Restaurant of the Week: Olive Grill

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Olive Grill, 320 S. Milliken Ave. (at Airport), Ontario; open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday; closed Saturdays and Sundays

I hadn’t remembered hearing of Olive Grill until it made a listicle of 10 notable Ontario eateries on The Culture Trip’s website. It made me feel out of it. Isn’t it my job to know these things? The reader who sent me the list made a reconnaissance mission and said the place was fantastic. I’ve since made a couple of visits myself.

Getting there for most people will involve taking the 10, getting off at Milliken and heading south through the truck-choked intersection near the Travel Centers of America truck stops and under the relatively new train overpass. Once past that, Olive Grill is on the west side in an industrial park between Airport and Brickell.

Don’t let all that deter you. Olive Grill is colorful and cheery, if fast-paced on a lunch hour. They have breakfast burritos, hot and cold sandwiches, salads, burgers, teriyaki, yakisoba and smoothies.

On my first visit I got the Korean BBQ sandwich ($8, pictured below), curious how it would compare to the version at the nearby Corner Deli. It’s marinated beef with grilled onions and mushrooms, mozzarella, soy, garlic, pickled red ginger and garlic aioli.

It’s quite a rendition: less drippy than the one at Corner Deli, less meat, more flavors. Call it a draw. And you get a small salad, two orange wedges and a thin apple slice. I added a bag of chips and regretted it as the meal turned out to be filling as it was.

Next visit I tried the Edo charbroiled chicken sandwich ($8, pictured at bottom), with teriyaki chicken, Asian slaw (cabbage, green onions, carrots), mozzarella, pickled red ginger and garlic aioli, and again coming with the sides. (Having wised up, I didn’t get chips.) Another very good sandwich, unusual, tasty and satisfying.

I arrived moments before 1 p.m. and the dining room was mostly full, with a half-dozen people standing up waiting for to-go orders. By 1:05, half the people had left.

Why it’s called Olive Grill, which suggests Greek food, I don’t know — there may not be an olive in any of the dishes — but under any name, this Asian-owned mom and pop shop is well worth repeat visits.

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Visit to LACMA was no burden, but all Burden

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Saturday yours truly headed west to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to see the debut of Chris Burden’s final (?) work, “Ode to Santos Dumont.” Named for the inventor of the dirigible, Burden’s piece sends a vinyl zeppelin in a 60-foot circle, powered by a tiny gasoline motor and propeller attached to an Erector-set undercarriage.

I was among the 200 or so folks in the first group at noon. Watch a 60-second video of the dirigible’s first loop.

It was charming, each pass offering a fresh look. But I have to say, 15 minutes is a long time to watch something this repetitive, and many drifted away after 8 or 10 minutes. Some of us stuck it out purely to see the end, when the engine stopped, the balloon made one final loop under its own momentum, and the two minders came out to gently lower the undercarriage into its movable cradle. They got a round of applause.

“Ode” is at LACMA through June 21 and is included in the admission price.

While at LACMA, I made sure to see Burden’s two permanent installations: “Urban Light,” below, and “Metropolis II,” at bottom. I also shot a video of the latter.

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Pilgrim castle, er, church

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On a recent visit to Pilgrim Congregational Church in Pomona, where I was researching a column on its former Boys’ Brigade unit, a second-story breezeway offered this arresting view. The red brick, Gothic-style church on Garey Avenue at Pearl Street takes up a block of street frontage and was built in 1912 — although this view makes it seem positively medieval.

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Column: State librarian checks out Ontario, says it’s fine

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Greg Lucas, the state librarian, visited Ontario this week and yours truly greeted him (with questions). He talked about libraries’ continued relevance and about some of our local libraries in specific. Read my Friday column for more. And do you like the library jokes in my headline?

Above, staffer Alysha Cisneros jokes with Lucas in the library’s Teen Alley section.

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Restaurant of the Week: The Rookery

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The Rookery Alehouse and Grill, 117 W. 2nd St. (at Garey), Pomona; closed Mondays

The Rookery, which opened in 2013, replaced the long-lived Joey’s BBQ at the entrance to the downtown Pomona arts district. It’s been a good change, even if Joey’s was something of a tradition for some of my friends for birthdays and pre-concert eats. The food is arguably better now, and business is up.

The menu is mostly burgers and beer, with a couple of salads and other sandwiches, and a grilled cheese and tomato soup pairing. I’ve eaten here a half-dozen times and generally find the experience on the tipping point between good and okay.

On a recent visit, I got the soup and sandwich ($8), which are about what you would expect, but a decent alternative to a burger. I was back a month later and tried the roasted red burger ($10), which comes with roasted red peppers and goat cheese. Pretty good, and for the first time I got fries as my side rather than the mixed green salad. The fries are thick and blocky, with skin on, a little different than any I’ve had before, and very good.

As for beers, they currently have 16 on draft and 17 in bottles, from all over, including Belgium, but mostly the West Coast. It’s obviously a well-curated beer list.

The previously little-used entry room from Second is now the bar and main dining room at lunchtime, with high and low tables, and a patio toward Garey is a popular spot on warm evenings. The decor includes art of birds and bird-keeping, a rookery being a nesting place for birds, but there’s also a poster with the pilot’s alphabet (bottom).

Service has been a weak spot. On my first visit, with two friends, the server looked at one of the sandwiches on the tray and asked good-humoredly, “Which burger is this?,” a question that involved us as customers on a level that was disconcerting. A friend on a separate visit asked a server if she could sit outside and then was never waited on.

I don’t know if all the kinks have been worked out, but even if it’s not a tight ship, you’ll probably be waited on, and you’ll probably find it was worth the trouble.

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Column: ‘Urban Light’ artist’s sculpture brightens Claremont

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Artist Chris Burden, who died Sunday at age 69, is a Pomona College alumnus, class of ’69, whose early sculpture “Untitled Sculpture” is on permanent display at the college. Above and below are views of the piece, with a plaque in the lawn giving Burden the credit.

My Wednesday column is about Burden, and there’s an accompanying video that I shot Tuesday morning at the sculpture. The college’s statement about Burden is here. Two more links, both to the LA Times: his obituary by art critic Christopher Knight and an appreciation of “Urban Light” and Burden by architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne.

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Below are his two best-known works, “Urban Light” and, at bottom, “Metropolis II.” A video of the latter can be seen here.

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Mod! 1965 Denny’s, Ontario

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I never paid much attention to the Denny’s off the Fourth Street exit of the 10 Freeway in Ontario, but it’s worth a look as it’s one of the oldest surviving examples in the Inland Valley.

Built in 1965, this 1409 E. Fourth St. restaurant is relatively unaltered architecturally, according to the Ontario Planning Department. It’s got an angled roof with a zig-zag profile, large plate glass windows and stone veneer columns (over concrete brick). Architects were Colwell and Ray of Orange.

“The design is a Denny’s prototype building that was created in the mid-1950s as part of the Googie movement. The Denny’s prototype design was built for several years in many California locations (mostly freeway adjacent),” according to Planning Director Scott Murphy.

No permit for the freeway pole sign could be found, but the signage has been updated.

There are squat palms by the entry, a feature that strikes me as midcentury. The interior has been updated quite a bit. But the ceiling, like the roof, angles steeply, the lamps hanging on long cords from the ceiling add style and the windows offer natural light and a modest view.

This Denny’s is certainly freeway close. You can walk out onto a little lawn that abuts the off-ramp, which is just feet away from the edge. It’s rare to be that close to a freeway, unless you happen to reside in the song “Freefallin’,” where there’s a freeway runnin’ through the yard.

I can’t recommend the food, not being a Denny’s fan, but it was worth a single visit to admire the place.

There are former Denny’s of the same or older vintage in Montclair (now a sushi bar across from Shakey’s) and Pomona (now a birrieria restaurant at Holt and Indian Hill), for the record.

Denny’s began as Danny’s Donuts in 1953 in Lakewood, became Danny’s Coffee Shop in 1956, switched to Denny’s Coffee Shop in 1959 to avoid confusion with the Coffee Dan’s chain, shortened its name to Denny’s in 1961 and began franchising in 1963, according to its Wikipedia entry.

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Column: It’s Mothers of Invention Day for Zappa fans

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Sunday’s column marks a footnote in music history: the day Frank Zappa’s band adopted the name the Mothers, later to become the Mothers of Invention, before a gig in Pomona. That occurred May 9, 1965 — 50 years ago.

Above, the former Broadside Club, top, seen in 2000 by Zappa fan Peter Mackay, and a current view by yours truly; below, the Sportsman Tavern, again by Mackay in 2000 and yours truly today. Their significance is explained in the column. Neither bar was open in 2000, having closed decades before, but at least the buildings look closer to their original form then.

Incidentally, the Frank Zappa Chronology (disclamatory motto: “Information is Not Knowledge”) was invaluable in fixing dates and locations.

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