julius stand. And it’s not long for this world, as the wrecking crew is coming. The stand will be demolished as part of the renovations of the undistinguished strip mall behind it. A new, undetermined restaurant will replace Lily’s.

In the meantime, Lily’s is still serving customers despite being isolated by construction. You have to admire their gumption. And Lily’s is going to relocate — more on that in a moment.

What’s the history? The stand operated as an Orange Julius drive-in from its opening in 1963 until 1980. From that point, the stand was home to a series of taquerias; Lucky 7, El Merendero, Tehuacan, Los Dos Compadres and Taqueria Alvarez are the names brought to my attention. Lily’s has been the longest tenant, since 1992 according to its sign, which means Lily’s occupied the stand longer than Orange Julius. How about that!

Lily’s was a neat spot, especially on a warm night, when you could eat in comfort on the picnic tables out in front of the walk-up stand. The food was reliably good and they would even serve it on a plastic plate and put your drink in a plastic cup.

I had dinner there Monday, for the first time in a couple of years. It required parking in the adjacent lot for Las Margaritas and walking around from the sidewalk. I got three al pastor tacos and a medium horchata for $6.06 and ate at one of the three picnic tables. It was a nice outing and a chance to remember meals past under that shaded awning, light bulbs hanging, the sizzle of the grill audible.

Thankfully, Lily’s will survive elsewhere — and indoors this time.

“Much to my delight, Lily’s is currently working on their new location at 901 N. Garey, a bit north of Holt on the west side of the street,” says fellow Lily’s fan Mark Lazzaretto, Pomona’s development director. “I don’t know when they’ll be open, but it can’t be soon enough for my liking.”

An employee said they hope to open within six weeks. They’ll remain at the little stand as long as they can.

lilys3

lilys4

lilys5

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Montclair to get more shops

central

A new building is going up in Montclair around where Long John Silver’s used to stand, on the east side of Central Avenue across from Costco. It will have two tenants, one of which will be a Starbucks with a drive-thru, which as it’s only yards from the 10 Freeway onramp should become popular quickly. The other tenant is slated to be a Sleep Number mattress store.

Caffeine and bedtime? One suspects customers at the two businesses are going to be mutually exclusive.

Two more buildings are planned on the same site, with the entire complex to be known as the Montclair Shoppes. I don’t think anyone’s going to confuse it with the Shoppes at Chino Hills, which is a full-fledged mall, but hey, the developers have to call it something.

As a note to motorists, the northbound lane of Central is closed in that area while the contractor completes utility work and curb and gutter replacement and won’t reopen until late in August.

* Since people are asking, here’s what I wrote in April: “A small development to be called Montclair Shoppes is expected to break ground soon on Central Avenue across from Costco. Committed tenants include a long-awaited Original Tommy’s, only its second Inland Valley location. (The other is in Chino.) Also slated: Jersey Mike’s, Dickey’s BBQ, Robek’s Juice, a Starbucks drive-through and an AT&T store.”

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email